The name Jeffrey Wells started trending late yesterday on Twitter. If you don't know who that is he is the *ahem* outspoken writer of Hollywood Elsewhere, a film column site which is the very opposite of politically correct. I am friends with Wells. We tend to share guest houses at whichever film fest we go to. He's an all-around good guy, to me at least, but I do know that he's irked his fair share of people over the years and I do know that he has accumulated a herd of haters in the process.
His name was trending due to a column he wrote (titled “Un-Sundanced by Wokers”) in which he revealed that he was denied accreditation for the upcoming Sundance Film Festival, after close to 25 years attending the festival. I knew about this rejection letter for over a week, but kept it hush-hush because, well, I do believe it should have been kept that way, especially since Sundance is in the process of reviewing his application and possibly giving him back his credentials. However, the gist of Wells argument as to why he was denied access for the upcoming festival is what was most interesting about his write-up. He claims that his criticism of the festival's program over the past few years is what did him in.
The gist of his argument stems froma 1.21.18 piece titled “Sundance ’18 Feels Sluggish, Listless, Agenda-Driven,” in which he wrote that “this festival seems to be largely about woke-ness and women’s agenda films — healings, buried pain, social ills, #MeToo awareness, identity politics, etc. Going on to call it a “socialist summer camp in the snow.”
For the record, I thought the last few Sundance Film Festivals were FANTASTIC. Just look at last year's lineup, for example: Eighth Grade, Three Identical Strangers, Hereditary, Won't You Be My Neighbour, Leave No Trace, Searching, Sorry to Bother You, The Tale, The Kindergarten Teacher, Widlife, Minding the Gap, Tully, Private Life, RBG, Mandy, The Guilty, We the Animals. Blindspotting, American Animals, Blaze.
Do I agree with everything Wells says? Of course not, but isn't that the whole point? We're not programmed as human beings to agree with everything. What we are programmed to do, based on our hunter-gatherer, survival of the fittest DNA, is to follow the herd. We have tendencies to follow packs, agree with groupthink, because that's how we try to survive socially. However, journalists can be the dealbreakers, the ones who make you break outside the box, make you think for yourself, open your minds to possibilities you might not have thought of. Jeff, this is ridiculous and outrageous. You're a working journalist who is supposed to cover the film industry's pulse and Sundance is a required event to attend. Also, isn't it unethical, especially as a journalist, to "get with the program" and "follow the grain" in order to survive? Don't you have to be true to yourself and stick with your ideals? Reading some people telling you to just join the club, give up your arms so to speak, succumb to the moral police, reeks like censorship to me.