Sundance ’17 lands at the intersection of film and politics

First Published      Last Updated Jan 30 2017 09:23 am

Film festival » As Trump’s presidency begins, Redford and other artists talk about their roles in raising issues.
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Porter's team learned the movie had been accepted to Sundance in fall 2015, around the time the U.S. Supreme Court announced it would hear a Texas case to determine whether TRAP laws were constitutional. The court was likely to rule by June, so "there was no time to waste to go to Sundance to look for a distribution deal," Roney said.

Roney got companies to work together with a plan: Take advantage of the publicity generated at Sundance, launch a theatrical run in March 2016 while simultaneously screening for community groups and college campuses in cities where the theatrical run didn't reach. (Community and campus screenings don't usually overlap with the theatrical release.) "Trapped" was in theaters around the time the high court heard arguments in the Texas case last March, and aired on public television in June, just before the court handed down its ruling that the Texas restrictions were unconstitutional.

"It was all very thoughtfully planned out, with the hope that it would affect the outcome," Roney said. "We believe it raised the issue in a meaningful way to communities that maybe weren't aware of what was happening."

Artists, such as filmmakers and actors, are usually faced with two criticisms: that artists should keep their political opinions to themselves and just entertain the audiences (the "shut up and sing" argument), and that artists are preaching to the choir, never piercing the bubble of like-minded fans.

Roney, the documentary distributor, said "there's great value to keeping the choir singing. That, in and of itself, is a good pursuit for these films."

She has seen how movies can affect audiences far outside the media bubble. Her company backed "The Hunting Ground," Kirby Dick's exposé of sexual assault on U.S. college campuses. The film, Roney said, energized activists at colleges nationwide and led many schools to broach the topic during freshman orientation. When Ro*co sold the film in foreign markets, such as France and Australia, she said it sparked discussions about the problem at colleges in those countries.

Redford said he believes art and artists are "essential to any society. Without art, I think society would be in some form of collapse."

"Art is about telling stories, and you tell stories about what is," Redford said. "It is not only enhancing the story of a society, it critiques society at the same time. I think it's incredibly valuable, that art enhances society, it draws attention to society, and it critiques society that's going off the rails."


Twitter: @moviecricket



How to Sundance

When » Thursday to Jan. 29

Where » Park City and venues in Salt Lake City and the Sundance resort in Provo Canyon.

Passes and ticket packages » On sale at http://sundance.org/festivals. Many are sold out, but some are still available.

Individual tickets » Tickets are $25 for the first half of the festival in Park City (Jan. 19-24), $20 for Salt Lake City screenings and for the second half in Park City (Jan. 25-29).

Information » http://sundance.org/festivals