Will the passage of Prop. 8 mean a Sundance Film Festival boycott in ’09?

How did indie film become inextricably linked with Prop. 8? First, there was the question of whether an earlier release date for Focus Features’ “Milk” might have helped defeat the ban on gay marriage. Now there’s talk of a 2009 Sundance Film Festival boycott — the connection being that Sundance, like the Mormon church, is based in Utah. However, Mormons devoted tens of millions in both dollars and man-hours to support the California constiutional amendment that defines marriage as a heterosexual act; Sundance, of course, did not.

The idea of a Sundance boycott was initiated by John Aravosis, a gay-rights activist who writes americablog.com and has also organized boycotts of Dr. Laura Schlesinger’s TV show, Microsoft and Ford over gay rights issues. Avarosis told Brock Vergaris, “Large donors are involved who are very interested in organizing a campaign, because I do not believe in frivolous boycotts. The main focus is going to be going after the Utah brand. At this point, honestly, we’re going to destroy the Utah brand. It is a hate state.”

Vergaris points out that a boycott “would likely do the most harm in Salt Lake City and Park City — two of the state’s most liberal cities and those with some of the smallest percentages of Mormons in the state.” And the Sundance Film Festival responded Monday with this statement: “Sundance Institute was founded on the idea of championing diversity and freedom of expression. It would be a grave disappointment to us if our Festival were to be singled out for a boycott, especially as we celebrate 25 years of showcasing independent voices.”

Sundance, which is about a week away from locking down its 2009 lineup, already has its defenders, Eugene Hernandez reports. Allison Anders (“Gas Food Lodging”) wrote on Facebook, “Sundance was for decades one of the tiny few hands that fed gay filmmakers, women filmmakers, browns, blacks, reds and everyone underrepresented on the screen… If people continue to misplace their rage over Prop 8 passing, they will change not one thing.” Ross Katz (“Lost in Translation”) also chimed in on FB: “The idea of boycotting Sundance is totally misguided… They offer a voice – a loud, uncompromising voice – for filmmakers of all ethnicities, sexual orientations, political bents. Those voices are shouted from the mountain tops of Park City. If anything, take the amazing platform that Sundance is, and run with it.” [AP, indieWIRE]

— Posted by Dana Harris

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  1. William Bauer, MD says:

    Having grown up in Park City, I can offer a compromise. Park City should change its entrance sign during the festival to Park City, Colorado. This is a throw back to a marketing survey done in the early eighties when Park City advertised itself as Park City Colorado and Park City Utah in Ski and Skiing magazines. They had different 800-numbers and the Park City Colorado line got 10 times the response that the Park City Utah line got.
    For a while afterward, it became the sport in the town to change the welcome to Park City, Utah sign to Welcome to Park City, Colorado. Something that upset the state governors and politicians that had condos up in park city to no end.
    There is no doubt that Park City is the most tolerant place in Utah if not the entire inter-mountain west (Las Vegas excepted)– try finding as economic as well as culturally diverse a group in Aspen, Vail or Sun Valley. Park City treasures its film festival and treats everyone with honor and awe really. It is unfortunate if this boycott ruins one of the great film festivals in this country and in the world. It is truly misplaced anger and treats your allies harshly based on a geographical anomaly.
    As we said in Park City its in Utah, not OF Utah.

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