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"The Legend of Johnny Lingo" (2003)
Articles and Reviews
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Johnny Lingo: The Legend

By: Thomas C. Baggaley
Date: 22 August 2003
Source: Meridian Magazine

The story of Johnny Lingo and his eight-cow wife has become so much a part of LDS culture; you might be tempted to believe that Johnny Lingo was an early Polynesian member of the church. The version of the story most members are familiar with is the BYU-produced short film made in 1969 starring Makee K. Blaisdell, who also made a guest appearance on one of the original Star Trek episodes, and Francis Urry, who also played President Lorenzo Snow in another classic church film, The Windows of Heaven, and whose voice is heard narrating the children's audio tapes and videos of scripture stories produced by the church. It was directed by Wetzel O. Whitaker, who before being approached by BYU president Ernest L. Wilkinson in 1952 to establish a film studio from scratch (now known as the LDS Motion Picture Studio), worked for 16 years as an animator at the Walt Disney Studios on such notable features as Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland and Cinderella. Whitaker went on to produce and/or direct such notable church classics as The Windows of Heaven, Cipher in the Snow, The Lost Manuscript and of course, Johnny Lingo.

Who knows how many countless Aaronic Priesthood or Young Women's lessons have involved showing this film over the years? Who can forget such classic lines as "Mahana, you ugly!" or seeing Mahana's father stomping away from the young couple's home insisting that he'd been cheated, even though Johnny Lingo paid him nearly twice as large a dowry as any man had paid for a wife before? The film is memorable for its silliness, for its politically incorrect setting, and for its timeless message about some of the consequences (good or bad) of the ways we treat those around us.

Since members can hardly get through seminary without having seen the film at least once, they might be surprised to learn that this story's origin has nothing to do with the church. The film was actually adapted from a short story by writer Patricia McGerr, who - aside from Johnny Lingo - was best known for her mystery novels and short stories. The story was first published in the mid-1960s and has been translated into dozens of languages and reprinted in hundreds of publications, having been read and enjoyed by millions of people throughout the world. And its origins may go further back than that.

The Legend

LDS producers John Garbett and Jerry Molen (winner of an Academy Award as the producer of Schindler's List) have decided to follow up The Other Side of Heaven, the highest grossing LDS Cinema film to date, by producing a feature-length version of the Johnny Lingo story. At a private screening of the film in Salt Lake City, Garbett answered a few questions and spoke about the origin of the story, which he says may truly be very old - on the order of a legend. "People I've talked to [in the Pacific islands] have told me they knew the story before it was ever published. It may be that long ago there really was a Johnny Lingo."

For some of those invited to the special screening, there was - at first - a little confusion. Several in attendance mentioned how they had wondered why they should get up on a Saturday morning and go downtown to see a 20-minute film produced in 1969. Once they realized it was a feature-length film based on the same story, the next logical question was how in the world could anyone stretch that story over nearly two hours and keep it interesting? In fact, The Legend of Johnny Lingo (which is the title of the feature) actually deals with much more of the lives of Johnny Lingo and Mahana than the other film.

Without giving too much of the plot away, the film begins when a baby boy is washed up onto Malio Island during a fierce storm. At first the islanders welcome the child into their midst, giving him the name of Tama. However, after a series of misfortunes occur on the island, Tama is blamed and becomes an outcast, living in the house of the poorest family on the island, that of Mahana and her father. Mahana is also an outcast, rejected even by her own father, and the children form a bond. Tama finally is able to leave the island, promising to return for Mahana and take care of her as soon as he can. A lot of time is spent in the growing up process for these characters, especially Tama. In fact, the entire events depicted in the 1969 version only take up about 5 minutes of the feature film, and even those events are handled in a very different (and I personally feel much more satisfying) way than the earlier film.

A New Adaptation

When asked about some of the differences between the two films, including some things that were left out, Garbett made it clear that the filmmakers had not set out to do a remake of the 1969 film; rather they wanted to do their own film adaptation of the original story as written by Patricia McGerr. "Those things were not in the original story. They were added for that particular film," he explained.

