See Mormon Film: Key Films of the Fifth Wave
Church leaders and other Latter-day Saints have dreamed of creating a biographical film of Joseph Smith for over thirty years. Though Richard Dutcher's recent quest to create such a film is probably the best-known aborted effort, the LDS Church itself spent a great deal of time and resources in the 1970s pursuing a feature film that could be released in commercial theaters to bring the life of Joseph Smith to a paying public. Robert Bolt was briefly retained, and then for a time all original scripts were accepted on spec. These energies were eventually diverted elsewhere, but the impulse remained, and now Joseph Smith: Prophet of the Restoration
can be seen as a partial fullfillment of that dream (partial because it is playing in a single, Church-owned cinema rather than in commercial centers across the nation).
The film is the work of longtime collaborators T.C. Christensen and Gary Cook, who also worked together on the recent remake of The First Vision
(1976), called The Restoration
(2003). The co-directors were aware of the distancing effect of the epic scope of the Church's previous two films shown in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building, and deliberately sought a more intimate feel in tone, characterization, and even cinematography (the 70mm film stock of Legacy
was eschewed in favor of Super-35mm, projected digitally on two vertically stacked projectors).
Released for the bicentennial of Joseph Smith's birth, the film was also original in that it was quickly distributed to LDS visitor's centers throughout North America, so that it could gain a wider audience than would be available at Temple Square alone.