The annual Sundance Film Festival is set to kick off on Thursday, but some of Utah's leaders are questioning the necessity of providing state funding for the event, insisting it is in conflict with that state's promotion of family values.
The festival has grown over the years since it first started in 1978 with nearly 50,000 people attending the independent film festival last year. While the festival showcases the newest young talent, a conservative policy research organization is urging the state's leaders to remove state funding from the event, given that some of the content does not align with the state's insistence of conservative family values.
Two films have caused the biggest uproar are "Lovelace" and "Two Mothers." "Lovelace" stars Amanda Seyfried, and it is the story of Linda Lovelace, who was forced into the pornography industry by her husband. The other film, "Two Mothers," starring Naomi Watts and Robin Wright, features a pair of childhood friends who become neighbors and end up falling in love with each other's sons.
"There are a lot of people here that find that kind of thing objectionable," Derek Monson, Sutherland Institute's director of public policy, told the Associated Press. "We are a family friendly state and we endeavor to be so because we value the benefits that strong families bring to society."
However, state leaders are wary of pulling funding since the festival not only brings in money for the state, but also gives Park City, where the festival is based, an international stage.
Michael Sullivan, a spokesman for the Governor's Office of Economic Development, revealed the state is expecting to provide around $300,000 in efforts to support the festival. The money was allocated from the state's economic opportunity incentive program, which is used to support the event and provide additional marketing projects.
The University of Utah stated that it figured last year's event was responsible for about $80.3 million in economic impact for the state, still Monson feels taxpayer money could be used in a more pertinent fashion.
"If Sundance wants to put it in the private film festival, fine, but it's government-endorsed … but now you're asking for taxpayers to help pay for those kind of movies to be shown. That doesn't reflect the values of state of Utah," Monson added.