Sundance works to make film festival safer amid Hollywood sex scandal

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Sundance Film Festival organizers say they are working with law enforcement to make the annual independent film showcase in January a safer place in the wake of sexual harassment accusations sweeping Hollywood.

“Sundance is really the first grand community gathering after all this has hit. So we’re looking for ways to form a community around it ... and making it very safe -- not only a safe place to do your work but a safe place to talk about these issues,” festival director John Cooper told Reuters.

“We’ve always worked closely with local law enforcement and also the security in hotels. We’re upping the game on code of conduct. We’ve always had a code of conduct for our staff and volunteers (and) we’re presenting that broadly to the whole community,” he added.

Movie producer Harvey Weinstein, formerly a major force in independent films and a staple at Sundance, has been accused by more than 50 women of sexual harassment or assault over the past three decades.

Some of the accusations against Weinstein involve incidents said to have taken place at the 10-day Sundance festival in Park City, Utah.

 Harvey Weinstein poses on the Red Carpet after arriving at the 89th Academy Awards in Hollywood, California, U.S., February 26, 2017. REUTERS
Harvey Weinstein poses on the Red Carpet after arriving at the 89th Academy Awards in Hollywood, California, U.S., February 26, 2017. REUTERS

Weinstein has denied having non-consensual sex with anyone. Reuters has been unable to independently confirm any of the allegations.

Several Hollywood actors, filmmakers and agents have stepped down in the past two months following sexual misconduct allegations leveled against them.

Cooper said Weinstein, who was fired as chief executive of his award-winning Weinstein Company in October, has not applied for a credential to the Sundance festival this year.

Sundance Film Festival, organized by Robert Redford’s Sundance Institute, unveiled its 2018 line-up of movies and documentaries on Wednesday, many featuring female leads.

They include “Eighth Grade,” a coming-of-age story of a 13-year-old girl, “The Kindergarten Teacher” starring Maggie Gyllenhaal as a teacher helping a young prodigy, and “The Tale” in which Laura Dern plays a woman examining her sexual history.

“The performances and the women you see on screen are strong and complex and have deep psychology in these characters that you often don’t see,” said Trevor Groth, the festival’s director of programming.

Other films profile actress and activist Jane Fonda, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, women’s rights attorney Gloria Allred, Japanese visual artist Yayoi Kusama and Yazidi ISIS survivor Nadia Murad.

“They’re all from different walks of life and backgrounds and fields, but all with the same passion and drive to make their mark on the world,” Cooper said.

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