Deseret Book is selling the screenplay as a trade paperback for $11.95. The official OSoH website describes this product: "The original shooting script includes 7 scenes not in the film and 30 colorful behind-the-scene photos."
The "E-book" (PDF file) can still be purchased online from the Deseret Book website for $7.95.
In addition to the printed screenplay, three other physical "Other Side of Heaven" products are available from bookstores. The complete list includes:
It was only a matter of time that Hollywood would shift their focus to our small island Kingdom of Tonga. Hollywood has the power to create unforgettable magic. Consequently, it can destroy the magic just as fast. "The Other Side of Heaven" is loosely based on the memoirs of John H. Groberg. It takes us through his missionary service for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in 1950's in Tonga.
Groberg is portrayed by Christopher Gorham (A Life Less Ordinary). The movie opens with Groberg's early college years at BYU. We are immediately drawn in, as he receives his mission call to Tonga. "Tonga? Where's Tonga?" asks his father. He and his girlfriend Jean (played by Anne Hathaway of Princess Diaries) make a promise that they would stay true to each other until he comes back in 3 years.
From the time he leaves for Tonga to his return, we are kept track of his progress through narrarated letters he exchanges with Jean. He meets his missionary companion Feki, played by Joe Folau, and together they encounter the the natives and the typical cliches... the strange customs, local cuisine, the language barrier, illness, Mormon haters and of course, we the audience encounter the technical cliches such as swelling music at emotional moments, vignettes of the girlfriend back home and special effects, though limited compared to other Hollywood flicks.
But to the inescapable Tongan eye, some things didn't jive. For instance, in one scene, Groberg wakes up one morning to find out that rats made a buffet of the soles of his feet overnight. I didn't think rats chewed in a surgically precise line, unless the rats of Tonga had a peculiar talent. I asked my aunt about the rats in Tonga and she said "Yes, they came at night and cleaned my corns." I didn't know if she was joking or not. In a baptism scene, the young lady getting baptized wore a mish-mash of clothing, composed of a white, lacy Victorian style dress, with a big tapa cloth bow in the back and a haku like thing around her head, made of kafa and beads. (Huh?)
In another scene, Groberg is severely reprimanded by his Mission President for not keeping records of his converts. There is dialogue exchanged about a church Groberg started in Felemea, the subject of the records in question. Last time I checked, Felemea is all the way down in Ha'apai, hundreds and hundreds of miles away, but the audience is led to believe that Felemea is just on the other side of Niuatoputapu. As a matter of fact, the movie makes no mention of Ha'apai, where Groberg spent a significant part of his mission. And in the emotional farewell scene, Groberg, who is leaving, says "Alu a" to the natives. (For those who don't know, the correct phrase is "Nofo a"). You could hear a collective gasp from the Tongan audience.
Little twitches that could have made this movie just a tad bit better and more credible. This is blatantly obvious with the native cast, which featured maybe one genuine Tongan. Their Tongan lines were inexcusably bad, even from Joe Folau. The enunciation of Tongan words was not believable. I felt no connection with them and this was the experience I longed for. You want to identify with these people because they are supposedly, your people. But sadly, that connection never happened. So, from then on, they were just actors pretending to be Tongan and thank goodness the rest of the dialogue was in English.
An obvious miscast was the role of "Lavinia" (played by Miriama Smith), the island girl whose mother wanted so desperately for Groberg to impregnate so she can have a half white grandchild. (Well, it didn't turn out that way as she was the one baptized in the ridiculous costume.) She stood out like a sore thumb because she just doesn't look Tongan. I suspect she was cast for the visual appeal. Don't get me wrong, she is beautiful. Not a lot of lines, but played a somewhat important role. But, I noticed an extra who was the epitome of Tongan beauty. This character was "Mele". I didn't stick around for the credits to find out who the actor was, but this lovely lady should have been Lavinia. She possessed Tongan beauty and grace...the thick, long black hair, the full luscious lips, the full figured body and the face of a goddess. At this point, you start to wonder if integrity was important in the making of this film.
