millions of dollars into a successful effort to pass
California's anti-gay marriage Proposition 8.
And, ever since then there's been talk among
gay people about a ban on all things Utah, including
the Park City-based Sundance Film Festival, which
celebrates its 25th anniversary in January. But now
two prominent gay groups -- the Gay and Lesbian
Alliance Against Defamation and Outfest -- have announced
that, despite calls for a boycott, they will participate in
the prestigious film showcase.
suggested that staying away from Sundance will help make a
statement that will help our cause," GLAAD president
Neil Giuliano said in a statement released this week.
Yet for many LGBT filmmakers, Sundance is their single
most important opportunity to ensure their stories about
our community reach a broad audience, and they are not in a
position to stay away from that opportunity. We
certainly respect those with a different view, but we
believe we must be there, be visible, and ensure the
LGBT community has a place to come together."
GLAAD runs the
Queer Lounge, which launched in 2004 as a central hub for
LGBT filmmakers at the festival. And Giuliano asserts that
if GLAAD decided to pull out of Sundance and, as a
result, didn't host the lounge, it would end up
hurting gay and lesbian filmmakers more than it would the
Mormon Church, whose members' donations accounted for
more than 45% of the money raised by the Yes on 8
Instead of a
boycott of the festival, what seems to be gaining more
ground is a boycott of specific businesses that donated to
Yes on 8, including the Cinemark theater chain,
whose CEO contributed $9,999. Sundance's
director of programming, John Cooper, who married his
partner of 19 years just days before the 2008
election, told Advocate.com that while dropping
Cinemark as a screening venue for Sundance isn't an
option, he would never pressure a filmmaker to screen a film
or attend a Q&A at a Cinemark theater.
As of press time,
none of the films in competition at Sundance from LGBT
filmmakers are scheduled to screen at Park City's
the anger at those in the state of Utah -- and across the
country -- who were the principal financial backers of a
measure that eliminated fundamental rights from gay
and lesbian Californians," Giuliano said.
"But the state of Utah is also home to many sincere
and committed members of the LGBT community and our
allies who stand with us on our quest for full
equality. We are continuing with Queer Lounge with
them in mind, and with a desire to not be rendered silent or
invisible at one of the most important opportunities
to increase our visibility in the entertainment
industry and across the country."
Outfest deputy executive director Kirsten Schaffer said a
ban of Sundance wouldn't have the effect on the
Mormon Church most people would hope for. What would
suffer is the festival and filmmakers whose careers
often take off as the result of Sundance. In fact, Sundance
headquarters isn't even in Utah -- it's based
in Los Angeles.
disappointed and angry that individuals and businesses in
Utah made financial contributions to the Yes on 8
campaign," said Schaffer, who will attend
Sundance in support of the Outfest-sponsored Queer
Brunch. "However, that is not cause to boycott
Sundance, a nonprofit arts institution that has no
direct connection to the Yes on 8 campaign and that
has been a longtime champion of LGBT films and filmmakers.
It is more important then ever for queer people to
have a presence in Utah."
A boycott of
Sundance, in fact, might just have the opposite effect on
the Mormon Church. Film director C. Jay Cox, whose film
Latter Days -- based in part on his experiences
growing up a member of the church -- made headlines when it
was banned from showing in some Utah cinemas a few
years back, suggests that the Mormon Church might
actually prefer the gay community boycott the film
"I'm my experience, Mormons view Sundance as
this invasion of liberal heathens into their righteous
state," Cox told Advocate.com. "I'm
mostly talking about the church hierarchy. But for the
gays to boycott, these are people that they're
morally opposed to. They'd just think, This is
Both Schaffer and
Cox say that calling attention to individual
businesses and donors who made contributions to Yes on 8 is
a smarter approach than a ban of the entire festival.
Outfest, for one,
features anywhere from three to 12 films each year
after they premiere at Sundance, Schaffer said. Landmark
films including The Eyes of Tammy Faye and
Hedwig and the Angry Inch made their debuts at
Sundance before going on to play at Outfest.
A boycott of the
festival would also result in the cancellation of the
Queer Brunch, which has long been a major fund-raiser for
parent company of The Advocate and Advocate.com,
will also return as the sponsor of the Queer Brunch.
of boycotting Sundance, this is an opportunity where the
eyes of the media are all on Utah," Cox said.
"Sundance offers a much greater opportunity for
the gay community to draw focus."