Sundance Doc ‘The Mission’ Follows Young Mormons on a Trip to Finland – Deadline
Throughout its history, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has sent approximately one million believers around the world to spread the word of the Mormon faith. Most of those who go on missions are young people, like Tyler Davis and Megan Bills, who as teenagers were sent to Finland.
Davis and Bills are among the subjects of The mission, directed by Tania Anderson, which premiered at Sundance as part of the World Cinema Documentary Competition. The film offers an intimate look at the emotional and spiritual journey of these teenage missionaries as they attempt to convert people very different from themselves.
“There’s a huge cultural difference between Americans and Finns, especially young LDS church members and Finns,” Anderson said during an appearance at Deadline’s Sundance virtual studio. “Finns are reserved, they are independent… They don’t want to talk to people too much – it’s a form of politeness, like giving people space… Here you have LDS missionaries who really want helping out with all their heart and all their love and enthusiasm and joy, and so there’s a lot of natural comedy that comes from the clashes of these two cultures.
Bills and Davis and their fellow missionaries were consistently rejected. Most Finns wouldn’t tell them the time of day.
“It was really tough, like there were times when…it was really tough and exhausting,” Bills conceded. “It always made me wonder, ‘Why am I here and why do I keep trying? And that response was always the same, that I felt like I was doing everything I could to spread love and joy and teach people something that changed my life, the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Davis has struggled with mental health issues in Finland, but considers his assignment a rewarding experience.
“Going to Finland gave me the opportunity to understand myself more than ever before,” he observed. “I think the way Finns live – people call them shy or are more reserved themselves – it gives them the opportunity to understand themselves better and be comfortable with self-esteem. And , so i would say the way i coped, or how i dealt with the differences in finland is that it turned me into such a better person that i was able to love myself more So, I’m really grateful for everything Finland and people have done for me.
Watch the full conversation with the director and her subjects in the video above.