Here's a fine Deseret News story on Helen Whitney defending her film series "The Mormons" at the MHA meetings in SLC this week. I've gotten a lot of mileage out of the show here at the blog, so I'm assuming most readers want to follow up on the public discussion. It seems like every movie (or book) has three stories: the backstory; the production itself; and the ensuing public reaction and discussion. I find the public discussion of "The Mormons" (conducted mainly by Mormons) to be at least as interesting as the series itself. I think you could do a documentary just talking to Mormons about "The Mormons."
A couple of highlights from the article. First, Whitney noted she has received complaints from non-Mormons as well as from Mormons about the lack of subtitles identifying the affiliation of the speakers. This is interesting as the boards picked up on the idea that the LDS viewers didn't know how to react to speakers without little "LDS" or "not so LDS" or "anti-LDS" labels to guide them. Sorry folks, it was an issue for all viewers, not just LDS viewers.
I'm not sure people realize how controversial such labeling would be. What title to do you give a dissenting but still LDS intellectual? A former LDS Institute Director (where "former" means no longer LDS, not "retired")? A retired Utah Supreme Court justice who is now in the LDS Quorum of the Twelve (oh, and he ran a big university for ten years, too, and was a law professor before that). Maybe viewers are getting spoiled by those little pop-ups that some shows throw in every 30 seconds or so that make snarky comments on the character or even on the actor or actress portraying the character. Here are a couple example bubble pop-ups that might be added to a "director's cut" of "The Mormons" for the Comedy Channel (hey, it's all comedy these days): "He probably thinks Brigham Young planned the Civil War, too"; and "She seems strangely obsessed with the term 'perfect obedience.'" But I digress.
Whitney also noted that she would have liked to have included more personal faith stories, including those who left the Church then came back (or who seem to want to come back). One respondent praised it as one of the finest religious documentaries ever produced, yet criticized it for falsely suggesting that Mormons don't and won't confront their history when that's what LDS historians spend most of their time doing. Another respondent took issue with the idea suggested in the series that Mormons are blindly obedient to LDS leaders, and that it should have presented a more balanced account "debate and criticism within the church." [Okay, I'm thinking here of a darkened silhouette view of an interviewee with a mechanically altered voice, saying "LDS intellectuals are very comfortable with open public debate and criticism of LDS history, doctrine, and policy."]
Anyway, it's nice MHA hosted a discussion of the series. I would guess that Helen Whitney is very pleased with the attention and discussion the series has generated among viewers and scholars.