Filmmaker Mitch Davis is hoping for a million Americans to go to the cinema next weekend to jump-start the long-awaited release of The Other Side of Heaven 2: Fire of Faith, which opens nationwide on June 28.
It’s been 18 years since the first Other Side of Heaven movie, starring Christopher Gorham and Anne Hathaway, was a surprise hit in 2001
Davis—who wrote, directed, and produced the sequel after directing and co-writing the first film—says the 2001 success was the beginning of Hollywood taking notice of uplifting, faith-oriented films.
“The fact that Disney used it for their brand, and that Anne Hathaway was in a movie with a faith theme, helped it be so enthusiastically received: for once, they’re not making fun of us. For once, they’re depicting us as humans who can laugh and cry and bleed,” says Davis.
Hathaway will not be reprising her role as Jean Groberg, wife of Elder John Groberg, whose memoirs of his Mormon mission in the South Pacific in the 1950s are the foundation of both scripts. In this sequel, set in the 1960s, the Grobergs return to Tonga as the parents of five children, with a sixth on the way. When that son is born he becomes gravely ill, but the family can’t get access to the emergency care he needs, so they rely on prayer and neighborly love to get through the crisis.
Davis wove the stories of Protestants and Mormons working together in the script to make a theological point.
“We really are all God’s children, and we ought to lock arms rather than retreat into our separate corners rather than pointing fingers suspiciously at each other,” he says. “What happened in the case of the Grobergs was that the entire island of Methodists, Catholics, and Mormons, including the royal family, united in fasting and prayer for the life of their little boy. I think that’s just a great example for our planet right now. Politically and religiously, there is so much unnecessary polarization.”
To that ecumenical end, one of the first premieres of the film is occurring today at Fuller Theological Seminary, an evangelical training ground for pastors in Pasadena, CA. Richard Mouw, the seminary’s president emeritus and a longtime bridge-builder between Protestants and Mormons, is expected to give some brief remarks.
[TBC: Davis refers to "unnecessary polarization." The truth is, it's the difference between heaven and hell. Consequently, Mouw’s willingness to “build bridges” involves attempts to bridge a divide which is unbridgeable. He seems to understand the differences between evangelicalism and Mormonism. And, he has written, “I have serious disagreements with my Mormon friends about basic issues of faith that have eternal consequences. These include issues regarding the nature of God, the doctrine of the Trinity and the character of the afterlife” (Mouw, “Mormonism: Not a cult, not a problem, LA Times, 11/20/11).
Biblically and truthfully, it’s a problem. As Dave Hunt noted, “Nor is there any question about the official doctrines of the Mormon Church. The Mormon “God” is a man (he still has a physical body, as Joseph Smith, who saw him, testified) who as a sinner was redeemed by another “Jesus” on another planet and who has a hierarchy of “Gods” (also exalted men) over him. Their “Jesus” is the spirit brother of Lucifer (of whom we are all half- brothers and sisters) and is not God from all eternity but came to this earth to get a body in order to become a “God.” That body was formed when their “God” came to this earth and with his physical body had sex with Mary. Eternal life to the Mormon is exaltation to godhood, and, far from being the gift of God’s grace, takes much effort and eons of time to achieve—an ambition supposedly shared by every true Mormon male. Mormon women can only hope to become goddesses consigned to eternal pregnancy as they give birth to spirit beings who will eventually people another planet with another Adam and Eve, a fall into sin, and another “Jesus.” It is a process that has been going on forever and will continue ad infinitum, ad absurdum” (Dave Hunt, TBC Q&A January 1998).