Margaret Young has graciously agreed to provide us a multi-part commentary on the making of the film, Nobody Knows: The Untold Story of Black Mormons. She needs little introduction, as she has blogged at various sites, including Times and Seasons, Mormon Mentality, and By Common Consent. She is, in a word, prolific.
Journal: Nobody Knows: The Untold Story of Black Mormons
Next showing (and the only screening currently scheduled in Utah):
Saturday March 8th at 11:00 a.m.
Egyptian Theater, Ogden
Part of the Foursite Film Festival (www.foursitefilmfest.com ).
David Grua suggested I detail the miraculous way this documentary came to be. This particular post will simply be a reminder of some of the manna from Heaven which fell in our direction.
Miracle #1: The Bickerton Footage
After Rob Foster, the first Black Student-body president, announced his decision to make a documentary about Black Mormons (initially titled Eleventh Hour Laborers, he got a phone call from Richard Bickerton, a retired filmmaker who had shot some remarkable footage in 1968. A handful of Black Mormons had told why they had joined a Church which kept them from being ordained to the priesthood (a concept not fully understood by many, who likely think of priests as celibate men who choose the “calling”, not as power and authority to act in God’s name which was offered to all worthy males-except those of African lineage). Besides these Black Mormon converts, Bickerton also filmed protesters, who were candid and devout in their reasons for protesting BYU because of the way the LDS Church seemed to regard Blacks.
Bickerton’s film had never been finished. By the time we viewed it, I had also brought Richard Dutcher into the project. Darius Gray was present as well. We found a room in BYU’s Wilkinson Center and then realized we didn’t have the equipment to view a reel of film. I ran to the office of technical support to find an uptake roll. They gave me something which looked like it might work, but it turned out to be a real for audio tapes (the big kind we had in the 1960s). I went back, and we finally found something which would let us play the footage.
Because the film was unfinished, there were no names or titles on any of the interview subjects. But I instantly recognized my former stake president (Ben Lewis), BYU’s long-since deceased basketball coach, Stan Watts, and several people who had been in my ward during my childhood. Darius recognized all but one of the Black Mormons-and had the privilege of seeing himself as a healthy young man, saying, “I’m the Sunday School superintendent. I got called just like everyone else.”
Getting that footage was the first miracle. Dick Bickerton had kept the film with him since 1968, transporting it during every move. He had no idea if it would ever see the light. But suddenly, it was simply time.
I’m eager for some audience member to recognize himself or herself as one of the protesters, from forty years ago. I have no doubt that it’ll happen.