The 2012 Sundance Film Festival has sparked controversy little more than a week before it launches January 19th. The Sundance Institute has been hit with a lawsuit over one of the festival’s opening night films, The Queen Of Versailles, directed by Lauren Greenfield. Alleging defamation, the federal lawsuit filed by Florida developer David A. Siegel and his Westgate Resorts targets Sundance Institute, Greenfield and her husband, executive producer Frank Evers. According to an article in the Salt Lake Tribune, the lawsuit seeks $75,000 in damages from the Institute and another $75,000 from the filmmakers plus “unspecified punitive damages.”
The controversy arises from press and marketing material distributed by Sundance. The festival’s online material describes the film as having “epic dimensions of a Shakespearean tragedy” with the non-fiction feature following “billionaires Jackie and David’s rags to riches story to uncover the innate virtues and flaws of the American dream.” The film opens with the construction of the biggest house in America, inspired by France’s Versailles. The Sundance info described the construction as being financed by a “booming time-share business” that went south following the financial crisis.
An insider connected with the film told Deadline that hardly anybody has seen it, let alone David Siegel and his Westgate Resorts. Deadline called Westgate seeking comment but a voicemail message was not returned. A Sundance statement said only: “Sundance Institute maintains its long-held and firm commitment to freedom of expression and looks forward to screening this film by an award-winning filmmaker at the opening of Sundance Film Festival 2012.” The Queen Of Versailles is screening in Sundance’s U.S. Documentary competition.