State of Utah should end ‘complex relationship’ with Sundance

For past Sutherland commentary on the positive, family-friendly content produced by Sundance, click here. For past Sutherland commentary on questionable content and activities associated with Sundance, click here.

What would you call a film festival airing movies that explore the lives of porn stars, adulterous relationships between mothers and their friends’ children, and teenagers competing to lose their virginity? Many Utahns’ values would lead them to call this “obscenity” or “pornography,” but to the state of Utah, evidently it is simply “economic activity.”

The director of Sundance Film Festival called the theme of these movies “complex sexual relationships” when they were recently announced as part of the Festival’s “Premieres and Documentary Premieres” programs. And admittedly, having an affair with your friend’s son while she simultaneously has an affair with yours is a “complex” relationship – not to mention indecent, immoral, and potentially illegal, depending on the boys’ ages.

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: providing “critical support” to the festival as a “global branding”[1] opportunity, and being listed under the event’s “Corporate Support” banner

The state touts its support of this event because it brings an estimated $80 million in economic activity to the state (roughly 0.064 percent of Utah’s total annual economic activity).

But what message does it send to society, especially children, when we try to teach them that sexual promiscuity is bad, only to turn around and endorse it if it brings in enough money? Utah’s culture and younger generations get enough confusing sexual messages as it is: from predatory businesses that are intent on selling their goods to misguided “progressives” (liberals) who are anxious to pervert normal human impulses for the sake of “finding your sexual identity.” The last thing society and children need is for their government to act in a way that says it is fine to sell your sexual morals for money.

For the sake of public decency and encouraging a free, moral society, the state of Utah should end its “complex relationship” with the Sundance Film Festival. The festival’s organizers can continue to promote their goals without being dependent on taxpayers, and Utah taxpayers do not have to endorse films that are obscene and contrary to their values.

Some things are more important than money.

[1] See page 20 of this report.

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  • Jason Williams

    Again Derek? You offer the same rant every January. As a 20 year veteran of the festival I can assure you of the 100’s of movies, you are strangely obsessed with a handful, and disparaging an excellent program (especially the documentary category) in your ignorance. Perhaps it is you with the problem? Get your mind out of the gutter, my man, and join the adults in a big, multifaceted world.

    • MatthewCPiccolo

      Actually, I was the one who wrote about it last year. In the mouth of two or more witnesses…

      These numbers don’t sound like a mere handful:

      Excellent post, Derek.

    • Derek Monson


      First, let me say thanks for faithfully following and commenting on my blog posts, as I would guess that it adds somewhat to our readership.  It would be refreshing if you would contribute something substantive or constructive in your comments for a change, but at least you’re consistent in combining disdain, unfounded attacks, and attempted insults to my intelligence and/or integrity.  I just have to scratch my head, because I know from your radio show that you are an intelligent, thinking person, but for some reason you refuse to show it when you comment on my posts.

      In any case, you need to do your research, my friend.  Sutherland hasn’t posted any blogs about Sundance since August 2011.  Further, of the two posts in 2011 on Sundance – neither of which were in January – only one criticized the content of Sundance movies and associated events, while the other actually praised Sundance for the family-friendly content it provides.

      You would have known this if you had taken a few minutes to search “Sundance” through our blog search function and briefly skimmed the posts that appeared.  What’s ironic is that you have repeatedly criticized our blog for a lack of reliable research and credible evidence…gotta practice what you preach, bro.

      Derek Monson

      • em

        I am from montana, lived in utah 22 years, love the outdoors, recreation, etc., the culture is another thing entirely. You people from the sunderland institute are the biggest dopes i have ever seen or heard. Get a clue, there is life, especially intelligent life outside of utah county.

        • Derek Monson


          For the record, nine out of ten of our full-time staff don’t live in Utah County.  But based on your willingness to stereotype people you disagree with, apparently driven by a hatred for Utah culture, I don’t suppose that facts such as this will make much of a difference to you.

          Derek Monson

      • John Allen Shaw

        I guess my question is:  If this is supposed to be a formal position of a think tank, then where is the white paper or the research to support their argument.  All I find is this one guy’s opinion like he’s the columnist of some college paper.

        What’s is really going on here?

        • Derek Monson


          Just like any other blog, Sutherland’s blog provides information and commentary/opinion from Sutherland staff, in order to facilitate dialogue on the issues that we write about.  That is all that is “going on here.”

          If you want more information about this issue, just follow the links provided in this blog post. Additionally, you will find more information on this issue from the links included in Matthew Piccolo’s comment further down on this comment string.

          Derek Monson

      • Probabilitywave2012

        You have a very small God. A Hindu child in India believes in God too but has not beef with your tiny thoughts.

