The two hottest U.S. film festivals happen within six weeks of each year — the Sundance Film Festival in mid-to-late January and South by Southwest in mid March.
Sundance appeals to your basic wokester SJW #MeToo LBGTQ crowd (along with your garden-variety Lefty Snowflake Stalinist Sensitives) who are committed to overthrowing old norms and ensuring that independent cinema is generally more progressive and “representative” with fewer white guys of whatever age.
SXSW attracts hipster genre geeks who’ve been fortified by woke attitudes but whose attitudes and tastes are still a little more whoo-whooish and popcorn-consumptive than your card-carrying Sundance followers. And that’s pretty much the whole enchilada.
It was announced today that John Cooper, director of the Sundance Film Festival since ’09, will move into a newly-created “emeritus director” role after the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. What does it actually mean to be an “emeritus director”? I wouldn’t know but I’m presuming it means you’re consulting from time to time but basically out of the driver’s seat in terms of selections, political ramifications, dealing with talent, putting out fires and whatnot.
One thing you can always count on in these situations is that the reason[s] why a well-connected person has decided to leave a powerful, well-paid gig will never be disclosed at first, but will usually leak out several weeks or months after the fact, or certainly within a year or two.
Cooper isn’t that old (what is he, late 50s or early 60s?) and has only had the director gig for 11 years. The El Sundance Supremo job has to be one of the coolest, most enjoyable and exciting gigs in the film realm so why leave? Why surrender that responsibility? What else is he going to do with his life?
Is Cooper leaving because of some kind of political power move by his rivals within the Sundance organization?
Journo friend: “I’ve been asking those very same questions myself. One would just assume that being the Sundance chief for 11 years and operating near that top slot for many years before that has taken its toll, but who knows. I’ve been a staunch supporter of the lineups, even the 2016, 2017, and 2018 editions, which you partially disregarded as “socialist summer camp” festivals, but I found much to admire with those editions and could come up with 15 or so high-caliber films/docs every one of those years.
“2019, however, was different. It was as if they had shot themselves in the foot with their mass virtue-signaling and overtly p.c./woke decision-making. I could barely come up with ten noteworthy films. There was The Farewell, Luce, Hala, Blinded by the Light, David Crosby: Remember My Name and then what? Maybe Cooper is seeing which direction the festival is heading and wants nothing to do with it. The docs were good, as usual, but there was something missing, I felt — a relevance that was badly needed but couldn’t be found.
It’s been a dirty little secret for most journos I’ve spoken to felt that Sundance 2019 was a horrible edition, but they wouldn’t dare utter that on print.”
HE to Journo Friend: “But if things were swerving into a certain woke/virtue-signalling direction and Cooper wanted to steer things back in a direction he felt more comfortable with or respectful of, WHY LEAVE? Why not stay and fight it out? Why not lobby for this or that kind of film that he may feel is underrepresented?
“Either Cooper decided he wanted to chill and lead a less stressful life — slip into cruise mode, live longer and healthier, laugh and enjoy life more, grow a vegetable garden, etc. Or he was politically pushed out and decided to take the emeritus job as a face saver.”
Journo friend: “Maybe he was outgunned? Outnumbered? It’s no secret that most ‘critics’ want an SJW-landscape as the future of movies. Just look at the results of Jordan Ruimy‘s poll yesterday. Even TIFF seems to be heading in that direction, albeit in more conservative baby steps. Also don’t forget Robert Redford‘s strange but brief appearance at the opening day press conference, when he all but admitted to stepping down from the festival. Something is happening. There’s an elephant in the room which no media whatsoever is going to have the balls to acknowledge.”