Most of the filming took place in the Cook Islands. Producers cited logistics and budget restrictions. I didn't have a problem with this because the Cook Islands are beautiful. But some of the Tongans seated near me were complaining out loud that it doesn't closely resemble Niua. One woman said "Niua isn't that dirty!" and the Tongans around me agreed. (I believe they were referring to the set and not the island itself)
In his book, Groberg repeatedly boasts of the uncanny musical talents of the Tongan people. In the movie, Tongan hymns faded in and out but the Tongan in me just didn't connect with it. Except for a funeral scene, the hymns were sung in English by a Tongan choir. There is something about a hymn sung in Tongan that sends chills up your spine and transports the listener to another world. But the magic just wasn't there...if they were even going to bother, they should have just hired the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. This little but important detail could have added a different element to the film.
The fore mentioned gripes are things no other critic would notice unless they are Tongan. But even so, the movies falls flat in different categories. The screenplay could have been better . Same goes for cinematography. The only thing carrying this movie is the strong acting of Gorham. And Folau is actually a great actor. His smile lights up the screen and I hope he continues in films.
So, is this movie made for Tongans? The answer is yes and no. Many LDS Tongans will flock to this movie because of their obvious ties and they will probably give it a perfect rating because of their bias. But for me, it is obvious that we Tongans are just a part of the Hollywood machine.
In the meantime, I am seriously contemplating a career change. I think I want to be a film maker. Now that the cat has been let out the bag (somewhat) for Tongans in Hollywood, I can think of many subject matters that would make a great film. Now, I'm not going to be naive in thinking this whole process will be a piece of cake, but I am convinced that in order for our stories to be told correctly, especially after this experience, we have to be the storytellers ourselves. That is perhaps the most important lesson I learned from "The Other Side of Heaven."
Final Grade: C+
Editors' Note: Mitch Davis has accomplished what so many have only been talking about-creating a Hollywood film for a general audience, produced by some of the best names in the business, about Latter-day Saints. The Other Side of Heaven is the story based on John Groberg's book, In the Eye of the Storm, describing his mission to Tonga. The film opened on December 14 and is now on 24 screens across Utah, quickly becoming one of the highest grossing films per screen in the nation. It will be penetrating other markets soon.
In the first scenes of The Other Side of Heaven, John Groberg, who will soon be called on a mission to Tonga, whisks his girlfriend, Jean Sabin out of the door of a BYU dance into the moonlight. "Do you know how many miles the light traveled to shine on you?" he asks. "I think it was worth the trip."
His mission will take him nearly three years, he will travel for 48 days before he reaches his destination, and his very life will be in peril several times, before he sees Jean again, but he says, "No matter where they send me, we'll be under the same moon."
It takes a luminescent face and spirit to haunt young Elder Groberg for three years, and when director Mitch Davis was searching for the combination of depth and beauty to play the role in the movie, he came upon Anne Hathaway. For The Other Side of Heaven is a love story not only between Elder Groberg and the Tongan people, but framing it all, his love and loyalty for Jean on the other wide of the world. Their letters become his touch with home.
a Moon, but a Star
It's happened before that Anne stood out. In fact, some would say she must have born under a lucky star, long before she was under that moon. Six casting directors auditioned one thousand young women when they were looking for the actress to play the part of the awkward Mia Thermopolis who would be transformed, Cinderella-like, in the Princess Diaries. Falling off her chair during the auditions probably didn't hurt either. Suddenly, the New Jersey coed found herself gushed over by the critics who compared her to Audrey Hepburn and Julia Roberts, and taking advice from none other than Julie Andrews on the best way to launch her career.