  • SundanceRules

    I venture to guess that all of the small businesses & multinationals that benefit from the economic impact are quite happy to be supported by the festival, which in turn provides jobs for all the parents supporting their kids. Let’s take the free market one step further, IF these very concerned, high moral standing, family values parents are doing their job, they will insure their minor kids will not see these films, correct? So, what’s the issue for kids? If an adult wants to see the movie, that is their right as a consumer. As a reminder, SLC and PC have diveristy in views, faiths, sexuality, etc. Why should the festival be concerned with only one viewpoint when diversity within the population exists?

    Outside of LDS conventions, what is the next largest annual event/festival that brings significant out of state tourism and economic impact? I’d venture Sundance. I’d also venture that in the current economy many states would be thrilled to have the opportunity to host the festival and reap the economic impact that supports many hard working families. Instead of bashing Sundance, maybe we should be thankful for the jobs this provides and the families it supports through economic impact.

    As an aside, I’d also like to know the ripple effect, how many fist time Sundance attendees fall in love with the SLC/PC area and make it a point to either tell everyone how great Utah is, or, return outside of Sundance?

    • Derek Monson


      I don’t know for a fact the largest annual events or festivals in Utah,
      but the Outdoor Retailers conventions might be up there with Sundance in terms of tourism and economic impact.

      In any case, I think you misunderstood the point of my post.  What Sundance chooses to include or exclude from its film festival is its own business…until Sundance comes begging for special financial incentives from the state, and until publicly-funded state agencies start endorsing the festival and, by association, everything that comes with it.

      The only point in talking at all about the content of the movies which Sundance chose to include this year is to point out that such films do not reflect Utah values.  And even that was only to make the point that, because of this reality, state agencies should not be giving them special deals or endorsing their activities because of money (a.k.a. “economic activity”). 

      As I said, some things are more important than money.

      Derek Monson

  • John Allen Shaw

    Is this a think tank or a conservative activist group?

  • Realitytest

    Are you actually being serious? If you don’t like it don’t go. Pornography, I highly doubt it. Quit trying to force supposed moral hypocrisy on everyone else.

  • A.P.

    You’ve chosen two films, ‘Lovelace’ and ‘Two Mothers’ (movies that you haven’t seen, nor ever plan on seeing) to judge an entire festival with your righteous indignation. You’ve simply took the synopses of said movies to create your argument without having any sort of context. It seems rather short-sighted to say the least. Though it is pretty typical neo-con nature to want something from the government, or the government to act in some way, when society doesn’t align directly with their morals.

    My favorite part of this blog is your backhanded mention of what percentage of the Utah economy Sundance consists of. Thinking that hopefully citing a low number like “0.064 percent” will fool people into saying, “Gee, that’s hardly anything. Get rid of it.” Now I wonder what that percentage is to the Park City economy, or better yet the individual businesses that see an influx of revenue during those 11 days.

    Mr. Mero just posted a lengthy diatribe on the great character of Governor Herbert on this very blog. He intrinsically stated that he’s a principled man. Herbert said this of Sundance last year (a year in which there were many sexually-suggestive and violent movies, along with others that were neither but you don’t want to know about those), “The Sundance Film Festival places Utah on the world’s center-stage for
    ten days and showcases all that our state offers.  Business executives
    and tourists from the world over attend the Festival and experience
    our beautiful, vibrant, and welcoming state first-hand. We are proud to
    be the host state for this preeminent cultural event and proudly tout
    the positive economic impact Sundance delivers.”

  • David Casteel

    There is one major flaw in your reasoning behind the state government supporting this event and it not being in line with “Utahns values”.  The government you speak of is led by many elected officials.  And last time I checked, they are elected by a majority, at least of the people that took the time to vote.  So, if they people of Utah have a problem with what their government supports, they have no one to blame except themselves for electing someone that doesn’t hold the same values of the majority of Utah.  But if I had to guess, I would venture to think that these “values” that you speak of, are not actually Utahns values, but values of yourself, your “thinktank” and a small vocal majority of people that live in Utah, and probably more specifically Utah County.  But the rest of us that live in Utah that actually have an open mind and understand that just because we don’t enjoy a certain type of entertainment, doesn’t mean we have the right to stop someone else from enjoying it. 

  • Cam

    You guys are making the state a laughing stock. Really. Calm down. I’d suggest you’d have a beer, but that probably wouldn’t help the situation. 

  • Jordan Jolley

    Sounds like the Sutherland Institute  believes the repression of the rights of others is OK as long as it fits its own rather narrow definition of “moral.” I’ve been living under the mistaken assumption that in the United States we have the right to choose if we want to view a particular movie or attend a particular event. And yes, the Sutherland Institute has the right to express its opinion–so do I.

