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McEntee: Thumbs down for Sutherland's Sundance slam

Published January 16, 2013 9:06 am
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Sundance Film Festival fans have just learned they are among the "misguided 'progressive' (liberals) who are anxious to pervert normal human impulses for the sake of 'finding your sexual identity.' "

That's because, according to the conservative Salt Lake City-based Sutherland Institute — which is demanding that Utah spurn the festival — Sundance is a purveyor of obscenity and pornography.

The state, writes the institute's Derek Monson, considers Sundance to be "economic activity."

It's certainly that. The film festival is the nation's largest and most famous. It brings in moviemakers and movie lovers from everywhere. It makes a lot of money, and so does Utah's hospitality industry.

And, yes, it screens every imaginable kind of film — from features to documentaries to short films to animation. That's what such festivals are all about: bringing new, bold movies to eager, intelligent filmgoers who fully understand what they're about to see.

Sutherland's Monson, though, says that "given the amount of sexual promiscuity that Sundance Film Festival regularly brings to Utah, it seems similarly indecent that Utah's major economic development agencies basically endorsed the event."

Of course they did. Economic development agencies work to recruit pretty much any legal entity that will bring jobs and money to Utahns. They are not and should not be gatekeepers who shoo away anything that might hurt the sensibilities of adults who object to one thing or another.

This isn't the first time Sutherland has jumped into the business of telling Utahns what they should do. A couple of years ago, a writer made essentially the same argument, including taking umbrage at a film he said features "the [romantic] adventures of lesbian space aliens on the planet Earth."

I never saw that one.

Now, as a cold- and crowd-averse person, I prefer to see Sundance films after the festival.

Just last fall, I saw "Beasts of the Southern Wild," a fantastical film about a little girl named Hushpuppy, her sometimes violent dad and a bunch of drunken outliers living in a Louisiana bayou outpost called the Bathtub. It also has aurochs. I loved it.

It's gained a place among the 2013 Academy Awards candidates for best picture, best actress for Quvenzhan√© Wallis (Hushpuppy), best director and best adapted screenplay. Many Sundance films have earned similar honors — proof of the value of art that takes us far from our comfortable way of seeing the world.

Several years ago, the Sutherland Institute issued its resolution on the natural family, which hailed the sanctity of marriage between a man and woman who produce a full quiver of children. It also envisioned young women growing into wives, homemakers and mothers, and men as husbands, home builders and fathers.

Only Kanab, adopted it, and lots of people boycotted the southern Utah tourist town in protest.

Anyone in Utah who worries about the content of Sundance films can protect themselves very simply: Don't see them.

In the meantime, please don't worry about those of us who do.

Peg McEntee is a news columnist. Reach her atpegmcentee@sltrib.com, facebook.com/pegmcentee and Twitter: @pegmcentee.






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