So is The Legend of Johnny Lingo any good? In short, yes it is. It is a fun, sweet, family-oriented film. Although its budget appears to be smaller than The Other Side of Heaven (not necessarily a bad thing) this is a very well-conceived adaptation of the story. Award-winning Polynesian screenwriter Riwia Brown has done an excellent job of expanding on the source material, and even the idea of a wedding dowry is approached so subtly and sensitively that it no longer seems like the blatant buying and selling of a wife. Part of this is because the feature length film allows some of the other characters in the story to be developed more fully, especially the female ones.

Mahana, for instance, is a much stronger, more believable character in this version. That they are able to accomplish this and still maintain the story's underlying message about the effects of attaching labels to people is a credit to the script and to the acting and directing. Joe Falou is strong as the grown up Tama, although perhaps not quite as good as when he played Feki in The Other Side of Heaven - but I thought he was very good in that, so that's not a knock on his performance in Johnny Lingo at all. Kayte Ferguson is also good as the grown up Mahana, George Henare is excellent as an older Johnny Lingo, and it is an absolute joy to watch Alvin Fitisemanu shine in a larger role as the "Chief Steward." (In The Other Side of Heaven, Fitisemanu played Tomasi, the large, often-drunk Polynesian who remembered he was a Mormon just in time to save Elder Groberg and Feki from the bullies that the minister had sent to rough them up.)

First-time director Steve Ramirez does make some unusual choices, the most troubling to me being two or three times when there was a sudden shift in both the visual and sound world of the film and I suddenly felt like I was watching a sleek music video, complete with pop music (sung in one of the South Pacific languages - I'm not sure which one). They were very beautiful sequences and I'm sure they will help to sell copies of the soundtrack, but I didn't feel like they fit into the rest of the film and actually interfered with my ability to stay involved in the story and the world of Johnny Lingo - at least for the duration of those scenes. But overall, it is a well-made picture, and most importantly, it is fun, light and entertaining to watch.

As further evidence of the story's universal appeal and popularity - even outside the LDS church - The Legend of Johnny Lingo is opening simultaneously on 100 screens in various major cities across the U.S., including Salt Lake City (and other cities in Utah), Atlanta, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Phoenix/Mesa, and Las Vegas next weekend (Labor Day weekend - August 29th).

About the Author
About the author - Film composer Thomas C. Baggaley received a master's degree in music from UCLA, where he studied film scoring with highly regarded composer, Jerry Goldsmith. He recently released a CD of inspirational music titled "Spirit of the Sabbath", which is available at Deseret Book and Thomas is also the co-webmaster of, a research web site about LDS films and filmmakers. He is currently working on his next CD release, "Healing Showers: Music for a Rainy Evening" which is scheduled to be released in July. Thomas is a husband and father to three wonderful children and serves as the teacher development coordinator in his ward.

Movie Locations

"The Legend of Johnny Lingo" opens August 29 in selected theaters. Please check back for additional theaters and showtimes.

Atlanta, Georgia metro area
Alpharetta AMC Mansell Crossing 16
Austell Regal 22 at Austell
Buford Regal Mall of Georgia
Chamblee Regal Hollywood 24
Decatur AMC North Dekalb 16
Douglasville Regal Arbor Place Cinema
Duluth Regal Medlock Crossing 18
Kennesaw Regal Town Cinema 16
Morrow AMC South Lake Odyssey 24
Snellville Regal Snellville Oaks 14

Dallas/Ft. Worth, Texas metro area
Dallas AMC Grand 24
Dallas UA Galaxy Theater
Frisco AMC Stonebrier
Ft. Worth UA Hulen 10
Ft. Worth AMC Sundance 11
Grand Prairie Cinemark Movies 16
Grapevine AMC Grapevine Mills 30
Mesquite AMC Mesquite 30
Plano Cinemark Legacy 24
Plano Cinemark Tinseltown 20

