Redford: Back to basics
In a year that launches a new decade, one might expect the Sundance Film Festival to take on a futuristic tone.
Instead, it’s going back to the ideas and principles that started it all.
At the Opening Day press conference on Thursday, festival founder and president Robert Redford expressed a desire to return to the festival’s roots.
"I’m always aware of how we’re doing," he said. "Are we staying out in front of things? Are we sliding back? Are we afraid to take a chance? I felt that we were sliding. We were flatlining and we needed to get fresh again. I felt the best thing we could do to be new and fresh was to get back to the way we were when we first started."
Thus the theme of the 2010 festival was born: "renewed rebellion".
That goal happened to coincide with a major shift in the upper echelon of the festival’s administration. Geoffrey Gilmore, who served as festival director for 19 years, announced his decision to move on following last year’s festival.
John Cooper, a programmer who had moved up through the ranks to the head of the department, was selected to take Gilmore’s place at the helm. "John has been doing incredible work for a long time," Redford said. "You’ll see the results of that at this festival."
Cooper, who has 20 years at Sundance under his belt, was quick to jump on board with the notion of getting back to Redford’s original vision. "’Sundance reminded’ is where we’re coming from this year," he explained during the press conference.
When the festival started 26 years ago, its goal was, quite simply, to create a community and a forum for independent filmmakers to share their work. At the time, there was greater separation between independent film and the mainstream industry, and it wasn’t about celebrities or swag or socialites, Redford said.
"It was always meant to be loose and fun," he said, but, "There have been a lot of bumps and challenges and obstacles over the years." Redford alluded to ambush marketers coming in and clouding the festival’s mission. "I don’t like it, but there’s nothing I can do about it," he said.
The upside of the current economic climate, Redford said, is that it has kept away some of the people who try make the festival about their own products and parties. "I hope they don’t come," he said.
And with the absence of some of the glitz and glamour, the festival is focusing its spotlight right where it’s meant to be: on the filmmakers. What he hopes people will take from the festival, Redford said, is not the escapades of people like Paris Hilton, but the fresh ideas and visions that come from the films.
As for the next decade, Redford said he couldn’t predict the direction of independent filmmaking but is confident in its future. "My belief is that independent film will always survive," he said. "How it’s treated is an evanescent thing. It’s always been in a battleground."
Redford echoed programming director Trevor Groth’s sentiments about the new decade initiating a golden age for independent film. With the new opportunities for self-distribution, "I think it’s a very optimistic time, especially for independent filmmakers," he said.
And as long as the festival is able to create opportunities that bring filmmakers and audiences together, "That’s a good reason to keep going," Redford said.
With that, the 2010 Sundance Film Festival was underway, with more than 100 feature films and 70 short films from 41 different countries slated to screen over the next week.
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