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Richard Dutcher is a Mormon filmmaker. But please don't call him that.

It's a label he once wore with pride, but no longer. When his films God's Army (2000) and Brigham City (2001) were big hits with Mormons, he was hailed as arguably the finest director yet to emerge from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS).

But then Dutcher did something dangerous: He made an edgy, gritty film, one that wasn't all smiles but was more in-your-face in depicting man's sinful nature, including—gasp!—that of a Mormon missionary, who falls into sin while doing his missions work.

Because of that film, States of Grace, Dutcher has been shunned by the LDS church. He also says that many other recent "Mormon films" are so bad, he doesn't want to have anything to do with the label.

States of Grace releases to DVD today after quite a year for Dutcher. He has not only been rejected by the Mormon community, but also saw his movie create a bit of controversy. Grace was playing at a San Diego theater when a box office worker told customers that it was "being advertised as a Christian film, but it's really a Mormon film."

Some Mormons were outraged and planned a protest, but Dutcher called them off, preferring to keep the peace and let the film speak for itself.

Grace, a well-crafted and powerful film, begins with a drive-by shooting witnessed by two Mormon missionaries named Farrell and Lozano. One of them saves the life of a shooting victim, who ends up considering a spiritual change. Farrell and Lozano also befriend a fallen Pentecostal pastor, Louis, now a homeless man, and a neighbor, Holly, who has a painful past. Elements of grace come crashing into all of these lives.

In the film's most powerful scene, Farrell and Lozano find ...

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November 2006

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