And what Julie Andrews suggested was truly Mary Poppins-like: go to college, keep your standards, stay out of the Hollywood scene. Though the Princess Diaries was the caterpillar-to-butterfly movie we've seen before, its squeaky-clean script and the presence of Julie Andrews made it a success that surprised the jaded Hollywood crowd who so often misread their audience. Anne Hathaway's screen presence didn't hurt either. Suddenly a face that had been mostly anonymous, became as big as billboards on movie theaters across America.
Do You Measure Luck?
Certainly, Mitch Davis must have been glad to see her rising star just in time for the release ofhis film about John Groberg's missionary experiences in Tonga. When you are taking the commercial chance of creating a Hollywood film for a general audience about a Mormon missionary, it helps to get all the breaks you can.
But when the real John Groberg visited the movie set, he put the idea of "lucky" in perspective. Anne wasn't lucky because she had landed some film parts or rubbed shoulders with Hollywood's big names. Elder Groberg exclaimed upon meeting her, "So you're the lucky girl who gets to play my wife."
Hurrah for John Groberg, and married love that lives on, and having gospel knowledge. John and Jean's love started as friendship before his almost three-year mission to Tonga in 1954 and continues to this day so strong that when Meridian caught Anne between finals at Vassar, where she is a sophomore majoring in English, she said that what impressed her about them was "how much in love they are today."
She Took the Part
Anne has little knowledge about the Church except what the director shared with her during filming. The reason she took the part was because her other roles have been about self-absorbed teenagers, and now she got to play someone with substance. She said, "The story was beautiful; it appealed to me that she was willing to stay so strong in a time when she must have received pressure from her friends and other suitors to get married. I was attracted to the idea that she didn't stand idly by while he was gone, but managed to do something with her life.
"Mitch Davis told me to make her memorable," said Anne. "She is on the screen such a short amount of time, but her presence has to be strong and sort of ethereal so that young Elder Groberg carries her with him. The director made it very clear that this character was totally in love with this woman."
So who is this woman that inspired such devotion, and does she feel that Anne and the film capture her? That story has to start with the qualification that the Grobergs would never have sought to have a film done on their story or to find themselves in the limelight. When Mitch Davis approached them about the possibilities of a film based on Elder Groberg's experiences in Tonga, recorded in his book In the Eye of the Storm, they were hesitant until they became convinced that people might be lifted and inspired by the film.
They decided that if they were going to let their story be filmed, they needed a pledge that it be as true to the book as possible. To aid in the quest for accuracy, they lent Mitch Davis their letters from the mission years for him to use in developing the script. Because the final product had to tell the story in a condensed form, their exact words are not always used, but, said Sister Groberg, "He caught the spirit of our feelings. Girls weren't as bold in those days. I was probably much more conservative in the letters than appears in the movie. He did a good job of reading between the lines." The actual letters were also used in the movie as props as well as John Groberg's trumpet.
Jean was pleased with how authentic the film was to their story, but she laughs about the first scene at a dance in the 50's at BYU, "We didn't dance quite like that."
In the film, viewers hear of some kind of agreement between Jean and John while he was on his mission. Jean clarifies it, "Our agreement was that we would write letters and that was it. I dated, I graduated from BYU and taught school for a year in Anaheim, California.
All this might have been enough to make the heart grow distant, but something happened.
"As we corresponded," said Sister Groberg, "often the letters that John wrote would take months to arrive, since they traveled by boat. Yet, it was amazing how many times a letter that he had written many weeks or several months before would arrive with an insight or a shared experience just at the moment I had a particular concern or need or question. To me it was very significant, and it helped draw us closer together.
"In the fall of my senior year at BYU, I wanted to send him something that would reach him in time for Christmas, and my roommate suggested that I send him a copy of my senior photo which had just been taken. He had never asked for a picture, and I didn't want to be that forward, but my roommate kept prevailing on me, so I finally sent him a picture. I had always wanted a picture of him, and he had never given me one. He sent a picture that crossed in the mail with mine.
