Friday, November 23, 2012

AIFF 2012: Mormon Missionaries Fall In Love, or . . .

"East High student returns to Anchorage as an actor in Anchorage International Film Festival film, or . . ."

"Sometimes Skype really sucks."

These were all potential titles for this post.  

I got an email from Harold Phillips saying he was in "The Falls" which would be showing at the Anchorage International Film Festival  

Tuesday Dec. 4 at the Bear Tooth at 8pm

and he and one of the two main characters would be coming to the festival if I was interested in talking to them.

Local Boy Returns Triumphant is a great story line.  So we arranged to do a Skype interview.
Bad Skype connection

This was one of the worst skype connections I can remember.   Here's a screenshot.  This wasn't even the worst part.  The audio kept going in and out.  We tried recalling several times with only marginal improvements. 

They even moved to another room, which was a little better, but the audio and video were not synched making conversation difficult. 

Harold Phillips, one of the actors (not one of the two missionaries), moved to Anchorage when his father was transferred to Ft. Rich.  He's a 1989 East High grad and when his father was transferred away, he liked Anchorage enough that he decided to stay on his own,  spending two years in the UAA Theater Department  before going off to finish his degree in Bellingham, Washington.  He eventually ended up in Portland, following a woman, whom he eventually married.

While he does some part time work, he sees himself as an actor and gets most of his income through acting.  He hasn’t been to Anchorage in five years and is looking foward to the trip and to seeing friends and spending some time over at the Theater Arts building at UAA the day after the Tuesday night screening. 

Jon Garcia graduated from film school at Portland State University in 2009.  He was already working on this film at the time.  When I asked him what parts of film making he liked the most and least, he quickly responded, “I like the writing.”  He actually started out as a singer/songwriter and got involved in a movie, and one thing led to another.  He really couldn’t think of any part he didn’t like.  The film was made on a tiny budget - $7,000 I think for the filming and then some more for post production work which took him two years. 

This is a movie about two Mormon missionaries on a mission in Eastern Oregon who fall in love, with each other.  Jon’s not Mormon.  And the Mormon setting just sort of happened as he was working on the script.  It wasn't what he started out to do.  He spent about six months intensively researching the Mormon church, including talks with some gay ex-Mormons whose stories provided some of the scenes in the movie.

 The video  improved a bit in another room, but not the audio

He’s hoping Anchorage Mormons come to the showing.  He and Harold emphasized that it was not offensive.  Mormons who have seen the film have told them that, and that it rings true.  Though in a YouTube interview he says that people have pointed out some things that wouldn’t have happened - like someone working without a partner.  That, he said, had more to do with lack of funds for another actor.

Of course, anyone can be offended by something that seems innocuous to others.   I understood that most of the Mormons who’ve attended showings of the film were lapsed Mormons including some who discovered their sexuality in their missions like the two main characters.  That group, apparently, have given Jon lots of positive feedback.  I’m sure for many devout Mormons, having this subject matter in a movie, no matter how well intentioned, will be offensive.

On the other hand, I also understand that lots of Mormons have gone to see the Broadway musical, "The Book of Mormon" and The Salt Lake Tribune's headline on its review was
'Book of Mormon' musical called surprisingly sweet

They acknoweldged that

"Many believers — especially older viewers or those easily offended — would see it as a blasphemous assault on scriptures . . .
"[b]ut the satire and tone were not as hostile as many Mormons feared . . .

 "I was expecting to be offended," said Anne Christensen, a 22-year-old LDS New Yorker, "but was pleasantly surprised by how incredibly sweet it was."

"Her mother, Janet Christensen, added: "It's not G-rated, but they treated us with affection. And they did their homework."

After watching the trailer for "The Falls", seeing a 20 minute YouTube interview with director Jon Garcia, and talking to him and Harold tonight via Skype, I suspect they've gone for the sweet too, but without the South Park sarcasm and profanity. (The Broadway musical was done by the folks who bring you South Park.)

So Anchorage Mormons should feel ok about attending "The Falls" here Tuesday, Dec. 6.[4]  [That's only a week from Tuesday.] Since it's part of the film festival's Gayla program, the gay community is likely to be there too.  It would be cool to have a discussion of the film afterward with the two different groups represented in the audience.  It's not an easy topic for many, but one that Anchorage folk across different political persuasions need to discuss. 

And East High grads - one of your alumni is in the film and will be there.  So you might want to cheer him.  Not sure the UAA theater students will have much time as they get ready to finals that week, but think of it as a good study break. 

Harold is definitely planning to be here.  Unfortunately the actor who was originally planning to come can't do it.  So now Jon is trying to get here as well, so there should be discussion with the film maker(s) after the showing.

People who know Mormons might want to let them know about the film. 

Here's the trailer.

The Falls trailer 2 from Jon Garcia on Vimeo.

Note, this film was invited to be the feature for the Gayla program and is not in competition.  


  1. Tuesday? December 6th? Or is the film scheduled for Thursday?

  2. thanks for the good eye. I fixed it. I did have it right on top in the big and bold letters. Tuesday, Dec. 4!


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