Documentary films by and about Mormons have mostly been an institutional thing. But Church films are constrained by a corporate public relations model and come out of and feed into an established official Mormon film aesthetic. That's the subject for another day. But Dean Duncan and Ben Unguren have inaugurated a series of short documentary films about everyday Latter-day Saints which is phenomenal with respect to sheer authenticity.
Today at BYU Ben Unguren discussed the series in a forum address at the museum of art, showing some of the films such as Greg and a spirited nine minute film about a certain Sister Burney, an African-American Mormon holding court in the church library as members come and go for materials.
The Fit for the Kingdom films work individually, but I have found they really grow in their significance as one experiences the series. They range from the comical (Greg) to the poignant (Angie, about an LDS family whose mother is dying from cancer, and Ramona, about another LDS mom who speaks movingly about her husband putting family ahead of career). Together, they convey Mormon living in ways hitherto rare on the screen.
There is a review of the short film Angie in the recent film issue of BYU Studies, which also includes the manifesto for the Fit for the Kingdom series and aesthetic by the movement's founder, Dean Duncan. Another version of that manifesto is on the Fit for the Kingdom website.
My recent experience filming students and local Mormons in India was inspired to a great degree by what Duncan and Unguren are doing. As we are editing our footage, Jeff Parkin and I are very interested in honoring our film subjects as these films do theirs.