MFF: Mormon Dan Reynolds sings for love of all kinds
Closing Night film
Saturday, May 5, 5:15 p.m.
Wellmont Theater, 5 Seymour St.
Q&A with Dan Reynolds, Tyler Glenn (Neon Trees), director Don Argott, and producer Sheena Joyce, moderated by Stephen Colbert
An HBO Documentary film.
By MELISSA D. SULLIVAN
For Montclair Local
Dan Reynolds is not your typical rock star.
Before finding international fame as the front man for Indie rock band Imagine Dragons, Reynolds was raised Mormon as the seventh son in a family of nine. After knocking on doors for two years in Nebraska as part of his mission, he enrolled in Brigham Young University in Utah before dropping out to pursue his music full-time. Now Reynolds tours the world, reaching millions of fans of all denominations.
But, unlike other musicians with similar roots, Reynolds still identifies as Mormon, and when he saw that his community was not addressing the serious issue of LGBT teen suicide, he felt he needed to speak out. “Believer,” the closing night documentary at the Montclair Film Festival, is the result.
“He really thought that he needed to be a voice for the LGBT community,” said Director Dan Argott.
But this need created a direct conflict for Reynolds, Argott said. On the one side, Reynolds had to deal with the pressure of being a notable Mormon in a popular band. “And on the other side, he would get fan letters … saying, ‘Your music has gotten me through so many tough times and means the world to me, but you probably don’t accept my lifestyle because you’re Mormon.’ So, he’s caught between these two worlds.”
“Believer” follows Reynolds as he tries to balance these two worlds and bring them together for a conversation about how the Mormon community can accept and even love their LGBT brothers and sisters.
Working with Neon Trees’ Tyler Glenn, a Mormon musician who came out as gay in 2014, Reynolds decided to use his international platform to create the first LoveLoud Festival to be held in the summer of 2018 in downtown Salt Lake City. Argott, who grew up in Pequannock, NJ, followed Reynolds as he organized the event and spoke to families affected by teen suicide, asking them to share their stories so that more members of the community could understand how ostracization can be deadly and love can be healing.
Reynolds aimed to confront the church head on. By holding the festival in Salt Lake, the world headquarters of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints, there was a strong likelihood that the Mormon church would oppose the festival, thereby ensuring its failure.
And that’s what Reynolds wanted. “Dan as this straight, white guy was actually seeing all these things happening in his community and not really doing anything about them and just being silent,” Argott said. “It just got to a point where he couldn’t be silent anymore.”
Though the film is timely, Argott doesn’t like to think of “Believer” as an advocacy film. “I think this is a really powerful story with a powerful issue at the heart of it,” he said. “The film at its core is showing somebody standing up for what they believe in spite of what the repercussions might be. And I think that now, more than ever, that type of behavior is really necessary and there needs to be more of it.”