40 years later, 'Lingo' still merits discussion

Time will tell if Jared and Jerusha Hess' latest contribution to the Mormon cinema canon, "Gentlemen Broncos," will have even half the cultural impact that "Napoleon Dynamite" had in 2004.

Being that LDS filmmakers have been more present in public consciousness since the release of Richard Dutcher's critically acclaimed "God's Army" in 2000, it is easy to discredit or even dismiss earlier Mormon films; after all, they never had the theatrical release and press that LDS films from the past decade have enjoyed.

But those assuming that older LDS-made films aren't garnering much attention should look no further than earlier this year. A heated reading of Mormon cinema's unlikely pièce de resistance, "Johnny Lingo," at the 30th annual Sunstone Symposium ruffled feathers for lovers and scorners of the film alike.

Even 40 years later, "Johnny Lingo" still merits discussion. Remarkable, considering it was a shoestring budget, 24-minute film Brigham Young University put out for the Sunday School that -- much like kitschy "Napoleon" -- doesn't mention Mormonism.

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