Thursday, November 20, 2008

Boycott Sundance?

I certainly will not be in Park City, Utah come January, but that's just because I never have the time or the money to go anyway. But there is a real question that has been raised about whether the Sundance Film Festival should be boycotted. Why? According to an article in Variety:

The festival has been fielding calls and emails from activists calling for Sundance to pull its films from a Park City fourplex operated by Cinemark Theaters, whose CEO, Alan Stock, contributed $9,999 to the Yes on Prop. 8 campaign.
. . .
Cinemark is among the most prominent companies that have come under fire for their connection to the Yes on 8 campaign, with threats of boycotts being fueled via viral campaigns. No organized effort has yet materialized, but the threat of a boycott has inspired concern among some firms given that activists have proved especially adept at organizing, via the Internet, large-scale demonstrations across the country.

The article continues:

"I think it's also time for the Sundance Film Festival to leave Utah. And for any gay and gay-friendly producers to pull their films," wrote John Aravosis, editor of Americablog.

More fuel was added to that effort Monday when the Associated Press reported that Sundance had asked for funding help from the governor's office. But Sundance executive Sarah West denied that organizers asked for more money and insisted that the meeting had been on the books for weeks.

First off, I have absolutely no problem with Prop 8 boycotts. Some No on 8 organizers are reluctant to go this route, worried about upsetting people and being divisive. But let's not forget that one of the first victories in the Civil Rights movement was the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955-56. This was when Black people actually, and not figuratively, were forced to sit in the back of the bus and stood up for their dignity and human rights. Ultimately, the boycotters won.

According to the article, "[Californians Against Hate] plan[s] to launch a boycott this weekend of A1 Self-Storage because its owner, Terry Caster, and his family members gave more than $600,000 to the Yes on 8 campaign." Sounds good to me. These people have gotten rich off of our paying for their services. Having an opinion is one thing, but using that money to take away people's rights is another. I would love to give $600,000 to the No on 8 side to counter Terry Caster, but I don't exactly have that kind of cash sitting around. Instead, I would be willing (if I had anything in storage) to take it out of A1 and use my measly $30 a month (or whatever it costs) toward a less bigoted company. That seems more than fair to me. Not to mention the fact that there are actually small businesses based in San Francisco that donated to Yes on 8! These people obviously have no respect for the people that they are supposedly serving and should be run out of town.

Having said all this, I am much more ambivalent about a Sundance boycott. Not because I have anything at stake, but because the connection to Prop 8 seems much more tenuous. Of course, there is nothing wrong with applying some pressure and asking--or demanding--that they move their location. But it is not clear to me that the organizers of the festival are really to blame for anything.

The boycott is a powerful weapon. When used it can be very effective. I am certainly willing to go farther than those who don't want to boycott anybody. But we should focus our efforts against those who are really to blame.

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