This week, independent filmmakers from around the world flocked to Park City, Utah, for the annual Sundance Film Festival, hoping their films would find publicity and critical acclaim, like last year’s winner and now Oscar nominee, Beasts of the Southern Wild.
But not everyone is so excited about the 10-day festival. Conservative think-thank Sutherland Institute said the state should stop providing $300,000 tax breaks to the festival because the films’ almost universal sexual promiscuity does not represent the values of Utahans and Americans.
This year especially, debauchery seemed to be a common thread through many of the movies. Actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s directorial debut, Jon Don’s Addiction, follows one man’s porn addiction, while the raunchy Two Mothers depicts two women sleeping with each other’s sons. A Teacher follows a student-teacher relationship.
The festival also features a biopic on porn star Linda Lovelace and a documentary about a San Francisco-based S&M porn site.
Originally calling it the Utah/US Film Festival, actor Robert Redford and Utah Gov. Scott Matheson created the festival to show independent films and attract filmmakers to Utah. Since then, the festival has helped boost the local economy by bringing in an estimated $80 million a year through tourism.
But Sutherland’s Derek Monson questioned in a recent blog post the double message the festival sends the state's children: “What message does it send to society, especially children, when we try to teach them that sexual promiscuity is bad, only to turn around and endorse it if it brings in enough money?”
While the Utah Film Commission said the money invested in the festival allows Utah’s tourism logo to be branded on everything related to the festival, including on-screen credits before each film, Monson said it is indecent for Utah to endorse these films.
In response, Redford called the group narrow-minded: “I would just say to these people we either ignore them or remind them that it is a free country and remind them to look at the constitution.”
One film shown at the festival, God Loves Uganda, uses its freedom of speech to paint an ugly picture of American evangelicals. It claims U.S. missionaries to the African nation are spreading “their rabid strain of aggressive homophobia,” according a review by The Wrap.
The movie follows missionaries from the controversial International House of Prayer in Kansas City and paints a broad stroke of American Christianity, blaming missionary work for Uganda’s anti-gay bill and the killing of gay activist David Kato.
But not all the Sundance films are so unfriendly to Christianity. Linsanity is a documentary about NBA star Jeremy Lin that looks at his rise to basketball stardom, while taking time to delve into his family upbringing and faith. Throughout the documentary, Lin talks about how his trust in God’s plan helped him get out of hard times and how he plays for God, not for men. After the documentary’s debut, audience members stood up and cheered, causing Los Angeles Times reporter Steven Zeitchick to call it “one of the most crowd-pleasing documentaries to play the festival this year.”