OREM — Christian Vuissa loves filmmaking. He likes making his own films, helping others make theirs and seeing the results that come from trying new ideas and different approaches.
But of all the projects the Austrian filmmaker has been involved with, his favorites are the little home movies that feature his children — priceless footage that can't be duplicated.
That's one reason he's introducing a new element to the 2014 LDS Film Festival — the Family Films Competition.
The Family Films Competition presents "homemade" movies with a length of 5 minutes or less and encourages family collaboration in making a film.
"I'm excited about this," Vuissa said. "It's been dear to my heart."
The 13th annual festival runs Feb. 5-8 at the SCERA Center for the Arts, beginning with the opening night premiere of "Wayward: The Prodigal Son," one of several feature films at the event. Several short films, including the family film segment, are also on the schedule. Festival attendees should note that one series of short films scheduled for Thursday screenings deals with transgender and gay issues in the Mormon community.
Among the successful LDS feature films to emerge from past festivals are "Saints and Soldiers," "The Best Two Years," "Forever Strong," "The Errand of Angels" and "One Good Man."
The family film segment will run Saturday, Feb. 8, from 10:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m in Showhouse II. Vuissa is screening a film about the Kevin Kelly family and the films Kelly's nine children are creating.
"They (Kelly's children) are kind of all over," Vuissa said. "One daughter made a film with the whole family in it."
The Jan and Eliza Dawson family (Eliza is a daughter of Kevin and Khaliel Kelly) has produced an impressive collection of "homemade" movies that feature youngsters and positive themes, starting with "Clara Tale," which was screened at the 2012 festival.
The local festival draws a consistent crowd of several thousand each year, Vuissa said, with more feature films and short films every year.
"Wayward: The Prodigal Son," which will be shown at 7 p.m. Wednesday in Showhouse II, is directed by Rob Diamond and "tells this universal (Bible) story by staying true to the roots of the story, but placing it in our day and age," according to the festival website.
Other feature films include "Uphill Battle," by husband and wife team Amy and Shawn Kenney; "The Left Field: Live at the Wagner," featuring local up-and-coming comedians and music from Imagine Dragons; and "Common Chord," by Canadian director Deric Olsen.
There are two films in the festival directed by Dennis Lyman: “A Labor of Love: The Story of Amasa Mason Lyman” based on the life of a Mormon pioneer and “Tragedy and Truth: What Happened at Hawn’s Mill,” the latest "History of the Saints" production and based on history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Italian filmmaker Marco Lui has a new film in the line-up called "Cripta."
Several documentaries, such as "Thyme: Aspects of Home," filmed in Utah, and "The King of Instruments," filmed at BYU-Idaho, fill out the list of films to see.
A group of five short films will be shown Feb. 6 at 7:30 p.m., all of which focus on LGBT issues in the Mormon community. Films will include a documentary about a transgender member of the church and a drama about a married man who has a secret male love interest.
“It’s not necessarily a family program,” Vuissa said. “It’s for people that want to educate themselves on that topic and discuss the topic.”
Vuissa said the festival has always tried to “have a very broad approach” to the films that LDS filmmakers are producing. Although the festival has a policy not to show R-rated content, some subject matter addressed in the past, including topics such as drug abuse in Utah County, may not be suitable for broad audiences, he said.
There will be question-and-answer sessions following each film, and forums and presentations during the day on Friday and Saturday.
Vuissa is impressed with the advancement he sees in the industry. He doesn't have his own entry this year, but he isn't worried about that.
"I'm a peer, just as much a beginner as anybody else," he said. "I enjoy watching some of my students' work."
Vuissa said he's watched several successful filmmakers start out at the festival and go on to enjoy great success with films such as "Saints and Soldiers" and "The Saratov Approach."
"The future becomes more and more exciting," he said. "The industry is evolving."
If you go:
What: 2014 LDS Film Festival
Where: SCERA Center for the Arts, 745 S. State St., Orem
When: Feb. 5-8, with Wednesday night opening at 7 p.m., and feature films and competitions throughout Thursday-Saturday
Cost: $50 all-event pass, $20-$30 for individual day passes
Sharon Haddock is a professional writer with more than 35 years' experience, 17 at the Deseret News. Her personal blog is at sharonhaddock.blogspot.com.
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