Sundance Film Festival will celebrate 30 years
Ryan Summerlin January 18, 2014
Robert Redford said during the festival’s Day One press conference at the Egyptian Theatre on Thursday that he never envisioned the Sundance Film Festival as an enemy to Hollywood.
"This was a place to put a new concept called independent film," the Sundance Institute Founder and Director said as he addressed the throng of international media. "I never saw it as another Hollywood. I never saw it as a counterpoint to Hollywood, as much as [I saw it] as an add on."
Sundance is supposed to be a place that creates opportunities for artists to develop, show and share their works to "see what happens," he said.
The Sundance Film Festival’s opening press conference, moderated by Salt Lake Tribune film critic Sean P. Means, also featured Sundance Institute founder and president Robert Redford, Sundance Institute executive director Keri Putnam and Sundance Film Festival director John Cooper.
The message was that the Festival and Institute’s missions haven’t changed in the past three decades.
"We exist to support the voices of artists and help them to get their stories told and to get their stories seen," Putnam said. "We have seen a really remarkable evolution of the programs in terms of finding different types of storytellers to support."
The Institute started with feature films, and in the past years, has introduced a documentary program and a film music program, as well as opening up workshops for playwrights and live theater.
"We now have 18 labs and we support 400 artists each year," Putnam said. "It’s interesting that a lot of those labs are international."
Redford said he wanted to clear up a misconception about the Institute that he read about a few weeks ago.
The article said that Sundance wasn’t what it could be because of the lack of box-office receipts.
"That’s not who we are, and we have nothing to do with that," Redford said. "We’re a nonprofit and our job and our role is to create a space and platform to bring new voices and new ways of seeing the world using independent film. What anybody else wants to do is their business and we wish them luck."
From the festival side, Cooper, who has been with Sundance for 25 years, said he has seen the evolution of an independent-film community.
"We have seen more filmmakers that started here with a short who came with their first feature," he said. "Now the Premiere section of this year’s festival is peppered with people who have their careers here.
"Instead of jumping ship and running off to other things, they are staying with this notion of independence and, in the spirit of that and taking into work that satisfies not just an industry, but satisfies an audience," Cooper said. "We are also seeing an increase in excellence and originality of filmmakers themselves. There is a heightened aesthetic excellence in the films."
This seemed to be validated by the Academy Award nominations that happened to be announced the morning of the Sundance press conference.
Out of five nominated documentaries, four — "Cutie and the Boxer," "Dirty Wars," "The Square" and "20 Feet from Stardom" — were screened during last year’s Sundance Film Festival.
"They’re all different types of documentaries," Cooper said. "The encouraging part of that is that the world is accepting nonfiction in really interesting ways."
When asked if Redford was bothered by the lack of Academy Award nominations for the critically acclaimed "All Is Lost," a film he made with director J.C. Chandor last year, the actor said he didn’t want that to overshadow the Sundance Film Festival.
"The film that I made with J.C. Chandor is and independent film and it gave me great pleasure," he said. "It was so stripped down and, was, to me, a pure cinematic experience. Also, more than anything, it gave me the chance as an actor to get back to my roots, but I don’t want that to get in the way of why we’re here."
The Sundance Film Festival will run through Sunday, Jan. 26. For more information, visit www.sundance.org/festival.