Monday, 20 August 2007

September Dawn

Hollywood is about to release a film, September Dawn, depicting the infamous Mountain Meadows Massacre in which 120 settlers were slaughtered by mormonsa s they passed through Utah on the way to California. Michael Medved, the film critic, has written a scathing review in anticipation of the film's release (It seems more like a political/social opinion piece on the issue based on viewing trailers than a art review)

I found his comments and obsrvations interesting though somewhat puzzling and here are my own (less than unbiased) thoughts.

I have more than a little sympathy with Medved’s views regarding Hollywood. The centre of the American film industry has a very poor record when it comes to recreating and depicting ‘historical’ issues. You only have to consider films like Braveheart (a romping adventure with little more than a tenuous grip on its supposed historical context), The Patriot ( no doubt appealing to many a gun-toting modern patriot but fast and loose doesn’t begin to describe the way the history was handled) and UB 571 (a total fiction). Nevertheless, I am puzzled by some of the issues he raises.

He asks, “Why would Hollywood release a controversial feature film about alleged Mormon terrorists of 150 years ago while all but ignoring the dangerous Muslim terrorists of today.” I imagine for the same reason that God’s mouthpiece for the world, the Mormon prophet, avoids the subject of Islamic terrorism, i.e. it isn’t good for business. Medved is missing the big issues here. The world stands on the brink of political, ideological, not to say environmental disaster and what does the prophet have to say? “Aren’t our youth wonderful?” Don’t blame the Hollywood moguls for following his example! They have an eye on the bottom line as much as Hinckley, and with greater justification. After all, they are in the movie business and he is supposed to be in the prophecy business.

And how odd to read a Jew promoting a “that was then, this is now” agenda! The spirits of the self-vaunting Joseph Smith and the totalitarian Brigham Young still prevail in a church that recognises no authority outside its own hierarchy, will truck no opposition from without or within, will go to any lengths to manufacture its own history and image and which guards the reputation of its first leaders with the same zeal that the Kremlin guarded Lenin and Stalin and the People’s Party still guard that of Mao. The spirit of Mormonism has not changed in its fundamentals and so even 170 years later we need to know and understand its roots and the journey it has taken. And why should that be so very odd? Isn’t that what history is about? Whether Hollywood has done a good, even a fair job remains to be seen, but whether the job needs doing is surely not in doubt – lest we forget.

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