A History of Mormon Cinema: Fifth Wave

The Fifth Wave of Mormon cinema is the current period, in which a culturally robust and commercially vibrant new art form is beginning to emerge. Its most obvious manifestation is in the stream of Mormon-themed theatrical feature films, produced independently of the Church, made by and for Latter-day Saints. Richard Dutcher’s much-celebrated God’s Army, released in March 2000, made him widely recognized as the father of this new movement in Mormon film, but his groundbreaking work actually marks a return to the past. The LDS filmmakers of the First Wave also sought to create 35 mm filmsto be distributed through commercial theaters to a paying public. Mormon film has in many ways come full circle, with Latter-day Saints of the Fifth Wave attempting large theatrical productions at a time when anti-Mormon films are once again more visible in the mainstream. There are, to be sure, several differences between the present and the First Wave: the Church’s increased size and prominence, the existence of prolific institutional filmmaking apparatuses, and the continued effect of electronic filmmaking and distribution methods. But perhaps the defining difference was Dutcher’s success in reaching LDS audiences; he proved the existence of a profitable niche market for Mormon-themed moves produced independently of both Hollywood and the institutional Church.

Published in BYU Studies Quarterly 46:2
Purchase this Issue