  • Fozzypettodipollo

    Your organization is offensive. The Sundance film festival has done a lot of good for Utah, and even for the LDS church (which, even though you may not be directly representing, you are pretending to represent by stating you views about Utahns, who are mostly LDS). The film New York Doll was a wonderful film that came out at the festival and received a lot of recognition because it was screened at Sundance. Many people who would have steered away from a movie about an aged rocker becoming a Mormon, embraced the film because it was shown at Sundance, giving Utah and the church more exposure. People such as Oscar winning filmmaker Danny Boyle,  having come to Utah for the festival, shot two films in Utah because of how pleased he was with the state’s various landscapes. 

    It would be ridiculous for the state to reduce the funding for the festival. Just because you do not agree with some of the films they are showing does not logically suggest that the films are bad for the state, ethically, morally or on whatever soap box you are pretending to stand on . It seems much more likely to me that this suggestion is being made because filmmakers, in general, have much more liberal views than your average tea party member (which seems to be the ideology behind this ‘institute’) (that is also one of the biggest understatements of all time). 

  • Gabor Gary Szabo

    Maybe you should write for the Ensign and quit pushing your Mormon agenda on others who are open minded and can think outside the box. No one said you had to attend the Sundance Film Festival, if you don’t like it too bad, I am sure most people don’t care for “whitwashed” LDS movies but you don’t see a group trying to shut down the LDS Film Festival

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  • FramBam

    Oh no lets block ART because it doesn’t reside with our values! Get a grip you morons. Utah is a state filled with people from different backgrounds and beliefs. If you don’t like it, don’t go to it!

    I’m so sick and tired of this state trying to cater to the LDS. I get it, a lot of LDS people live here but you are also sharing this place with other people. I’m sorry to inform you that people have open minds and enjoy seeing movies that contain elements that you’re not comfortable with. Understand that its art whether you agree with the material or not.

    People like this make me ashamed to call Utah my home.

  • Enemy87

    So where is the little logo that says this is a product of the mormon church?

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  • Scot Chipman


  • Scot Chipman

    I loved it when Redford said “the Sherland Institute should read the Constitution.” I live in Utah and the Sundance film festival represents what I believe in, I see a few films every year.

  • Probabilitywave2012

    “In the sky, there is no distinction of east and west; people create distinctions out of their own minds and then believe them to be true.”Buddha
    My ears just received audio signals from a tiny mind who feels that anything that does not align itself with it’s own small perspective should be abolished.
    A “gentleman” (I use that term lightly) in Utah feels that the Sundance Film Festival should emancipate itself from the state. He feels 30 thousand dollars the festival gets from the state should stop.
    Does he understand math at all? The Festival makes 80 million dollars for Utah.
    Should this guy be in a think tank?
    He says the festival presents a handful of films that do not fall within the “values” of Utah. How does a state have values if the sum of it’s parts are not all as small as the grey matter between his eyes.
    God makes movies. In fact, he makes the most “offensive” ones to blow the minds of the tiny ones.
    Next thing you know, Utah will insist that Colorado move out of the neighborhood as the cannabis plant that God made is legal now. In fact,, their other neighbor, Nevada might cause the moral residents of Utah to all start gambling.
    What exactly are “Utah Values?”
    “Free moral society” is an oxymoron.
    and Sir…so are you.

  • nyan

    Some things are more important than money. Like tolerance? Accepting different views?

    hm… didn’t think so.

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  • Joseph

    The reality is, dude, you’re just an uptight dbag who only represents your repressed world view. I certainly hope the faction of Utah citizens you propose to represent dwindles quickly away into oblivion.

  • A.P.

    Watched ‘Lovelace’ today at the festival. If any research would’ve gone into this article you would’ve known that she only made one movie and was forced into doing it by an abusive husband.

    Her final words in the movie are gleaned from an interview she did on “Donahue” where after getting out of her abusive marriage and getting remarried she said: “I’m a mother and a wife. That’s where I found my joy.”

    But just keep reading synopses and making knee-jerk judgements.

  • A.P.

    There’s an LDS church in Park City that allows its parking lot to be used for overflow parking during the festival, free of charge. So, by this line of logic, the LDS church is aiding and promoting pornography, sexual promiscuity, and altogether immorality.

  • Trentflix

    I just saw Lovelace and it is an amazing picture about getting out of marital abuse, it doesn’t glamorize the pornography industry at all and there is very little sexual content within. So congratulations, you are protesting one the most stirring indictments of spousal abuse. I hope you realize what harm you are doing behind the guise of ‘upholding family values’.

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