'Two Mothers' Stirs Controversy at Sundance

Naomi Watts and Anne Fontaine. Credit: Gina Sunseri/ABC News.

PARK CITY, Utah - It's not Sundance unless someone's up in arms about a movie.

This year's chief target is "Two Mothers," which stars Naomi Watts and Robin Wright as mothers who have affairs with each other's teenage sons. While Watts told ABC News Now's "Popcorn With Peter Travers" "there is sex in it but it's not really about sex," the Sutherland Institute, a conservative group in Utah, feels otherwise, and has proposed that state funding for the festival should be cut on the grounds that its content is at odds with Utah's family values. (Also irking the Institute: "Lovelace," the biopic about porn star Linda Lovelace that premieres here next week, and "Don Jon's Addiction," Joseph Gordon-Levitt's film about a porn addict.)

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"What would you call a film festival airing movies that explore the lives of porn stars, adulterous relationships between mothers and their friends' children, and teenagers competing to lose their virginity?" Derek Monson, director of public policy for Sutherland, wrote in a blog post. "Many Utahans' values would lead them to call this 'obscenity' or 'pornography,' but to the state of Utah, evidently it is simply 'economic activity.'"

At a press conference Thursday, Sundance founder Robert Redford said the annual film festival brings in about $80 million for the local economy. "Sometimes the narrowest mind barks the loudest, and we've over time come to ignore it," he said. "It's a free country and maybe they should look at the Constitution."

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Watts and Anne Fontaine, who directed "Two Mothers," agreed that "some people are quick to judge." The film is based on a Doris Lessing novella, and Watts said what drew her to it was not the salacious nature of her character's relationship, but the fact that the movie centers on two strong women who aren't at each others throats - something you don't see often in Hollywood.

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"I was drawn to this material right away because of the complex women," she said. "They're still bonded and united and they forgive each other. If two women are in a movie together, they're usually against each other. I loved that we got to explore these two women that are beautiful."

"Two Mothers" has its world premiere tonight. Given the cache of its stars (Watts is up for an Oscar), and its controversial subject, it's almost certainly going to get picked up by a distributor, whether the Sutherland Institute approves or not.

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