“Believer”

LOUISA: 2 STARS


LOUISA SAYS:

“Believer” is a documentary that spotlights Imagine Dragons front man Dan Reynolds and his efforts to enlighten the Mormon Church to reconsider their doctrine of intolerance towards the LGBTQ community. Reynolds, who is a practicing LDS, began speaking out against his own church after learning more about the rising teen suicide rate in Utah (a state with a high population of Mormons) and connecting the dots. His efforts are exhaustive, but his church has refused to soften their harsh official positions on same-sex relationships.

Reynolds created the LoveLoud music festival, an event he hopes to hold annually in Utah, to express support and love for gay youth in Utah. The film mostly follows the ups and downs of trying to put together an event of this magnitude in a state where it isn’t exactly welcome.

The film attempts to turn Reynolds into a modern day hero, a rock star whose commitment to changing the Mormon church’s views on LGBTQ members is admirable — but it’s still a bit too difficult to overlook that he’s a straight white male who refuses to leave the religion in which he was raised. I understand it’s not such an easy thing to do, but something about his mission feels hypocritical. He wants to be open-minded yet remain faithful, which I feel undermines his message.

Perhaps if director Don Argott would’ve instead chosen to focus more on the people who are actually affected by the LDS statements it would’ve made for a stronger and more personal documentary. There are a few talking head clips from parents who lost a homosexual child to suicide (yet they still are members of the LDS church), and another of a young Mormon girl who came out as a lesbian (no mention if she or her parents are still members of the Church). Why remain an active member of a religion that goes against the cause you’re fighting for?

Adding to the ick factor are several moments when the camera gets a little too up close and personal, making parts of the film feel exploitative and tawdry. The worst bit is footage of a man grieving his brother’s suicide and shots of him looking over his brother’s casket at the funeral. It’s unnecessary and in very poor taste.

This isn’t a great documentary but Reynolds deserves applause and respect for getting his message out there, and this film is a decent enough way to do it. It’s good but not memorable, and the end result isn’t as uplifting as it should be. There’s still a lot of work to be done before the Mormon Church will reverse its policy on homosexuals and while an annual music festival is a great start, it may not ultimately provide the platform that will make change happen.

7 comments

  1. I havent seen this film but I think any faith is complicated and I’m glad people like Reynolds are sticking with the Mormon church. We need voices like that. The church gives me so much and I believe in things like the Book of Mormon so I can encourage correct treatment and change from within rather than throwing the baby out with the bathwater. I dont know if that makes sense but we need these voices both within Mormonism and outside it

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    1. Awesome take on this, and thank you for trying to change your religion from the inside. We are friends with many LDS folks (some who have left the church and gave up everything because of issues exactly like this) and others who are staying but remaining silent. Thank you for speaking out! (Louisa)

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  2. In the process of making this film, Dan Reynolds did something incredibly despicable and hurtful to a friend of mine by using footage of him without permission and then placed my friend in a false light in his documentary. In a recent interview with Ellen, Mr. Reynolds proved to me that he is incapable of owning up to mistakes he’s made. I appreciate the efforts he is making but some the things he doing in the process really has caused to me lose all respect for him.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Interesting take and thanks for commenting! I always like to hear comments from an LDS perspective because sometimes it’s difficult for me to understand. Especially how some of these parents could choose their church over their child.

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  3. I really don’t understand parents who reject their children who come out as gay. Believe it or not, the Church has spoken openly against that on many occassion. I think some Mormons are so orthodox having a gay son or daughter is something that they simply cannot cope with. There is a lot of hope that such attitudes are dwindling.

    While I do not see the day, the Church will ever fully accept homosexuality there are very strong efforts within the Church to establish support groups for members dealing with LGBT issues. Some leaders in certain cities will not disfellowship or excommunicate members who enter into same sex relationships or marriages, despite the church guidelines, which gives a lot of discretion to the local leaders.

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  4. I feel the same in some ways… Reynold’s needs to renounce and condemn. Alas, so many feel like they can do more from inside. I still applaud what I consider a good start.
    (I count myself as one of your friends who couldn’t stay for this and other reasons. 🙂).

    Liked by 1 person

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