As an entertainment journalist who grew up in Utah as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, when the opportunity arose to watch the TV series “Under The Banner of Heaven” early, and to speak with actors Andrew Garfield, Daisy Edgar-Jones and series creator Dustin Lance Black, I jumped at the chance, and I had a positive experience.
I’ve now seen the entire series and, to be honest, my feelings about it are mixed. But I’ve spoken more than once with Lance, and I respect him a great deal and find him to be honest, genuine and kind. It concerns me to see widespread assertions being made that the show has falsified facts, that it seriously misrepresents its subject. That’s something that simply can’t be judged the way that many are trying to do without seeing the entire miniseries.
I have seen the entire series and, as such, I have fully rounded opinions on it. If you watch it from beginning to end and feel that such characterizations are on the money, then whether I agree or disagree with you. I respect your right — and your effort — to have an informed opinion.
I’m not remotely suggesting that “Under The Banner of Heaven” gets everything right, but one theme that the show nails right on the head is one that it shares with a recent Disney hit song: “We Don’t Talk About Bruno.”
“Under The Banner of Heaven” makes some strong and compelling points. It deals with the long-standing policy and/or tendency to dismiss or suppress any questions, concerns or conversations that don’t fit with what we want to hear in reference to the church, its history, leaders and doctrines.
But Hollywood can’t hope to compete with Utah when it comes to making this argument. A steady stream of articles, letters and editorials in The Deseret News, countless posts on social media from riled-up members and other concerted efforts being made to condemn the show started before it even premiered.
A recent Deseret News commentary by Hal Boyd characterizes Lance Black as angry, but my sense of things is that Lance is a man at peace with himself in a way most of us would genuinely envy. The anger here isn’t coming out of Hollywood, but from much closer to home.
The message is being sent loud and clear in Utah that even after the church itself published essays to be more transparent, we just don’t talk about Bruno here in our Encanto, and while we may think that’s a good thing, Bruno has never actually gone anywhere.
I’m not asking anyone to embrace “Under The Banner of Heaven,” or even asking them to watch it. I’m simply saying that the more determined we are to discredit people like Dustin Lance Black simply for talking about Bruno, the more talk there will be and perhaps even the more it becomes necessary.
But most of all, I’m saying that if we’re unwilling to talk about him, we must accept that when people come back with details or ideas about Bruno that we don’t want them to have, whether they are true or false is something we really can’t even comment on if we didn’t honestly discuss it ourselves. Opinions and ideas will inevitably be informed or influenced by others if the answer to the question “Who is Bruno?” is to insist on changing the subject.
Patrick Gibbs, West Valley City, is an award-winning filmmaker who studied film at Salt Lake Community College and served a two-year mission in the LDS Audiovisual Department from 1994-1996. He is the resident film critic for SLUG Magazine and co-host of Striking: The Movie Podcast.