Editorial: Sundance Film Festival plays leading role in Me Too movement
January 19, 2018
Over the course of its illustrious run, the Sundance Film Festival has established its bona fides as a platform for filmmakers and attendees to spread important ideas and messages.
But perhaps never before in its history has there been a coalescence surrounding a specific movement like this. As festival-goers began to gather in Park City Thursday for Sundance's opening, the film industry continued to grapple with the flood of sexual misconduct allegations that have rocked Hollywood in recent months and spurned the nationwide Me Too rallying cry.
And during an unprecedented moment for the festival, it has been thrust into a leading role in the fight for change.
Sundance organizers, to their credit, seem to grasp the importance of the festival taking on the part. After all, the reckoning began with allegations against influential film producer Harvey Weinstein, a major presence at the festival over the years. Additionally, Sundance is the first major festival since the scope of sexual misconduct in the film industry became clear.
The most important thing Sundance can do to meet the moment is ensure the festival is a place where people feel safe. To that end, expanding the code of conduct, which in the past has applied only to employees and volunteers, to govern the behavior of all attendees is a notable step. The code specifically addresses sexism, harassment and threatening behavior, and is now featured prominently in program materials distributed during the 10-day event.
That's an important symbolic overture, but Sundance has taken concrete measures to increase safety, too. The festival is partnering with law enforcement agencies to provide increased safety, including a 24-hour hotline through the Utah Attorney General's Office to report sexual assault or harassment.
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Sundance also has an important role to play in shaping and furthering the conversation surrounding the Me Too movement and the place of women in the film industry.
Though Robert Redford has stated in the past that Sundance is not meant to be overtly political, the festival's brass directly addressed the wave of sexual misconduct allegations at Thursday's opening press conference. The Sundance Institute founder said the Me Too movement has pushed the culture and the film industry to a tipping point — and, in his perspective, one that will result in more women getting the chance to share their stories.
The statement will hopefully be a guiding light for Sundance as it aims to further increase diversity — according to the the Institute, 37 percent of this year's features are directed by women, well above the industry standard but not good enough — and ensure women are given the same opportunities as their male counterparts.
The festival, of course, also serves as a forum to explore the issue for the thousands of people from various backgrounds who gather here for 10 days. Discussions about the Me Too movement will take place on bus rides through town, in restaurants on Main Street, on walks to screening locations and in the panel discussions that litter the festival — not to mention the Respect Rally planned Saturday at 10 a.m. at City Park and seen as a follow up to last year's massive Women's March on Main.
The conversations and sharing of experiences will foster more understanding of the Me Too movement. Paired with Sundance's efforts to increase safety and promote diversity, there's power at the festival to change things for the better.
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