The restorationist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints considers itself to be the modern embodiment of the church founded by Jesus Christ. Based in Salt Lake City and formed by Joseph Smith in the early nineteenth century, it has become one of the biggest denominations in the world. All young Mormon men are expected to undertake two years of missionary work, whilst this is optional for young (unmarried) women.
One of the key ways the LDS spreads their message is through their missionary work. They have roughly one hundred thousand full-time and service missionaries operating in all corners of the globe. The Mission, the new documentary from Tania Anderson, focuses on a group of volunteers, aged between eighteen and twenty-one, who go to spread the message in Finland. The film follows them as they complete their training and try and find their feet, in a strange country, away from home for the first time.
The Mission is an enthralling portrait of a group of young people who put their lives on hold to serve their church. There’s no judgement behind Anderson’s camera, which given the theme allows events to unfold organically. The focus is on the missionaries themselves as they make the difficult transition into adulthood in this alien environment. The religion is secondary. They’re fascinating subjects and this approach makes The Mission a thoughtful and curious piece of filmmaking.
The Mission screens at Sundance Film Festival.