Las Vegas, Nevada metro area
Henderson Century Cinedome 12
N. Las Vegas Regal Texas Cinema
Las Vegas Century Rancho 16 Sante Fe
Las Vegas Century Suncoast 16
Las Vegas Century Orleans 12
Las Vegas Regal Colonnade 14
Las Vegas Regal Boulder Station

Phoenix, Arizona metro area
Avondale Harkins Gateway Pavilion
Chandler Harkins Chandler Fashion
Gilbert Wallace Gilbert Town Center Cinema
Mesa Harkins Superstation 25
Mesa AMC Mesa Grande 24
Peoria Harkins Arrowhead Fountain 18
Phoenix AMC Ahwatukee 24/KEY
Phoenix AMC Arizona Center 24
Phoenix AMC Deer Valley 30
Tempe Harkins Arizona Mills 24

Salt Lake City, Utah metro area
Bountiful Gateway
Layton Cinemark Tinseltown 17
Lehi Thanksgiving Point 8
Orem Scera
Pleasant Grove Water Garden Cinema 6
Providence Providence Stadium 8
Provo Carmike Wynnsong 12
Provo Cinemark at Provo
Salt Lake City Century 16
Salt Lake City The Gateway 16
Salt Lake City Holladay Center 16
Sandy Jordan Commons Megaplex 17
West Jordan Carmike 12
West Jordan Cinemark West Jordan
West Valley City Carmike Ritz Hollywood 15
Cedar City Fiddler 6
Ogden North Point Theaters 1-4
Ogden Cinemark at Ogden
Spanish Fork Spanish 8 Theater
St. George Stadium 8

Tahitian Noni International Premieres Major Motion Picture 'The Legend of Johnny Lingo'
Industry-Leading Company Breaks New Ground by Financing Production

Date: 26 August 2003
Source: Tahitian Noni International

PROVO, Utah, Aug. 26 /PRNewswire/ -- Tahitian Noni International will premiere a major motion picture, "The Legend of Johnny Lingo," in 5 U.S. locations on August 29, 2003 (Labor Day weekend). This traditional story is great for all ages and portrays a value-oriented and fun theme in addition to incorporating the benefits of Morinda citrifolia, or noni fruit.

Academy Award winner Gerald Molen ("Schindler's List," "Jurassic Park," "Jurassic Park -- The Lost World," "Minority Report") teamed up with John Garbett to produce this South Seas adventure, staring actors who are familiar to audiences from "Whale Rider," "Once Were Warriors," and "Star Wars -- Attack of the Clones." The film was shot entirely on location in New Zealand and the Cook Islands in the South Pacific.

The financial backing of a major movie is an unprecedented move for a fast-growing company that is attaining distinctions on a number of fronts. Operating since 1996, Tahitian Noni International reached a combined $2 billion in sales in July of this year, marketing a line of more than 250 products in 50 countries based on the noni fruit from French Polynesia.

While product placement within motion pictures has been a traditional method of advertising for years, the release of "Johnny Lingo" is, to the company's knowledge, the first time that a product manufacturer has backed the production and release of a major industry film. Why would a company take this kind of unprecedented marketing step?

Says President Kelly Olsen, "In part, we wanted to provide the world with entertainment that underscores our company's core values of wholesomeness, integrity, and respect for all people. We're giving families, religious groups, and associations a chance to see a world-class movie that is both entertaining and personally enriching. But in addition, this movie is allowing us to share the story about the existence and benefits of noni to a much wider base of potential consumers than any method of traditional advertising could." Olsen notes that the film will help Tahitian Noni International and its distributors build the company's brand by exposing millions of people to the positive benefits of the noni fruit.

The film is opening in selected cities nationwide. In Las Vegas, the movie's premiere will kick off with a special opening night premiere at the Century Suncoast 16 Cineplex on August 29th located at 9090 Alta Drive, Las Vegas, NV. In addition, the movie will open the same night at six other theaters in the Las Vegas/Henderson area. Four other metropolitan areas are also slated to open on the Labor Day weekend: Atlanta, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Phoenix/Mesa and Salt Lake City.

