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Seventeen years after The Other Side of Heaven became one of the earliest releases in what’s now called the “faith-based” genre, the movie about a Mormon’s true-life mission to help the needy in the Tongan islands in the 1950s is getting a sequel.
Like the first film, the sequel, dubbed The Other Side of Heaven 2: Fire of Faith, tells of Elder John Groberg, though this time he has returned to Tonga in the 1960s as a married man with five daughters.
While much of the conflict in the original stemmed from a hostile relationship between Groberg and a local Christian missionary, as well as a typhoon and a near-death experience, the drama in the follow-up revolves in large measure around Groberg’s son, who is born so ill that he is unable to even leave Tonga for the medical care he needs to survive.
The 2001 original made just $5 million at the box office but has become a favorite on home video, where distribution is handled by Walt Disney. Insiders say Disney was attracted to the project partially because it featured a young Anne Hathaway in a primary role.
As in the first movie, Christopher Gorham of Ugly Betty and Covert Affairs stars as Groberg in Fire of Faith. His wife, Jean, is played by Natalie Medlock, a New Zealand actress.
The movie is from Two Road Productions, founded by Mitch Davis in 1995, which also made the first pic as well as titles like Christmas Eve starring Patrick Stewart and Language of the Enemy starring F. Murray Abraham. Davis is producing and directing the sequel.
Hathaway is not involved in the sequel, nor is Disney or Gerald Molen, who produced the first film after earning an Oscar for best picture eight years earlier for Schindler’s List.
The Other Side of Heaven is considered one of the first films in Hollywood to be tagged with the “faith-based” label. Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ came three years later, and a slew of faith-based movies from Christian filmmakers Alex and Stephen Kendrick came after that.
“John Groberg’s true-life story among the Tongan people is incredible. It sells itself. But there was so much of that story we were unable to fit into the first installment,” said Davis.
A teaser trailer, with music from The Killers, is above.
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