Utah group objects to 'obscene' Sundance lineup
FILE - This Jan. 22, 2010, file photo, shows festivalgoers walking past a poster of Robert Redford, far left, and Paul Newman in the film "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" during the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. A conservative Utah group believes the Sundance Film Festival's lineup featuring 'obscene' movies is at odds with Utah's culture of family values, and wants the state to pull its financial backing. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello, File)
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A conservative Utah group believes the Sundance Film Festival's lineup featuring 'obscene' movies is at odds with Utah's culture of family values, and wants the state to pull its financial backing.
The Sutherland Institute says the state shouldn't back a festival that features films about porn stars and women having affairs with one another's adult sons. He's referring to a pair of movies featuring well-known Hollywood actresses: "Lovelace" starring Amanda Seyfried, and "Two Mothers" starring Naomi Watts and Robin Wright. "Lovelace" is rated R. "Two Mothers" is not yet rated.
The festival kicks off Thursday in Park City, Utah.
The Salt Lake City-based institute isn't saying Sundance should leave Utah — but rather that the state should pull its financial backing, said Derek Monson, Sutherland Institute's director of public policy.
"There are a lot of people here that find that kind of thing objectionable," Monson said. "We are a family friendly state and we endeavor to be so because we value the benefits that strong families bring to society."
Utah state officials stand by the backing, saying the money is an investment in a festival that brings major economic impact and international exposure to the state.
Utah expects to spend $300,000 supporting the festival again this year, said Michael Sullivan, a spokesman for the Governor's Office of Economic Development. The money comes from the economic opportunity section of the state's incentive program. It's used to support and sponsor the event and take advantage of the marketing and branding opportunities for the state of Utah.
Last year, for instance, the lanyards given out to the stars featured the state's tourism slogan, "Utah: Life Elevated."
The festival is one of the state's largest annual money-makers. The University of Utah estimated that last year's festival brought $80.3 million in economic impact for the state.
"If we lost the film festival, we would be giving up $80 million," Sullivan said.
Sundance officials declined an interview but said in a statement that they are committed to showing films that are well crafted and thoughtful. "Audiences should find the films that are right for them," the festival said.
The Sutherland Institute's concerns shine a light on the contrast between Utah's ultra-conservative culture and the Sundance Film Festival's reputation of being an avant-garde, boundary-pushing film festival. What many view as artistic is viewed as extreme by some in Utah.