The Religious Test & CleanflixBy: Mormon Heretic
I attended the Ogden Film Festival last week (officially known as the Foursite Film Festival) and saw 2 films: The Religious Test and Cleanflix: the Documentary. I thought I would give my impressions.
The producer and director for The Religious Test noted that in 1967, 17% of Americans refused to vote for a Mormon (at that time George Romney was running for president.) In 2011, that number was 21% (though I think it could easily be within the margin of error.) They examine issues why that might be. They also noted similar numbers were raised when John F. Kennedy, a Catholic, ran for president. Since that time, fewer people have a problem voting for a Catholic: John Kerry, Rick Santorum, and Newt Gingrich don’t seem to run into the Catholic problem. Evangelicals don’t seem to have an anti-Catholic bias anymore, but the anti-Mormon bias still seems to exist.
For me, it was fun to see some prominent bloggers interviewed, such as Joanna Brooks, Kristine Haglund, and Daymon Smith interviewed, to go along with historians Richard Bushman, Newell Bringhurst, and other academics like Laurel Thatcher Ulrich and Kathleen Flake. The film interviewed non-Mormons as well, though their names aren’t as familiar to me so I have a harder time remembering them. I know that someone from Beltway Atheists was interviewed, as well as the French’s from Evangelicals for Mitt, Richard Muow from the Fuller Theological Institute, and some other organizations. I thought the film was interesting, though I don’t know that it broke new ground: Anyone that is Mormon is already familiar with these issues. I will mention that some blogs were mentioned too, such as Feminist Mormon Housewives, and our own commenter Paul’s blog A Latter-day Voice made a cameo appearance. They plan to release the film soon, though the version I saw was still being edited–they included something in the film as recent as a few days ago. They hope to take the film to colleges and universities, as well as Netflix.
For me it was interesting to notice that the hard-left and hard-right political groups both oppose a Mormon, though for different reasons. The hard-right seems to be evangelicals with theological problems with Mormons. The hard left are for human rights, and see problems with Mormons on gay rights, sexism, and past racial problems. Seeing the hard-right and hard-left unite against a Mormon candidate seems to be strange bedfellows indeed. One thing I thought the producers left out were prominent Mormon Democrats, such as Harry Reid and Morris Udall.
Cleanflix: the Documentary tells about several Utah companies (most prominently Cleanflix) attempts to edit out sex, profanity, and violence from Hollywood movies. Living here in Utah, much of the information was quite familiar to me, though I am sure that those outside would probably be less familiar with it. I was surprised to learn that several small video stores tried to keep editing movies even after Cleanflix lost the lawsuit against Hollywood directors. It did seem to me that the directors were more in favor of Hollywood than Cleanflix, but they did try to present both sides of the story. I did find the Hollywood director’s position that “there wasn’t a market” for edited films to be hollow. Clearly the boom in Utah should have made it clear to Hollywood that a thriving market exists for removing objectionable material from movies. Clearly Hollywood views this as censorship.
They showed several instances of Cleanflix editing. In some cases, such as Saving Private Ryan, Cleanflix editors merely edited out profanity, and they even pointed out that the Today program from NBC News couldn’t even tell that any editing had been done. The Cleanflix editors did a really good job with that. However, in a few other movies, such as editing out sex scenes or language in The Weatherman, it was much harder to edit some of those scenes without noticing. They also mentioned that some movies, such as Pretty Woman were about a prostitute, and while nudity could be edited, the subject material was still about prostitution. I was amazed to see that Cleanflix editors added a realistic looking bra to the topless Kate Winslett in Titanic. They also did a podcast on Mormon Matters recently that I found interesting. You can rent this movie on iTunes, Amazon, or purchase it on DVD.
- I wanted to see more movies, but was unable to. Do you have any review you would like to share?
- Does Mitt Romney have to win the election for the 20% of Americans who won’t vote for a Mormon to drop, or has Mitt made the Mormon issue in politics go away already?
- Do you think that people should have a right to edit Hollywood movies? Why do you think Hollywood is ignoring this moneymaking opportunity?
One final caveat. Since Mitt Romney is a politician, I know that some may be tempted to discuss the economy, Barack Obama, or any number of political issues. Please don’t. If you choose to talk about Mitt or The Religious Test, I would like to keep the focus what a Romney presidency would mean for the Church, whether you think religious bigotry might drop, or something along those lines. I don’t want this to turn into a rant on political ideology, the federal budget or any other pet topics some of you have. The filmmakers tried to keep this non-partisan, and I would like to do that as well.