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10 notable films from LDS Film Festival

By Rachel Brutsch

Deseret News

Published: Thursday, Jan. 19 2012 5:00 a.m. MST

Penn Badgley as Lars in "Forever Strong."

Deseret News Archives, Halestorm Entertainment

The 11th LDS Film Festival will be held at the SCERA Center for the Arts in Orem on Jan. 25-28.

More than 75 feature-length films have screened since the festival's inception in 2001. Some went on to box office success, some swept up awards at other film festivals, some were picked up by distributors and released on DVD and some quietly faded from public notice. Here is a list of 10 notable films (ordered by the year of screening) that have met with success since appearing at the LDS Film Festival.

1. "Saints and Soldiers"

Following World War II's Malmedy Massacre, four American soldiers and a British pilot are trying to return to Allied territory with information that could help save their forces from a German attack. Directed by Ryan Little. Rated PG-13 for war violence and related images.

"Saints and Soldiers" was screened at the LDS Film Festival in 2004. It is one of the most commercially successful films to have been screened, with a theater gross of $1,310,470, according to boxofficemojo.com.

2. "The Best Two Years"

American missionary Elder John Rogers (played by KC Clyde) has been serving in the Holland region of the Netherlands and is nearing the end of his mission. He has lost all enthusiasm for the work since his girlfriend back home married one of his former companions. He experiences a change of heart when he receives a quirky new companion, Elder Calhoun (Kirby Heyborne), whose awkward earnestness and unrelenting dedication remind Elder Rogers why he's a missionary. Written and directed by Scott S. Anderson. Rated PG for thematic elements.

After being screened at the LDS Film Festival in 2004, "The Best Two Years" went on to gross $1,163,450 in theaters (boxofficemojo.com).

3. "Sons of Provo"

This is a mockumentary chronicling the founding and journey of the Mormon boy band "Everclean," with band members Will Jensen (Will Swenson), Kirby Laybourne (Kirby Heyborne) and Danny Jensen (Danny Tarasevich). Directed by Will Swenson. Rated PG for mild language and thematic elements.

"Sons of Provo" was screened at the LDS Film Festival in 2005. It had a domestic gross of $120,488 (boxofficemojo.com) and won the Genre Award (Best Feature Comedy) at the New York International Independent Film & Video Festival in 2004.

4. "Everything You Want"

Art student Abby (Shiri Appleby) has been best friends with Sy (Orlando Seale) since childhood. When her roommate's cousin Quinn (Nick Zano) enters her life, Abby has to decide whether to stick with the man of her dreams, who will never exist as more than a dream, or to take a chance with the imperfect but real Quinn. Directed by Ryan Little. Rated PG.

"Everything You Want" premiered on TV as an ABC Family original movie in 2005 before being screened at the LDS Film Festival in 2006. Buena Vista Home Entertainment, a Disney subsidiary, released the film on DVD on 2006.

The film's script, written by Steven A. Lee and Kevin Lawrence King, is based on the stage play "Sy's Girl," which was written by BYU alumna Natalie Sado while she was an undergraduate.

5. "Return with Honor: A Missionary Homecoming"

Elder Rowe McDonald (Javen Tanner) eagerly awaits life after his mission, especially a reunion with his girlfriend, Alley (Joey Jalalian), but he dies in a car accident on the way home. He is allowed to return to life to attempt to save his wayward mother (Tayva Patch), but he is only given 60 days to do it. Rowe has to decide what matters most, and with that, how to use the little time he has left. Directed by Michael Amundsen. Rated PG for thematic elements including some mild sensuality, bullying and brief smoking.

"Return with Honor: A Missionary Homecoming" premiered at the LDS Film Festival in 2006 as "The Return." In 2007 it won Best Picture at the New York International Independent Film and Video Festival and grossed $103,601 in theaters (boxofficemojo.com).

6. "Emma Smith: My Story"

This film depicts the life and experiences of Emma Hale Smith (Katherine Nelson), including her childhood with a father who disliked religion, her courtship and marriage to Joseph Smith (Nathan Mitchell), her life as the wife of the Prophet and what happened following Joseph's martyrdom. Written and directed by Gary Cook. Rated PG for mild thematic elements and brief violence.

"Emma Smith: My Story" was still a "work in progress" when it played at the LDS Film Festival in 2008. The film was released in theaters later that year and grossed $881,787 (boxofficemojo.com).

7. "Forever Strong"

High school rugby player Rick Penning (Sean Faris) makes some poor decisions that land him in an out-of-state detention center. He can keep playing rugby, but only as a member of his former rival team, Highland High. Rick's new coach, Larry Gelwix (Gary Cole), runs the Highland team in a way different from what Rick was used to under his former coach and father, by encouraging his players to become champions in life first and then on the field. When Highland faces Rick's old team in the national championship, Rick is tested in all that he's learned on and off the field. Directed by Ryan Little. Rated PG-13 for thematic material involving teen drug and alcohol use, and for some disturbing images.

"Forever Strong" was screened at the LDS Film Festival in 2008, then went on to gross $719,556 in theaters (boxofficemojo.com).

8. "The Errand of Angels"

When Sister Rachel Taylor (Erin Chambers) goes to Austria to serve a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, her high hopes are met with many disappointments. She struggles with the new language, strange food and a difficult companion, and fears that with so many challenges she won't be a good missionary. As different companions, investigators and experiences come her way, Sister Taylor begins to learn her purpose and find joy in the work. Directed by Christian Vuissa. Rated PG for some thematic material.

"The Errand of Angels" screened at the LDS Film Festival in 2008. It grossed $195,184 in theaters (IMDB.com).

9. "The Flyboys"

Jason (Jesse James) and Kyle (Reiley McClendon) find themselves in a tight spot when their exploration of an airplane in their small-town airport is interrupted. The boys hide, the plane takes off and a bomb sits in the luggage compartment. After discovering the bomb, the boys find that they're again alone on the plane, which is still flying. The bomb belongs to the mob — and that's just the beginning of their problems. Directed by Rocco Devilliers. Rated PG-13 for violence and language.

"The Flyboys" was screened at the LDS film festival in 2011. It was released internationally as "Sky Kids" and had a domestic theater gross of $144,680 (boxofficemojo.com).

10. "My Girlfriend's Boyfriend"

Aspiring writer Ethan (Christopher Gorham) has received yet another rejection from a publisher. He meets Jesse (Alyssa Milano), a woman who inspires him to try again and be all that he can be. They seem perfect for each other, but moments after their initial meeting, Jesse meets advertising executive Troy (Michael Landes), who can do no wrong. When it appears that Jesse will have to choose between Ethan and Troy, it turns out that things are not always as they seem. Written and directed by Daryn Tufts. Rated PG for some mild thematic elements.

"My Girlfriend's Boyfriend" screened at the LDS Film Festival in 2011 after its October 2010 limited theatrical release with an opening weekend per-screen average of $5,150. Its trailer has more than 1.2 million YouTube views.

Email: rbrutsch@desnews.com

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