The film has received a G rating from the Motion Picture Association of America. For dates and current information on all cities and theaters, please visit or

About Tahitian Noni International

Tahitian Noni International has recently been recognized as one of the fastest-growing private companies in America by Griffin-Hill, a marketing research company. Operating since July 1996, the company sells its line of more than 250 products in more than 50 countries. In July of this year, combined sales topped the $2 billion mark. Tahitian Noni International was founded in 1995 by Kerry Asay, Kim Asay, John Wadsworth, Stephen Story, and Kelly Olsen to be the exclusive source of TAHITIAN NONI® Juice, a natural healthy beverage, and other TAHITIAN NONI® products.

For further information, please contact: Andre Peterson, Director of Public Relations of Tahitian Noni International, +1-801-234-1401,

REVIEW: The Legend of Johnny Lingo

By: Cliff Vaughn
Date: 26 August 2003
Source: Ethics (an imprint of the Baptist Center for Ethics)

"There's a treasure hidden deep within everyone," says the title character in "The Legend of Johnny Lingo." "The adventure is to discover it."

There are treasures hidden deep within Hollywood, too, and sometimes the challenge is finding them. One hopes that audiences will somehow gravitate to "The Legend of Johnny Lingo," a lovely G-rated movie coping with a marketing push easily lost amid box-office behemoths.

But therein lies a lesson: The quality of a film doesn't correspond to the quantity of its advertising. For proof of this theorem, watch most any "blockbuster" that came down the pike this summer.

Opening Friday, "The Legend of Johnny Lingo" tells the story of a boy, Tama, who is tossed about like the waves in the movie's beautiful South Pacific setting.

At the film's beginning, the infant Tama is washed ashore in a canoe. Found by the island's Malio tribe, Tama is proclaimed a gift from the God of blessedness by the tribe's chief. But when the chief proclaims Tama his heir -- despite the fact that he already has a son and an heir -- the chief's wife immediately begins sowing seeds of discord, saying Tama was actually sent by the god of mischief.

As the islanders experience hardship, they begin to blame Tama for everything, turning him into a scapegoat and forcing the chief to rescind the blessing. Tama is then shuffled from family to family, each in turn pronouncing Tama at fault for their troubles.

Tama finally lands with the tribal drunk and his daughter, Mahana, who are also seen as outcasts. But Tama decides he must flee the island, promising the girl he will one day return and care for her.

The teenage Tama sets sail and again washes ashore -- this time on the island of Johnny Lingo, the wealthiest trader of the islands.

Whereas others think the boy is no good, Johnny sees potential in Tama and takes him under his wing, teaching him about honor, stewardship, sailing and much more.

As Tama struggles to discover who he really is, a kind islander tells him: "Start believing you came from a good and great god. Your life will soon change."

Tama's journey of self-discovery is simply and beautifully told, stacked as it is against Mahana's devoted search of the horizon each morning and evening -- her search for the boy who told her he would return.

And when Johnny's faith in Tama is eventually put to the test, Tama must rise to the occasion.

"The Legend of Johnny Lingo" is similar to the story of the biblical Joseph, who toils for years in servanthood, but whose wisdom and dedication bring him great honor -- as he works to do what is right. The film also works as a case of lost-and-found identity, which children are sure to love.

Filmed in Auckland, New Zealand, and Aitutaki, Cook Islands, the movie is "dedicated to all the Johnny Lingos in our lives," according to the end credits.

"The Legend of Johnny Lingo" is as warm and stirring as the island-scapes it beautifully captures. The film industry needs more of this storytelling wind in its sails.

