Sundance Film Festival Enforces More Diversity with Travel Stipend for Movie Critics – Will This Make Reviews More Diverse?

The popular annual Sundance Film Festival runs from January 23 – February 2, 2020

Some year, maybe, but not this one.

Since being in that majority, that is the white, non-minority male, I’ll likely have to pay my own way someday to the Sundance Film Festival.

Am OK with that.

Once you start accepting money, gifts, etc, even if only to cover a completely legitimate business expense, your opinion about said event becomes subject to more scrutiny by others.

Tax write-off, should this hobby ever become a business, but in the world of professional critics, travel stipend programs might not be in your favor if you’re not part of a minority group, disabled or female.

For this year’s festival, 51 journalists were selected out of a pool of 319 applicants to receive travel stipends provided in the program, The Salt Lake Tribune reports. The chosen writers are women (61%), LGBTQ (49%), minorities (84%) and people with disabilities (25%).

Sundance Film Festival aims for more movie critic diversity – StarTribune.com

No, I didn’t sign up for this stipend program and get rejected, so this isn’t sour grapes. Admittedly am puzzled a bit by the intended purpose.

After all, if two-thirds of all movie critics are white males, then presumably two-thirds of movie critic attendees — whether travel is by stipend or not — will be represented at this festival, yes/no? How will only paying stipends for travel to non-minorities increase the overall diversity of reviews for the business as a whole?

We’re talking about 51 people in an event that will have how many overall film critics there? Hundreds? Thousands? Don’t know the exact number but 51 people seems like a small splash in the pond. Dollar-wise I’m sure the travel stipends will be huge for that many people, but what exactly will be the impact?

Are they suggesting that because two-thirds of movie critics are white males, that they need more women, people with disabilities and LGBTQ to make sure movies get reviewed more diversely?

Excuse me. If I’m in a wheelchair, or otherwise disabled, that makes me how much more diverse in my opinion toward a movie? If I was a transgender white male, or gay, lesbian, bisexual, just how would my opinion be different on whether or not a movie is entertaining or not? I suppose if the movie was about being gay, I could not identify with it as well as someone who is … maybe, that’s what is being said about diversity?

Yes, please help me cut through the confusion.

It makes sense women having different opinions, life perspective and views on movies than men. Let’s face it, biologically there are major differences between men and women. Men can’t bear children, that’s a big one, so movies involving children are apt to draw different psychological feelings between men and women. Men have penises, women have vaginas. We are biologically different. We get it.

Current population on earth by sex – male and female

But are we really different from a psychological standpoint?

…statistical analysis of 122 different characteristics involving 13,301 individuals shows that men and women, by and large, do not fall into different groups. In other words, no matter how strange and inscrutable your partner may seem, their gender is probably only a small part of the problem.

Men are from … Earth, women are from … Earth, 2013 study says

Whether or not someone is disabled, gay or transgender has what difference on whether or not Joker is a good movie worth seeing or not? Maybe a gay white man will identify more with Joaquin’s portrayal of Arthur Fleck than a straight white man? A lesbian will see this movie differently than a hetero woman?

Somebody help me here.

Women? Yes, I get that. Women probably do look at (some/most?) movies differently than men (although research might indicate there is no difference, see above quote). I can see having a 50/50 rule with women and men because, guess what, there are about that many percentage-wise on the planet. Women statistically live longer, which means if you’re a guy reading, we have something to hold against them.

(that’s a joke, people!)

I would also be in favor of race based on population as criteria for making a stipend program as proposed more diverse. In other words, if the world is 30% black (I don’t know the actual numbers and didn’t research for this post), then let’s make the stipend program have 30% black men and women. Again, stay with the population distribution as the primary metric. This should give a more equal distribution based on moviegoers. Even better if they have statistics on race and sex of who is watching movies.

Doctor, this is getting complex.

From there, it gets really murky as to how to be diverse in a movie critic stipend program.

It’s Sundance’s program, so more power to them how they want to run it, but what I am questioning is the mere concept that somebody that is a minority, disabled or LBGTQ is going to have a dramatically different method of reviewing a movie than a straight white non-minority male/female?

Diversity makes sense if we’re talking about cooking ethnic foods. I’m about 60% Hispanic, and greatly prefer Mexican food cooked by Hispanic people. My great grandmother rolled tortillas with her bare hands, pounding out the flour, singing to a bird friend in Spanish. No Americanized Mexican restaurant food has ever tasted the same — as good — as her authentic cuisine. You got me on minorities making a huge difference when it comes to cooking.

When watching a movie you’re a passive participant in the experience. Not like cooking, where you are active, choosing ingredients, spices, etc. Huge difference in the finished product, yes?

No? Maybe the finished product in a review isn’t passive, because it involves the perspective of the movie critic. I would like to think movie critics show their biases — the ones they aren’t supposed to have — over time in their non-subjective, subjective reviews.

Genres. We all have our favorites and least favorites.

Have talked about this before here: Ranking Movie Genres – What are YOUR Favorite Genres?

Fair argument that the reviewer bases his/her view on life experiences. Where s/he comes from, political beliefs, economic status, background, etc. Perhaps the wider range of people to attend the festival and leave reviews will result in a wider swath of diverse opinions. I believe that’s the goal for the Sundance Film Festival stipend program, I just question how singling out percentages of these different groups of people will result in more diverse review results.

Of course I could be wrong and it will make a huge difference.

Despite the narrative, I’m not sticking up for straight white guys. Just saying, sooner or later if too many other non straight white guys are included, these people will become the minority.

Then, presumably, straight white guys will be eligible for stipend programs like this.

At the end of the day, anybody can attend the Sundance Film Festival. Just pay for airfare and lodging, unless you live in the area of course, tickets to the event and the movies and review until your heart’s content.

What do you think?

You’ve now read my opinion, and it’s your turn, so speak up. Please use the comments and give me your take. Especially if you’re in one of these under represented groups, do you think your reviews are in any way altered because you are disabled, gay or in a minority? If so, then how and why? I’m agreeing on race and sex, not so much on the others, but open to non-trollish discussion on the topic below. Let’s rock and roll.

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