Sundance Courts Controversy with Films About Sexual Assault, Scientology, Gay-to-Straight Conversion

Sundance Courts Controversy with Films About Sexual Assault, Scientology, Gay-to-Straight Conversion

The Sundance Film Festival announced its 2015 out-of-competition premieres and documentary premieres sections Monday in Utah.

The film premiers will tackle a few subjects that are sure to spark some controversy.

This year’s lineup features titles including James Franco’s I Am Michael, based on the true story of a gay activist who rejected his homosexuality and became a Christian pastor.

The films Zipper and Experimenter, both in the line-up, will parallel the lives of influential men who exhibited odd behavior.

Zipper, a film about a sex-addicted federal prosecutor with a bright political future, follows “a family man who has it all until he risks losing everything due to his inability to fight off his obsessive temptation for other women.”

Zipper has been compared to the story of Eliot Spitzer.

Experimenter follows the story of real-life social psychologist Stanley Milgram, who conducted a series of behavior experiments that tested ordinary humans’ willingness to obey authority by using electric shock.

Another title certain to start a conversation is Rodrigo Garcia’s Last Days in the Desert. Ewan McGregor, who is cast as both Jesus and the Devil, stars in an imagined chapter from the Bible’s 40 days of fasting and praying in the desert.

This year’s documentary lineup will also feature films that tackle a number of hot topics, including campus sexual assault in The Hunting Ground, the Church of Scientology in Going Clear, and Prophet’s Prey, about a Mormon leader’s justification of rape.

The festival also will feature a “female-centric panel” that includes Lena Dunham, Mindy Kaling, Jenji Kohan, Kristen Wiig, and New Yorker critic Emily Nussbaum.

The panel will discuss “using humor to push boundaries and how far art can go in exploring truths.”

John Cooper, the director of the festival, said this year’s list of filmmakers “do not shy away from controversial, challenging and provocative subject matter,” and he is bracing for protests, via The Hollywood Reporter.  

“I think documentaries have become key in tackling social issues,” he added. “And there has been an ongoing creative exploration of new styles and new structures in documentaries away from just informational to make them a much more cinematic experience.”

The Sundance Film Festival will run Jan. 22 to Feb. 1 in and around Park City, Utah.


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