"There is a little episode in the film where he uses a picture of me to answer a mother who had been pushing her beautiful, young daughter on him. When he rejected the advances, the mother got upset, and wanted to know why he did not accept her daughter. He said, "I'll tell you tomorrow, and by the time he went back the next day, the boat had come with my letter and my picture on it. He then knew what to do and went to the mother using this picture."
John had left for his mission in 1954 and returned in June, 1957. They were married in September, but Sister Groberg warns, "I certainly don't want all the girls to think that our story is how theirs needs to go. Many write to missionaries and it doesn't work out. Each person is individual. After all," she chuckles, "I wrote 'Dear John' letters for three years.
Years later John and Jean Groberg returned to Tonga where he served as mission president. "It was quite a day when I went with the office elders to collect the mail," she said, "and put my key in box 58, the same box I'd sent letters to all those years before."
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 10, 2002
Contact: Mary Jane Jones
Media Relations, Excel Entertainment Group
Sheila Olsen, Mayor's Council on Cultural Awareness Committee
Movie Opening Will Stock Shelves at Local Food Bank
Idaho Falls Native who Inspired the Film Will Sign Posters
Idaho Falls, ID -- On January 18, a new film opening in Idaho will help fill the pantries of the Idaho Falls Community Food Bank.
'The Other Side of Heaven,' a movie chronicling the real-life experiences of Idaho Falls native John Groberg, opens on Friday January 18 in theaters across Idaho.
On Friday night at the Idaho Falls Edwards Grand Teton Stadium 14 Theater, moviegoers can get a free 'The Other Side of Heaven' movie poster in exchange for three cans of food. Items especially needed by the food bank include canned fruit, canned chili, canned peas and canned lunchmeats. The food drive is being sponsored by the Mayor's Council on Cultural Awareness Committee.
Groberg and Director Mitch Davis will be on hand at the Edwards Theater on Friday evening at 6:15 p.m. to sign posters and greet fans of the movie.
'The Other Side of Heaven' tells the story of Groberg's mission to the Kingdom of Tonga in the 1950's. The film combines drama, adventure and romance in an epic tale of love, culture and faith.
A few scenes in the film portray Idaho Falls, including a scene at the Idaho Falls train station where Groberg bids farewell to his family on his way to Tonga. Scenes representing Idaho Falls were actually shot in Auckland, New Zealand. The rest of the movie was shot on location in Rarotonga in the Cook Islands.
John Groberg and his wife Jean live in Utah, but many members of Groberg's family still live in Idaho Falls. His brother, Joe Groberg, is a city councilman.
'The Other Side of Heaven' stars Christopher Gorham (best known for his roles on the telelvision programs "Popular" and "Felicity") and Anne Hathaway (who recently starred in the Disney blockbuster 'The Princess Diaries.'). Academy Award-winning producer Gerald Molen, whose credits include 'Schindler's List' and 'Jurassic Park,' produced the film.
How long has it been since you attended a movie and came out of it feeling good and uplifted, even shedding a few tears and being unashamed as others looked at you?
The day before New Year's my wife, her sister and I went to see the movie "The Other Side of Heaven," based on a true story by Elder John Groberg of his experiences on his misson to Tonga. The theater was packed and as the show progressed there were scenes of joy, fear, disaster and sadness. It was amazing to witness the trials that he went through and lived to tell about. It gives you a fresh insight into the lives of the people of Tonga. We saw the great faith they had and the charity they had for friends and strangers.
There were no profanity, sexual scenes or violence, and it was indeed refreshing, to say the least. The patrons came out with smiles on their faces, as opposed to the looks of those coming out of some of the other theaters. It is too bad that we don't have the opportunity to see more films of this caliber, where we can take our children and have a nice experience together.
Thank you, Elder Groberg, for being a humble missionary and for keeping an informative journal of your mission to Tonga. Thank you for sharing it with us so that we may be lifted by your experiences. Thanks to those who made the film, for not being afraid to give the public a welcome change in entertainment. There are still many who welcome good movies and also many great stories to tell.