REVIEW: Faraway Tale: "The Legend of Johnny Lingo"

By: Ted Baehr
Date: August 2003
Source: [an Evangelical Protestant site]
URL: Moral Acceptability: WHOLESOME
Quality: *** [3 stars out of 4]

Content: (B, RoRo, C, V, AA, M) Moral worldview with strong romantic elements and view of marriage, as well as some redemptive allegorical elements; no foul language; minor violence, such as a woman, both as a girl and then grown up, throws coconuts and other things at guys; kissing; no nudity; one town drunk character, no smoking; and, lying, eventually overcome.
Summary: THE LEGEND OF JOHNNY LINGO is the story of a boy in the South Pacific, who receives his rightful inheritance and follows his heart to find true love. Overall, THE LEGEND OF JOHNNY LINGO has good heart and good intentions.

In brief:
THE LEGEND OF JOHNNY LINGO appears to be at first glance the simple story of a boy in the South Pacific, who receives his rightful inheritance and follows his heart to find true love.

The movie opens with a baby washing ashore on a boat in the South Pacific. The chief proclaims that the child is a gift from one of the gods. Some think it's the god of mischief. The chief thinks the child is a gift of the blessing god. Thus, the chief chooses the child, Tama, over his own son.

After three years of bad luck, the chief recants and assumes that Tama is cursed, denounces him, and gives him to another islander. Tama gets handed from one family to another, all of whom believe that their ill fortune comes from his curse. Finally, he gets given to a drunk, who, as the drunk says, has an ugly daughter, Mahana.

Tama falls into love with Mahana, builds a boat and asks her to leave the island with him. She refuses to go with him because she has to take care of her father, in spite of the fact that he's a drunk, and so Tama heads off, promising to return.

Tama almost dies at sea, but washes up in front of the home of the wealthiest trader in the South Pacific, named Johnny Lingo. Johnny recognizes that Tama is a runaway who lies about his past, but determines to help Tama overcome his personal demons and problems. Eventually, Johnny Lingo comes to the point where he's going to die, and he makes Tama his heir, giving him his name. He tells Tama to follow his heart back to his first love, which Tama does, but she does not recognize him, and so the stage is set for the climax.

THE LEGEND OF JOHNNY LINGO has a lot of virtues. Patience, kindness, hard work, perseverance, are all extolled. Furthermore, taking care of the homeless, the lost, and the rebellious are exemplified. Being true to your promises, loving someone for what's inside them, and sacrificing your life for others are also extolled. There are also allegorical elements that could be interpreted within a Christian worldview. The baby coming almost miraculously from the god of blessing, the child grows up as a humble servant, although he is, by birth, a chief, and Tama's dying to self, could all be woven into a Bible teaching.

The defect, however, is that there is no real appreciation and recognition, or clarification, regarding the true salvation available in Jesus Christ, or the gift that God has given us to set us free from our sins and there is an undue emphasis on marriage and following your heart. Part of this problem lies in the fact that there is no acknowledgment that men are basic sinners. There seems to be a Romantic presupposition that men are good and just need work, or help along the way.

The cinematography is beautiful, the direction is slow at times but winsome, and the acting is serviceable with only a few spotty moments of very strained performances. It would have been better if Mahana had been a downtrodden Cinderella who blossomed into a lovely woman when Tama paid eight cows for her as the short story suggests. As it is in the movie, she remains plain.

Overall, THE LEGEND OF JOHNNY LINGO has good heart and good intentions. It is worth watching and memorable, though it could have been better.

Please address your comments to:
Gerald R. Molen
Whitelight Entertainment, Inc
5200 Lankershim Blvd., Suite 350
North Hollywood, CA 91601

Movie Credits
Released: Aug 29, 2003
Distributor: Number 8 Production LLC
Director: Steven Ramirez
Executive Producer: Brad Pelo
Producer: John Garbett and Jerry Molen
Writer: Riwia Brown

The Legend of Johnny Lingo

By: David DiCerto
Date: 27 August 2003
Source: Catholic News Service

NEW YORK (CNS) -- A young boy leaves his island home an outcast only to return a king, in the Polynesian coming-of-age fable "The Legend of Johnny Lingo" (MGM).

