Separation of Sundance and State

In 2009, Sundance will celebrate 25 years of bringing together international cinema and a variety of cultures in Park City, Utah. But with California's gay community reeling from the passage of Prop. 8, activists and filmmakers are suggesting a boycott of the festival and theater chain Cinemark, whose CEO donated a substantial sum to the marriage ban's campaign. But just how realistic is a boycott of an entire state?

BY Christopher Lisotta

November 21 2008 1:00 AM ET

SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL X100 (GETTY) | ADVOCATE.COM 

"People are
saying, ‘Oh, why don’t they just move those
films down the street to another cineplex?’
There isn’t one," Cooper explained, noting that
the festival is a not-for-profit venture. "We use every
possible space. These four theaters are crucial to our
infrastructure."

Cooper also takes
issue with the way boycott promoters have defined
Sundance.

“We’re definitely not a Utah film
festival,” Cooper said. “We are a
national film festival with global impact. Films we show at
Sundance have a global life after Sundance.”

The
festival’s lineup of films is being slotted into
venues this week, with Sundance’s full schedule
to be announced the first week of December.
Cooper said he will be sensitive about what gets slotted
into the Cinemark theaters.

“My first
and foremost responsibility right now is to the
filmmakers,” Cooper said. “I would never
put pressure on a filmmaker to go there or do a
Q&A there if they didn’t want to.”

The boycott is
also an issue for the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against
Defamation, which has a major presence at Sundance with
its Queer Lounge, a networking venue and meeting place
that’s become a major festival destination.

Neil Giuliano,
GLAAD’s president, said his organization has no plans
to pull out of the festival.

“We think
that Queer Lounge and GLAAD have to be more visible than
ever,” Giuliano said. “We have to ensure
the LGBT community has a voice at Sundance. These film
festivals are a critical way to achieve the goals of
fair and accurate inclusion in the media, especially in the
entertainment media."

Giuliano noted
that the Queer Lounge has a relationship with local LGBT
groups, including Equality Utah, the Utah Pride Center, HRC
Utah, the Bastian Foundation, and the Utah AIDS
Foundation.

“We need
to be there and support them at this time and not render the
LGBT community invisible in Utah,” he said.

But will Giuliano
personally be going to a screening at the Cinemark
venue when he’s in Utah?

“No,” he said flatly, “and I
don’t see the LGBT community doing that, and
hopefully we will be able to avoid that kind of a
situation.”

Tags: film

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