Donald A. Thayne
The LDS film genre may disappear if local and national audiences do not increase their support for this year's movie releases such as "Out of Step," "Singles Ward" and "Charly.".
Ryan Little, director of photography in Spanish Fork and a BYU graduate, said the problem with making a multimillion dollar film for the LDS audience difficult due to the uncertainty about a financial return.
"That's why these films are low-budget," he said.
Little said making low-budget films is hard.
"You have creative restrictions because you can't always film where you want. You can't always have big price actors in the movie. That doesn't mean the actors aren't good. It just means you can't have star power attached to your product," Little said.
However, "The Other Side of Heaven" starred rising actress Anne Hathaway.
"People argue 'The Other Side of Heaven' is a beautiful film with actors people recognize. But the film cost $7 million to make," Little said.
By comparison, Managing Director of Zion Films, Emily Pearson, said "God's Army" cost $300,000 to make, and "Brigham City" $900,000.
Little said those in the LDS film industry know if they invest more money they won't see their financial return, and then they won't be able to continue making these films.
"The rule of thumb is that you have to make three times what it costs you to make the film to get your financial return back," Little said. With "The Other Side of Heaven," a return of $21 million would be necessary.
Mary Jane Jones, the media relations representative of Excel Entertainment Group, said "The Other Side of Heaven" has earned more than $800,000. However, the producers are not nervous about recouping costs.
"It's just begun to play. We plan to open in every state, and internationally," Jones said.
Little said the LDS market is not big enough because people do not go see the films, or they wait until it goes to dollar theaters.
"If the Mormon audience really wants to see high quality end products, they have to vote with their dollar. They have to support these films," he said.
Little encourages people to participate by going to Web sites and telling producers what they want, like or don't like in these types of films.
Little, who recently directed the upcoming film, "Out of Step," likes the feedback, but still finds it difficult to make these types of films.
"I tried really hard to make a film that was intended for the LDS audience and still tell an interesting story with conflict in it," he said, "but do it in such a way that if you weren't LDS, you could still relate and enjoy the story. I wanted to bridge the two markets."
"Out of Step" is about a girl who is from Utah, who kind of lives a sheltered Mormon life, and wants to be a professional dancer, Little said. She goes to New York and learns very quickly what it is like to be a minority, from a religious standpoint.
Alison Akin Clark, a BYU graduate, plays the main character, he said.
Her character has to decide on her own who she wants to be and what her values are going to be, Little said.
"It's kind of a coming-of-age film."
The film also stars Michael Buster from "God's Army" and Jeremy Elliott from "Testaments," and has music composed by Merrill Jenson.
Little called this year a make-or-break year in determining if the LDS film genre will continue. The success of this year's releases could directly affect other planned projects, he said.
"Out of Step" will release the trailer Thursday morning at Jordan Commons. The event is free and open to the public.
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From hurricanes to hunger, John Groberg witnessed plenty during his tenure as a missionary in the Kingdom of Tonga.
On Friday, the Idaho Falls High School alum will get the chance to watch his story on the big screen in his hometown
"The Other Side of Heaven," a movie about Groberg's experiences during his three-year stint as a missionary in Tonga in the early 1950s, opens Friday in Idaho Falls. It depicts the story as he told it in his 1993 book, "In the Eye of the Storm," including going for months without seeing another English-speaking person, being thrown from a small boat into the raging Pacific Ocean and winning the Tongans' trust.
"I'm doubly excited," said the 67-year-old Groberg, who lives in Bountiful, Utah. "Not only because of the premiere, but also because we'll be seeing a lot of old friends. My parents still live there, and my brothers and sisters live there. I still consider Idaho Falls home."
When he was 20, Groberg left his family and the love of his life, crossing the Pacific to become a missionary in Tonga, which consists of 171 islands and 100,000 citizens situated in the South Pacific, about two-thirds of the way from Hawaii to New Zealand.
