“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.