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Sundance stars encouraged to regift

By Matthew Carey, CNN
January 25, 2013 -- Updated 2132 GMT (0532 HKT)
Actor Jason Isaacs says he always feels a little guilty taking gifts at festivals.
Actor Jason Isaacs says he always feels a little guilty taking gifts at festivals.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Gifting suites at Sundance allow stars to pick up free products
  • Celebs encouraged to regift swag to benefit victims of Superstorm Sandy
  • Rally.org partnered with Jon Bon Jovi's Soul Foundation for a regifting suite

(CNN) -- For the 10 days of the Sundance Film Festival, Utah's Park City is transformed into Swag City. Celebrities are gifted with everything from laptop computers (courtesy Lenovo) to moccasins (Minnetonka), headphones (Monster), boots (Ugg) and wireless chargers (Duracell).

Alicia Keys, Naomi Watts, Daniel Radcliffe and Allison Janney were among the stars who picked up Samsung Galaxy products, gratis. And Sears handed out winter gear to the likes of Tim Daly and Dermot Mulroney.

With so much gifting going on, it's not uncommon on the streets of Park City to see celebrities (or, more often, their assistants) toting armfuls of goods.

But this Sundance has witnessed a new phenomenon: famous faces giving away the very things they've just received for free.

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Rally.org partnered with the Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation on a "reverse gifting" suite on Main Street, where stars were encouraged to donate their newly acquired freebies to benefit the victims of Superstorm Sandy.

Actor Jason Isaacs surrendered a pair of True Religion jeans he'd just received. He admitted that he didn't feel entirely comfortable accepting swag in the first place.

"You come to a festival like this and people give you stuff, which is very lovely," he said. "I always feel very guilty."

January Jones, who stars with Isaacs in the Sundance movie "Sweetwater," said she won't take swag as a matter of principle. With no freebies to donate, she instead signed a snowboard to be auctioned for Sandy relief.

Down the street from the "reverse gifting" suite, stars could accept swag knowing they would not be the sole beneficiaries of that largesse.

Sean John, one of the brands featured in a gifting lounge created by Talent Resources, announced that for every coat it gave to a celebrity, it would donate another coat to the charity New York Cares. Coats given to Octavia Spencer, Jane Lynch, Jennifer Coolidge and Paris Hilton (to name a few) resulted in items being donated to those in need.

But in the end, only a small percentage of the swag handed out at Sundance is likely to wind up benefiting charities, whether it's New York Cares or the Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation.

A publicist for the Rally.org reverse gifting lounge conceded that donations this year were modest.

"We didn't get too many of the high-dollar donations we were looking for," the publicist wrote in an e-mail.

She attributed the underwhelming response to it "being the first year (for the reverse gifting lounge) and an idea that came together shortly before Sundance."

So for charities hoping for a share of Sundance swag -- and celebrities warming to the idea of giving up their free goods -- there may be more hope for next year.

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