Christmas Eve: Morally Courageous Cinema

Director and alumnus Mitch Davis premiered his new film, Christmas Eve, at BYU and shared the need to stand for belief in popular culture.

Christmas EvePROVO, Utah (November 20, 2015)—In his 1982 acceptance speech, Frank Capra – director of It’s a Wonderful Life and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington – advised aspiring filmmakers that “only the valiant can create, only the daring should make films, and only the morally courageous are worthy of speaking to their fellow man for two hours and in the dark.” BYU alumnus Mitch Davis has taken that charge to heart.

Hosted by the BYU Alumni Association, Davis – director of The Other Side of Heaven – returned to BYU for a special premiere of his latest film, Christmas Eve. Eleven BYU graduates contributed to the film, including Davis’s wife and sons. The cast is an all-star ensemble, including Patrick Stewart, Jon Heder, James Roday and Gary Cole. Set during the titular night, the movie takes place in New York City during a massive power outage that strands six groups of strangers in elevators. It then follows their evenings as the close confines force them to confront one another and themselves, addressing issues ranging from spirituality to family values, self-worth to selflessness.

During a Q&A session following the film, Davis explained the importance of inundating popular culture with positive entertainment, calling popular culture “the most essential battlefield on Earth.”

“Belief is being assaulted and insulted at every turn by just about every medium,” Davis said. He then explained that, unless they take action to work against this trend of negativity, believers have no right to complain. In that light, Christmas Eve is a part of Davis’s efforts to effect change through what he and Frank Capra identified as the most powerful medium in popular culture: feature film. Frank Capra once commented on cinema’s unprecedented power to influence perception and popular opinion, saying, “No saint, no pope, no general, no sultan, has ever had the power that a filmmaker has.”

Though not the film’s central themes, faith and religion play heavily in the plot, with characters questioning and defending belief – not in the derogatory fashion favored by so many modern films, but in a way that allows respect to both sides. Despite initial conflict, characters are able to reconcile and grow closer, reaffirming humanity’s ability to reconcile.

And though isolated in separate elevators, none of the film’s stories work in a vacuum: the events in one elevator have repercussions for another elevator’s occupants, and lessons learned ultimately impact their lives after the story concludes, adding to the film’s overall message.

“We are all connected,” Davis explained. “We are all God’s children, and we ought to be nice to each other, and not just at Christmas.” He added, “Whether we are in pain or ecstasy, joy or sorrow, the heavens are looking down on us, and presiding over it all.”

—Samuel Wright (B.A. American Studies ’16)


Samuel covers events for the English Department for the College of Humanities. He is a senior pursuing a degree in American studies with a minor in editing.