SUNDANCE: Tense Q&A an Early Success for Provocative Compliance?

Every so often festivals feature films that so offend the sensibilities of audience members that post-screening Q&As take an ugly turn, with upset viewers voicing their beefs, and loudly, straight to the filmmakers in attendance. This year that provocation came in the form of Craig Zobel's Compliance, a drama based on an outrageous real-life crime that drew immediate backlash from some in attendance. Is being this year's The Killer Inside Me/The Woman a buzz-building coup for the film?

According to multiple media reports, the animosity emerged fairly quickly following the screening of Compliance, which follows the employees of a fast food chain as a caller claiming to be a police officer remotely instructs the investigation of a teenage clerk, leading her manager to detain her, humiliate her, and worse. The lengths to which Zobel's film go to depict these events, based on an actual crime, prompted some moviegoers to cry foul.

"Sundance, you can do better!" one woman reportedly shouted. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the comments went from admonishing to uncomfortable for star Dreama Walker.

When Walker attempted to talk about her role and performance, which required her to be at least partially nude for a large portion of the film, a man in the audience yelled: "Your body is pretty appealing," leaving Walker visibly shaken as a few other audiences members joined in with catcalls directed toward the cast and director.

And then: "The Compliance Q&A has people yelling across the room," Tweeted Twitch Film's Ryland Aldrich. "Claims of misogny. 'I'm a f*ggot! I don't get off on her body!'"

The brouhaha is reminiscent of the public receptions in recent years to Lucky McKee's The Woman, which was accused of misogyny during its Sundance premiere Q&A, and Michael Winterbottom's The Killer Inside Me, which provoked numerous complaints for its brutal violence, including a scene in which Jessica Alba is viciously attacked.

Those festival controversies earned attention and piqued curiosities, making those films instantly more interesting must-sees in the days that followed, and arguably floated some additional interest when both hit theatrical release. The same is already happening for Compliance, whose publicity reps sent out media alerts today calling it "the provocative movie festival-goers are buzzing about." Which is fine, but Zobel, for his part, must have known his film would test boundaries from the start given the material. It remains to be seen if further screenings of Compliance this week prompt more outbursts, not to mention whether or not the "provocative" reputation can propel it further towards eventual post-festival success without overshadowing its actual content.

[THR, @RylandAldrich]