A Few Questions for Sundance's New Leader

Earlier this week John Cooper was chosen to lead one of the country's most prominent film festivals. Cooper tells Advocate.com about his new post.

BY Kyle Buchanan

March 13 2009 12:00 AM ET

Now that this year's festival has concluded -- and now that a gay man has been named to be in charge of it -- I have to ask you how you felt about the rumblings earlier this year that people might boycott Sundance because Utah funneled so much money into Prop. 8.When it all got down to it, I had to go against the boycott. I thought it was a little misguided. I believe in boycotts in general, and I would support anyone who did them, but I knew how this would affect Sundance financially. There was this big economic storm cloud coming, and in another year, we could have lost money to this, but to even not use those [Cinemark] theaters, which people were questioning, would have cost us half a million dollars. You try to decide, does the mission and the work that someone does at Sundance override the boycott? Anyone who comes to Sundance and knows the theater situation knows that we couldn't just, like, move down the street to the Arclight or something. This would have affected everything, but especially the filmmakers. I just wasn't ready to go there this year.

A couple years ago, I interviewed you about the gay films at Sundance, and you told me that the "coming-out story" is no longer the fresh story...and neither are the "gays are people too" story. What's your vibe on where queer films and gay themes are headed at Sundance?From young filmmakers, I think we're really going into a "fuzzy sexuality" phase more than gay or straight. Like with Dare , I don't know if you saw it, there's a lot of that energy in that film where the characters are "maybe gay, maybe not." It's this new attitude toward sexuality, and I think it's kind of fresh. Also, I think we're going to see a lot more hard-hitting political documentaries. Prop. 8 was sort of a wake-up call...but when something like that comes along, it's not like it's the filmmakers suddenly jump into gear, it's that the people who give money to filmmakers jump into gear. I can see that fire in the belly to finish this thing off, to get to the next phase in American life.

Tags: Film

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