Editorial: Sundance, MLK Day share spirit of social justice
January 18, 2014
Many of the films screening in the Sundance Film Festival this week highlight issues surrounding human rights and equality. We’d like to think the great Civil Rights leader, Martin Luther King Jr., would have been pleased.
This is the last year the events will overlap due to an agreement reached last September between Park City and the Sundance Institute. The agreement also ensures the Sundance festival will remain in Park City through 2026.
The conflict surrounding hosting the festival during the MLK holiday had nothing to do with philosophy and was all about the number of beds in town. In addition to honoring King, the third Monday in January has paved the way for an important three-day weekend during the ski season and there just wasn’t room to accommodate both at the same time. The Sundance Institute was gracious enough to agree to shift its dates during the years they would normally coincide.
That said, during Sundance’s 30-year history a significant number of their films have exposed injustices and, by spreading the word on screen, have helped to right them. One of the most notable examples is last year’s documentary "Invisible War" that exposed an epidemic of sexual assault within the ranks of the United States military. The film helped propel a Congressional inquiry and subsequent policy changes.
Sundance also helped launch the documentary "Freedom Riders," about a group of idealistic college students, both white and black, who were determined to wage a nonviolent protest against segregation that touched off the Civil Rights protests of the 1960s. The film provided a vivid backdrop for the celebrations surrounding the 50th anniversary of King’s March on Washington when he delivered his famous "I have a Dream" speech.
This year’s festival includes important films about human rights violations in Syria ("Return to Homs"), ongoing efforts to overturn same-sex marriage bans in the United States ("The Case Against 8"), Cesar Chavez’s attempts to improve the lives of migrant farm workers (Cesar’s Last Fast") and the efforts of humanitarian workers all over the world ("E-Team), among many others.
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Despite the fact that Park City’s roads, restaurants and hotels will be unusually crowded this weekend, it is good to know that Sundance is carrying on King’s legacy by letting freedom ring from every mountainside.
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