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New documentary offers intimate glimpse of Huntsville Monastery

John Slattery, a Weber State University alumnus, unveils the everyday life of the monks that lived in the Huntsville Monastery in his documentary “Present Time: Journal of a Country Monastery.”

The monastery, located deep in the Wasatch Mountains, was founded in 1947. It was closed in 2017 after 70 years of the monks’ peaceful, quiet work. The trailer for the film reveals that “The monks built and worked a large industry of beekeeping, sheep and cattle farming and supplied eggs, bread, grain and honey to their neighbors and friends.”

Slattery had the exclusive privilege of being the only filmmaker allowed into the monastery for the last 15 years.

“I went to Morocco and worked as a Peace Corps Volunteer and later taught English for a year in Paris,” Slattery said. “In 2002, I was starting an MFA film program at UCLA when I wrote a letter to the Huntsville monastery, asking if I could make a film there. A year later, they wrote back, inviting me to come and film.”

Slattery went back to the monastery every year at different times to capture the different seasons of the year. He sought to capture the landscapes and the developments in their agriculture.

The documentary "Present Time: Journal of a Country Monastery" unveils the everyday life of the monks that lived in the Huntsville Monastery. (John Slattery)

He always traveled to the monastery alone. Experiencing the way in which the monks lived was the most meaningful part of the project.

“Making documentaries allows you to insert yourself into people’s homes and lives,” Slattery said. “It’s work that offers unique intimacy into new worlds.”

Though he’s disheartened to see the monks close the monastery’s doors forever, it’s brought closure to a project 15 years in the making.

This film is the first and last to explore the property and the lives of the monks who lived there. Though once there were 84 monks living in Huntsville, only five remain, the reason behind the monastery’s closure.

“The film is for everyone: those curious about monastic life, as well as those who have zero interest in religions or faith communities and perhaps just love all the wonderful things that make Utah special,” Slattery said. “The film is some part history and some part poetry. In the end, a film like this is very subjective.”

To learn more about this project, visit Slattery’s website and take a look into the world of the monks and the monastery they called home.

Monks at the Huntsville Monastery built and worked a large industry of beekeeping, sheep and cattle farming. (John Slattery)
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