There was much talk of diversity as Sundance got underway, especially in light of the notable lack of it among the recently-announced Oscar nominees.
An undertone of tut-tutting at Oscar voters characterized the opening day news conference attended by Sundance founder Robert Redford, festival director John Cooper and Sundance Institute Executive Director Keri Putnam.
The Sundance brass lauded their long-term commitment to creating opportunities for minorities in the world of filmmaking, implicitly criticizing the Academy, which this year failed to recognize, for instance, the work of "Selma" director Ava DuVernay and actor David Oyelowo.
Cooper noted that DuVernay won the Best Director award at Sundance in 2012 for her film "Middle of Nowhere."
"I'm just sayin'," he noted.
But is there anything wrong with this picture?
Consider the photo above. Yes, one woman is among the group, but unless I'm much mistaken there is a notable lack of ethnic diversity (the guy on the left, the moderator, is from the Salt Lake Tribune).
It creates something of an optics problem when you have a group of white people in charge of a festival, intoning about the need for diversity.
One gets a whiff of noblesse oblige, as if these right-thinking folks had generously deigned to consider their social lessors worthy of some notice. "Hear are some crumbs. Enjoy. Don't forget to clean up after yourselves."
And that's the real issue, isn't it? That people in the real positions of power at the festival are, not surprisingly, white. Just like the people running the studios in Hollywood.
Now, it's not their fault for being white. The truth is, everyone-- white, black, brown, men, women, you name it-- is in competition for economic opportunities, whether working for a festival, in independent film or any other industry.
It's just that the deck is stacked in favor of those who have traditionally held power and who, it must be said, will always be reluctant to give it up or even to share it meaningfully. It's fine for white people to say they want diversity and to point to examples where they have supported it, when they hold the power.
--Posted by a white person, who by virtue of his ethnicity enjoys significant privileges in this society. And who, if asked, would not likely turn down an opportunity to join the power structure at Sundance. I mean, it would be a great job, wouldn't it?
Matthew Carey is a documentary filmmaker and journalist. His work has appeared on Deadline.com, CNN, CNN.com, TheWrap.com, NBCNews.com and in Documentary magazine.