Sundance and the 99%

Robert RedfordLast Thursday kicked off this year’s Sundance Film Festival in the playground of the rich and famous – Park City, Utah. I think they misplaced my invitation. Did you get yours?

To listen to founder Robert Redford, his vision has always been for an event catering to the 99% crowd.

“We show stories of what people in America are really dealing with, and really living with, against a consequence of having a government that’s let them down,” Redford said. “People can come and say, ‘God, at least we’re seeing how people are really living in America, and what they’re up against.’ We square away on the 99 percent.”

I don’t know too many ninety-nine percenters with condos in Sundance. Don’t get me wrong. I like Redford. He’s always been a favorite of mine. I just don’t believe the rich and famous can truly see the issues facing the 99% he is talking about. I don’t think it’s possible to see through Hollywood eyes and have an emotional comprehension of a single mother in America flipping burgers at McDonalds to make ends meet. You can’t truly appreciate middle class poverty until you’ve scrapped for every penny in the house just to buy groceries – beanie weenies and milk.

If you look at the Sundance Sponsor list it reads like a who’s who of the 1% — Starbucks, Accura, Chase-Sapphire, Bing and GE, to name a few. Now there’s a list of companies with our well-being at the center of their mission statement.

Oh and then there’s the celebrities who line up at corporate tents to get their swag from said corporate sponsors. Anyone of them could walk into any Apple store and buy 1,000 iPads to give to local schools, but there they are in line to get a free one.

And in a twist of irony, contrary to Redford’s vision, a group calling themselves ‘Occupy Sundance’ are camped out in Park City.  They point out that of 11,700 films submitted this year, only 180 were accepted — roughly 1 percent. The Occupy Sundance organizers recognize that that volume of films could not make festival screening at Sundance. They are there to represent the 99% that didn’t make the cut.

“Robert Redford may think Sundance reflects ‘the 99 percent,’ but while his heart is in the right place, I’m not sure he can even begin to fathom how hard it is for an average person to gain access to his elite world,” said Los Angeles-based pop culture and entertainment expert Jenn Hoffman. “It’s true that independent filmmakers still have a chance at securing funding through the festival, but even the so-called indie studios still are looking for ‘names’ to star in even the smallest films and are scouting for new movies they think will bring them the largest financial gain.

Sundance“The price of a plane ticket to Utah is more expensive than what most aspiring filmmakers can afford in this economy,” she added. “Let alone all cost of all the marketing, networking dinners and social climbing events it can take to get a movie made.

“While it was once a small little festival centered around movie screenings, the Sundance film festival is now more synonymous with gifting suites, corporate sponsored parties and free swag for the already wealthy members of Hollywood’s elite,” Hoffman says. “I dare any of the celebrities attending these parties to sit with the Occupiers on a freezing cold night or to donate their free gifts to members of Occupy Sundance.”

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