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Sex and the (Park) City: Considering An Atypically Sexual Sundance Film Festival

Photo of Peter Knegt By Peter Knegt | Indiewire January 26, 2013 at 12:52PM

Sex and the Sundance Film Festival is not a new equation. In fact, sex and this Sundance Film Festival isn't a new equation. It's been a talking point since before the festival even started.
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"Two Mothers"
"Two Mothers"

Sex and the Sundance Film Festival is not a new equation. In fact, sex and this Sundance Film Festival isn't a new equation. It's been a talking point since before the festival even started.

Leading into this year's festival, The Sutherland Institute, a super-conservative group (even for super-conservative Utah), said that state funding for Sundance should be cut on the grounds that its sexually explicit content doesn't jive with Utah’s "family values."

In this blog post a week before the festival kicked off, Sutherland public policy director Derek Monson said:

"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."

It's doubtful Monson's hissy fit will effect any future editions of Sundance.

“Sometimes the narrowest mind barks the loudest, and we’ve over time come to ignore it,” Sundance founder Robert Redford proclaimed at the festival's opening day press conference. “It’s a free country and maybe they should look at the Constitution.”

And he's right. But either way, one has to wonder if Monson or his fellow Sutherland Institute-ites had any idea how much this edition of the festival would go against his so-called "family values." 

Dubbed by many as "Porndance," the 2013 edition of Sundance proved an endlessly and uniquely sexual affair which has brought forth considerable chatter from festivalgoers and countless "sex at Sundance"-themed articles from the mainstream media.

But now that the festival is coming to an official close, let's take a closer look at the relationship between sex and Sundance 2013, because it's a fascinating one. And reducing it to a "Porndance" headline simply doesn't it do it justice.

The Spectacular Now
There was certainly some sexual themes characteristic of any given Sundance this year. Youthful sexual awakenings are a festival staple, and they were plentiful: Miles Teller taking Shailene Woodley's virginity in "The Spectacular Now;" Dakota Fanning and Elizabeth Olsen looking to lose their virginity in their final summer before college in "Very Good Girls;" Daniel Radcliffe portraying Allen Ginsberg's budding queer sexuality through his relationship with Dane DeHaan's Lucien Carr in "Kill Your Darlings." But as the countless arrows on all of Sundance's official trailers, posters and merchandise made clear, this year's programming was all about moving forward, and sexuality was no exception.

One of the films that the Sutherland Institute -- without having actually seen it -- used as a primary example of why Utah needs to stop funding Sundance was Anne Fontaine's "Two Mothers." The film is adapted from Doris Lessing's true story-based novella "The Grandmothers" and depicts two lifelong best friends (Naomi Watts and Robin Wright) who begin knowingly having sexual relationships with each other's teenage surfer sons (Xavier Samuel and James Frecheville).

This article is related to: Sundance Film Festival, Interior. Leather Bar., James Franco , Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Concussion, Two Mothers, The Lifeguard, Lovelace, Kink





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