Critics, including Larry King and Michael Medved, have hailed the film for its scenery and the heartwarming tale that weaves together love, culture, humor and faith.
Omar Hansen, theater professor at Brigham Young University-Idaho, hasn't seen the movie yet but said it's somewhat groundbreaking in its portrayal of Mormons. Among past films that have dealt with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he said, were the original Brigham Young movie, which was pretty watered down, and "Paint Your Wagon," which gave a fairly negative view of Mormons.
"This one is more mainstream, and from what I've heard, the religious approach is looked at as well as the human side."
Sheila Olsen, one of a few dozen people invited to a private screening of the movie in December, said the film's themes of love and faith are universal, making it attractive to more than just members of the LDS faith.
"I have heard from people who aren't members of the church who have really enjoyed it. You're one-third of the way through the film, at least, before you hear any mention of any church; it's not a Mormon movie."
Christopher Gorham, known to television viewers as Harrison on the WB show "Popular," plays Groberg. Anne Hathaway, star of "The Princess Diaries," portrays Groberg's girlfriend, Jean Sabin, whom he marries a few months after returning from Tonga. New Zealanders make up the rest of the cast.
In his feature film debut, Salt Lake City native Mitch Davis wrote and directed the movie, which was produced by Gerald Molen, the Academy Award-winning producer of "Schindler's List" and "Jurassic Park."
Davis said he had always wanted to tell the tale of a missionary because he went on a mission in Argentina.
"But I never quite found the vehicle I thought would work for the general public until two friends recommended this book by Elder John Groberg," Davis said.
The PG-rated movie was filmed on location in New Zealand and the nearby Cook Islands. With only a $ 7 million budget, it was shot in 21/2 months during summer 2000.
Auckland, New Zealand, doubled for Idaho Falls and the Brigham Young University campus in Provo, Utah.
Groberg said Davis did a good job of leaving the story relatively intact.
"The events in the film are essentially true to what happened, but the sequence may be a little different," said Groberg, who went back to Tonga with his wife in 1966 and stayed until 1969. He also has lived in Argentina, Hawaii and Hong Kong. "The film captures the spirit of the book really well."
Groberg, who is now a member of the Church of Jesus Christ's General Authority, said he hoped the 113-minute film would leave viewers encouraged with their lives.
"We live in a wonderful world; life itself is a wonderful thing. So many people are discouraged with life right now; I just hope they realize that with God's help we can overcome anything."
To all the offended Tongans out there... get a clue.
I'm Tongan too, born in Nuku'alofa and I graduated of Liahona High School. Later attended BYU Hawaii and now I live in Salt Lake City. I find the portrayal of our people accurate. Remember, this movie takes place during the dawn of 'CHRISTIANITY' and our ancestors practiced some ungodly things before they understood the gospel.
When you say Tongans were never like that is to undermine Groberg's work as well as all other the missionaries who went there, LDS or not. THEY DID A LOT AND WE CHANGED BECAUSE OF WHAT THEY BROUGHT. They brought understanding and changed our lives.
Don't forget, the word 'papalangi' which we use to describe a white person comes from 'papa' which means father or even people and 'langi' which means heaven. The word our ancestors used to describe our white missionary visitors and white people in general is literally translated 'people from heaven'. That's because they thought they came from heaven, and I'm going to agree, people like Groberg did come from heaven.
But the question is, are we like that now? Of course not. But to be honest, our ancestors needed that "light" from all missionaries to change into what we've become now.
Don't live in denial and think we were perfect, because we were just like everyone else in the world with problems before the gospel. Stop living in denial. There was a time when Tongans wanted 'white' babies. A time when innocent young women were lured in by savage sailors and abused. This all happened... or are you so far removed from your past that you don't want to accept it?
I LOVED THE MOVIE and think it proves to show just how far we have come as a people.
A very satisfied Tongan in Salt Lake City