The Sundance Institute “denounces” behavior by Sundance Film Festival co-founder Sterling Van Wagenen after Utah authorities said he had been charged with felony aggravated sexual abuse.
“Recent reports in the press have made us aware of allegations of sexual abuse by Sterling Van Wagenen, who played a role in founding both the Festival and the Institute,” a Sundance Institute spokesperson told TheWrap. “He has no current connection to either entity, and hasn’t since he left our Utah Advisory Board in 1993. Sundance Institute categorically denounces his behavior as described in recent reports, and we stand in solidarity with those whose brave truth-telling shines light on abusive behavior.”
A spokesperson for the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office told TheWrap that Van Wagenen was charged April 2 with felony aggravated sexual abuse, but was released on $75,000 bail.
Van Wagenen has not yet responded to TheWrap’s request for comment.
Van Wagenen co-founded the prestigious film festival with Robert Redford in 1978. A spokesperson for Redford has not yet responded to TheWrap’s request for comment.
Van Wagenen produced the 1985 drama “The Trip to Bountiful” and directed the 1992 film “Alan & Naomi.” His other credits include 2006’s “The Work and the Glory III: A House Divided,” “The Work and the Glory II: American Zion” and “Learning from Light: The Vision of I.M. Pei.” He also served as executive producer on various projects like 2008’s “Jane and Emma,” 2015’s “Peace Officer” and 2011’s “Berlin.”
In March, The Daily Utah Chronicle reported that Van Wagenen resigned from the University of Utah’s College of Fine Arts following the release of a recording on which he is heard admitting to molesting a minor in 1993. It said that the assault occurred when the child was between the age of 10 and 13 and was sleeping over at Van Wagenen’s house after spending time with his son. The recording was released to the public by the Truth and Transparency Foundation, and Van Wagenen confirmed to ABC4 that it was his voice on the recording, adding “I only hope all this publicity helps the victim heal.”
According to The Salt Lake Tribune, the Salt Lake Film Society also “severed all ties” with the filmmaker.