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Monday, January 23, 2006

September Dawn

Sunday's online New York Times contains an article by John Anderson titled With Only God Left as a Witness. The article begins:
AS the new year dawned, Jon Krakauer's "Under the Banner of Heaven" - about a "divinely ordered" double murder in 1984 by two members of a breakaway Mormon sect - was fresh off the best-seller list. Warren Jeffs, the polygamist prophet of this splinter group, the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, was on F.B.I. wanted lists. And the world's first-ever "Mormonsploitation Retrospective" ("Passion! Polygamy! Pamphlets!") of vintage fear-mongering anti-Mormon movies had just finished at the fringy Pioneer Theater in the East Village in Manhattan.

In public relations terms, this is not the easiest time to have the words "Latter," "Day" and "Saints" anywhere close together in your name. And the going may get rougher after the filmmaker Christopher Cain finishes his new movie about one of the darkest moments in Mormon history, the Mountain Meadows massacre of 1857, in which 137 pioneers from Arkansas were killed in Utah by a raiding party whose ties to the Mormon church are still in dispute.

The film, "September Dawn," stars Jon Voight, Lolita Davidovich and Terence Stamp (Dean Cain, the director's son, makes a cameo appearance). Two newcomers, Trent Ford and Tamara Hope, play a frontier Romeo and Juliet in a romance played out against a drama of a mass murder that continues to engender controversy almost 150 years after the fact. Financed independently by September Dawn and Voice Pictures, it is currently being screened for distributors.

The entire New York Times article, though lengthy, is well worth reading.

Mr. Cain said he and his co-writer were helped as they worked on the script by one of Brigham Young's great-granddaughters who has left the LDS Church and become a born-again Christian.

Apparently none of Brigham Young's dialog in the film is fiction; it all came from the depositions Mr. Young gave after the massacre. "I sat here watching this a couple of weeks ago," Mr. Cain said, "and I was thinking: 'Maybe I made that up. I don't think he would have said that.' And I went back and pulled it up and, man, he did."

September Dawn promises to be a very interesting movie.

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