The film is set against the tropical splendor of the South Seas at the close of the 19th century. Director Steven Ramirez, working on a tight budget, focuses on character and narrative development to spin a heartwarming yarn of love and adventure for the entire family.

Based on a short story by Patricia McGerr, the film tells the tale of Tama, who as an infant is orphaned by the sea and washed ashore on the paradisiacal island of Malio. Deemed a gift from the gods, the mysterious child is adopted by the islanders' kindhearted chieftain (Rawiri Paratene), who bestows on him the right of kingly succession.

Unwilling to see her own son cast aside, the chief's cunning wife plots against the tyke, using her power of persuasion to pin the blame for a rash of unfortunate island events on the child, noting that the misfortunes commenced with Tama's arrival. The superstitious islanders pressure the chief to disown the child, which he does begrudgingly, placing him in the care of a kinsman. But bad luck seems to follow Tama wherever he goes, resulting in his being handed off from hut to hut.

He grows into a boy (Tausani Simei-Barton) but is treated as a pariah, forced into servitude, selling kindling for the island drunkard, whose daughter, Mahana (Fokikovi Soakimi) -- herself an outcast and the brunt of cruel jokes -- is the only person who shows compassion for Tama.

Friendship blossoms into young romance, but the call of the sea -- and Tama's true home beyond the waves -- proves irresistible. Tama sets off in a hand-carved canoe, vowing to return someday to claim Mahana as his bride.

Adrift on the ocean, Tama finds himself once again providentially washed ashore -- this time on an island owned by Johnny Lingo (George Henare), a wealthy merchant renowned throughout the South Pacific whose past is shrouded in mystery. Taking him under his wing, Lingo teaches Tama the ways of the sea, apprenticing him to follow in his footsteps and run his lucrative trade route business. As he matures into a man, Tama (played as an adult by Joe Falou) voyages to neighboring islands with Lingo, learning the truth about his past along the way, paving the way for the tale's storybook ending.

Like most fables, the story is simple; yet it is precisely this narrative unpretentiousness that gives the film emotional resonance. Uncluttered by postmodern balderdash and psychoanalytic hokum, the story unfolds with the moral clarity of a parable, smuggling in its lessons of love and forgiveness with the disarming charm of a child's bedtime tale.

While lacking the resources that would have enabled the film to pack a more cinematic punch, Ramirez convincingly captures the flavor of the tropical setting, filming the story completely amid the Cook Islands in the South Pacific and employing a cast made up entirely of native New Zealanders.

Yet, despite its exotic locale, the story's family-oriented themes of compassion and discovering a person's true worth are timeless and universal. Full of Dickensian twists and fortuitous revelations, this diamond in the rough overcomes its modest scope and at times stiff performances by placing more value in good old-fashioned storytelling, than by blitzing viewers with hollow special effects.

In our spiritually malnourished age, when young viewers are fed a steady diet of debasement, "Johnny Lingo's" message, that something very special resides in each of us, is a welcome change of fare, one consistent with our Christian belief in the singular sacredness of every person. Like Tama, life's misfortunes may make us outcasts, but God's grace has made us kings and queens.

The USCCB Office for Film & Broadcasting classification is A-I -- general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is G -- general audiences.

