January 20, 2012
Josh Radnor’s LIBERAL ARTS is the sixth film I’ve edited to be chosen as an Official Sundance Selection. But screening at the festival is not something about which one becomes jaded. This year’s trek to Park City is as exciting as my earliest sojourn to the event, first described to me in 1984 as “a thing Redford puts on where you ski all day and watch movies all night.”
LIBERAL ARTS will have its world premiere at the Eccles Theatre, Sundance’s largest and most prestigious hall. The venue is named after a Republican Mormon banker, George S. Eccles, and his wife, Dolores. George, with his brother Marriner, founded The First Security Corporation in 1928.
But the Eccles brothers were nothing like today’s higher profile Republican Mormons. George and Dolores were most proud of their philanthropy, particularly their funding of arts programs. Marriner, though a member of the GOP, was invited to Washington by FDR to help shape the New Deal.
The latter Mr. Eccles, you see, had written, in his 1931 work, Beckoning Frontiers, that: “As mass production requires mass consumption (there must be) a distribution of wealth… to provide men (sic) with buying power.” He argued that The Great Depression was caused by concentration of wealth in fewer and fewer hands. Only by increasing the general population’s purchasing power could economic recovery come about. Demand for products, not tax breaks for the obscenely wealthy, would create jobs.
How strange to sit and watch independent cinema in a theatre funded by a family that reminds us that being Republican (and Mormon) didn’t always mean advocating greed as a socio-economic panacea! Indeed, the fact that Marriner Eccles was a Federal Reserve Bank chairman and a participant in the Bretton Woods negotiations that led to creation of both the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund – a conservative c.v., to be sure – suggests how far right the political spectrum itself has shifted. Today, Eccles would be considered ultra-liberal. A Republican Mormon socialist!
Perhaps in the near future Sundance will feature an independently produced documentary about the Eccles family. Seeing it in the theatre that bears their name would be just the kind of “meta” experience for which indie films often strive.