Tokens and Penalties, 2012, USA, 3:58, color, sound, HD
1. If the same dream occurs three times, then count it as a personal revelation, an individual prophecy.
2. Mysteries Of The Temple–Fearful Oaths And Secret Ceremonies–Saintly Privileges–Shocking Doings In Days Gone By–Whisperings Of Terrible Deeds–How The Mormons Mind Their Own Business–A New Name-Terrible And Revengeful Oaths–The Punishment Of The Apostate–Pains And Penalties Of Betrayal–The Mysterious Mark–Secret And Significant Signs–Eight Hours Of “Mystery”–I Justify Myself.
3. Besides this, every Mormon’s mouth was closed by the oath of that same temple—the penalty for breaking this oath was worded in the most startling and impressive way, a penalty which no one doubted would be sternly enforced. The throat of the traitor was to be cut from ear to ear; his heart and tongue to be cut out; and his bowels were—while he was yet living—to be torn from him. In the world to come, everlasting damnation would be his portion.
Liahona, 2013, USA, 69:30, black and white and color, sound, in English with Deseret Alphabet subtitles, 16mm transferred to HD
Liahona is an experimental documentary examining the culture, history, and lived experience of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, often referred to as the Mormon faith. The film creates a portrait of Mormonism through documentation of LDS cultural dominance in Utah, the suppressed history of folk magic in the early church, landmark Mormon life experiences, and Sanders’ personal history and connection to the church. Found media with the voices of outsiders and insiders illuminate a religion that intrigues many, but is seen as mysterious or inaccessible. Liahona shifts through perspectives on the faith – from reverence to questioning, presenting the complexities of the vast institution of Mormonism contrasted with tenuous individual faith.
Liahona is an examination of how mysticism becomes mundane, the balance and the tension in Mormon life experience between the illogical and the pedestrian, the public face of Mormonism and gaps in accessibility. What is it about the Mormons that make them so distinctively different? Mormon history and theology makes for a thick material, not easily reduced to straightforward evaluation. Recorded on 16mm film, Liahona traverses Utah, Nauvoo and Carthage, Illinois and Independence, Missouri to piece together this portrait of a faith.
Talena Sanders is a filmmaker and interdisciplinary artist interested in the development of individual and collective senses of identity in the context of religious and affinity groups. Through examining the influences of visual and material culture, dress and adornment, and geographic place, her work seeks to understand the ways in which people produce their self-worth within and against social institutions. A recent graduate from Duke University’s MFA in Experimental and Documentary Arts program, her work has been screened, exhibited, and collected internationally, including at the New York Film Festival Views from the Avant-Garde, Crossroads, Media City Film Festival, Black Box at Edinburgh International Film Festival. She is a proud Kentuckian, lives in Durham, NC and is teaching at Duke University.