Cinema Clips
The Legend of Johnny Lingo

By: Scott Renshaw
Date: 28 August 2003
Source: Salt Lake City Weekly

**.5 [2.5 out of 4 stars]

Is it a feature version of the much-beloved LDS fable, or is it a lushly-produced infomercial for Tahitian Noni juice? That's the cynical approach, but it's hard to resist the film's uplifting appeal completely. Tausani Simei-Barton plays the adolescent version of the orphan Tama, who leaves the turn-of-the-century South Pacific island of his boyhood in search of his place in the world. His journey of self-discovery leads him to manhood (played by Joe Falou) under the wing of kindly island trader Johnny Lingo (George Henare), and an attempt to keep a long-ago promise to a girl named Mahana (Kayte Ferguson). And yes, the palliative effects of Noni juice (Tahitian Noni financed the film) are much discussed, even as the characters learn important lessons in self-worth through the eyes of those who see their potential. But it is a satisfying story, with enough good actors (Henare, Whale Rider's Rawiri Paratene) to make up for the amateurs. Add some attractive island photography, subtract pee-pee and fart gags that have now infected even wholesome family fare, and you've got something that's offensive neither spiritually nor cinematically. Opens Aug. 29 at theaters valley-wide. (G) -SR

A Movie Parable: "The Legend of Johnny Lingo"

By: Michael Elliott
Date: August 2003
Source: Movie Parables [Protestant site]
Artistic Rating:**
Comments:A sweet and poignant tale told by well-meaning but inexperienced talent
Directed By:Steven Ramirez
Starring:Joe Folau
Kayte Ferguson
George Henare
Tausani Simei-Barton
Fokikovi Soakimi
Alvin Fitisemanu
Written By:Riwia Brown
John Garbett
Running Time:1 hour, 30 min.
Nudity Alert:Mild or None
Sexuality Alert:Mild or None
Language Alert:Mild or None
Violence Alert:Mild or None
Drug Alert:Moderate
Scripture References:Romans 14:19
Romans 15:2
Ephesians 4:29

** [2 out of 4 stars]

Product placement in motion pictures has been going on for quite some time but in The Legend of Johnny Lingo, it takes on a whole new meaning. This feature film has been solely sponsored by Utah-based Morinda Inc., makers of Tahitian Noni juice which is given a small part to play in the film.

Based upon a 1968 short story by Patricia McGerr, The Legend of Johnny Lingo has long been a favorite among the Mormon community. In 1969, a short half hour treatment of the tale was filmed and distributed by the church.

Director Steven Ramirez and producers Gerald R. Molen, John Garbett, and Brad Pelo, all members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, have opted to stretch out the story to make a full 90 minute version which will begin playing in selected theaters in August 2003.

This widely circulated story may be familiar even to those outside of LDS circles. When a devastating storm hits a small island in the South Pacific, it deposits upon its shores a canoe containing a young male baby. The local natives at first accept him into their tribes but soon begin to fear that he is a bad omen, a product of the storm gods.

Named Tama (Tausani Simei-Barton), the young boy grows up being shunned and segregated from most of the other islanders. His only friend is a young girl named Mahana (Fokikovi Soakimi) who is also shunned and teased because of her homeliness. The two outcasts bond and pledge themselves to each other.

Searching for more out of life, young Tama decides to leave the island but promises to return one day for Mahana. His journey takes him to meet Johnny Lingo (George Henare), the richest and most popular trader in all the islands. Tama becomes his apprentice and eventually his heir, inheriting his business and his good name.

The grown up Tama (Joe Folau), now a successful trader using the name Johnny Lingo, returns to his boyhood home to keep his promise to Mahana (Kayte Ferguson) and in so doing, teaches us all a lesson on the value of self worth.

The story is actually a sweet and loving one. Even though it has been used by different churches as a sermon illustration, it does not heavily proselytize or preach any particular denomination or faith. And the Noni Juice inclusion, while obviously a plug, does not smack of infomercial-itis.

The film unfortunately does suffer from its use of nonprofessional Polynesian actors. There is an amateurish air to the production that must be forgiven in order to enjoy the tale being told. However, there is no denying that the message behind the story is a powerful and poignant one. The Legend of Johnny Lingo can lead us to question how it is we are to determine or view our self-worth as well as show us how our treatment of others will affect how they see themselves.

The words we speak to each other will always have an impact. It is our choice what kind impact to make. God exhorts us to build one another up... To edify each other in love.

Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another. Romans 14:19 (KJV)
If more of us obeyed this simple exhortation, the resounding impact would change the world... one person and one heart at a time.

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