Several new stories made by the producers of the movie “Meet the Mormons” will be shown exclusively in visitors’ centers of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints beginning this summer. They make their public debut on Temple Square Saturday, July 16, 2016, following the July 15 premiere in Salt Lake City and will be available at the Church’s other English-speaking visitors’ centers by request starting in August. The new 20-minute vignettes featuring diverse members of the Church and their families will join the original six documentary-style segments from the movie that was released in the fall of 2014.
“They’re brand new stories crafted in the same way as the original work,” said Blair Treu, executive producer, writer and director of “Meet the Mormons.”
“We have the same creative team, so there’s a level of expectation that the stories are going to be entertaining and inspirational,” Treu explained.
The nine stories, including the three new features, will be rotated about every 30 minutes throughout the day in the Legacy Theater in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building on Temple Square in Salt Lake City. The original six stories have been updated with additional footage to make them stand-alone features. The three new stories highlight the lives of several additional Church members, including a horse trainer in northeastern Utah, a family of entertainers in Japan and an artist who was born in Italy and now lives in the United States.
“Horses are one of the most amazing creatures that God created,” expressed horse trainer Jeff Wadman in the short film titled “The Horseman.” He and his wife, Emily, who live on a ranch in Morgan, Utah, with their young son, also share their belief in traditional marriage.
“The Entertainers” features two brothers and two sisters of the Kawamitsu family in Japan who form the musical group known as bless4. “The unique message we share with people is how families can be together forever,” said Aiki Kawamitsu, who is currently serving a mission for the Church. The girls have struggled with body image and one sibling also shares her challenge with an eating disorder.
“The Artist”—which tells the story of Italian-born Giovanna Raccosta Nezhati, a Church member who reengages with her faith—is actually a re-release of the bonus feature that was available on the “Meet the Mormons” DVD. Nezhati lives with her husband and three children in Las Vegas and started a program to feed the homeless dinner once a month. “This is the gospel in action,” she said in the original feature. In talking about the updated vignette, Treu shared, “We went back about eight months later and shot some additional footage, and it has a whole new surprise ending.”
“Meet the Mormons” was initially filmed to be shown exclusively in visitors’ centers, but it was so successful with test audiences that Church leaders decided to start with a theatrical release for the first time in Church history.
The film attracted capacity audiences and ranked 10th nationwide in box office sales when it was released October 10, 2014. Within a few weeks, “Meet the Mormons” was one of the top 35 highest-earning documentary films of all time. It is also available on DVD, YouTube and Netflix.
The original movie “Meet the Mormons” introduces audiences to six Latter-day Saints and their families who come from different cultures: engineer and humanitarian Bishnu Adhikari, who is originally from Nepal; Ken Niumatalolo, the head football coach of the U.S. Naval Academy; Carolina Muñoz Marin, an amateur kickboxer from Costa Rica who runs a charity organization with her husband; Jermaine Sullivan, an academic counselor and bishop in Atlanta, Georgia; Utah missionary mom Dawn Armstrong; and retired colonel Gail Halvorsen, the man known as “the candy bomber” during the Berlin Airlift in the 1940s.
Treu is hoping that showing the new and updated stories in the visitors’ centers will be popular with guests. “They’re short pieces. People can come and go as they like. They can see one, two, three or more films if they want, but it’s completely their option.”
No tickets are required to see the films. Legacy Theater visitors can check the theater’s website (legacytheater.lds.org) for show times, which may change based on demand. In the other visitors’ centers, the stories will be shown upon request.
Follow the “Meet the Mormons” online conversation by using the hashtag #MeetTheMormons on social media channels.
Aleah is a graduate of Southern Virginia University, where she studied English, Creative Writing, and Dance. She now works full time as a marketing and product manager, writer, and editor. Aleah served a mission in California and loves baking, Lang Leav poetry, Gaynor Minden pointe shoes, and Bollywood movies.