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SUNDANCE PURSUES DIVERSITY

     

Robert Redford holds court at the Sundance Film Festival.

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Jan. 24, 2020

EDITOR’S NOTE: Hollywood is struggling with diversity as evidenced by the many female movie directors and filmmakers of color who are calling out the recent Oscar nominations as being too white and too male. But this is nothing new. The Sundance Film Festival article below is 28 years old but co-founder and benefactor Robert Redford was noting even then that the event was intended as an antidote to Hollywood’s lack of diversity, and that mandate remains. The 2020 Sundance Fest gets underway this weekend. This Deseret News story was published on Jan. 20, 1992.

PARK CITY – Robert Redford said Sunday that when his Sundance Institute took over the financially troubled U.S. Film Festival seven years ago, “the hope was to keep alive the most important feature of independent film – diversity.”

Now called the Sundance Film Festival, this annual showcase for independent filmmaking has certainly achieved that. Set against the backdrop of Park City’s snow-covered mountains each year, when as many skiers as moviegoers are in town, the festival is thriving — and the movies are as diverse as movies get.

During a press conference in the Yarrow Hotel, flanked by festival staff members, Redford answered questions from a room full of reporters about the festival’s history, it’s current status and where it may be headed..

Redford said films this year range “from avant-garde to extremely accessible,” citing three as examples of “pushing the boundaries of film” — “The Cabinet of Dr. Ramirez,” a “silent” movie by stage director Peter Sellars; “Fool’s Fire,” a unique adaptation of an Edgar Allan Poe story by puppetmeister Julie Taymor; and British artist/filmmaker Derek Jarman’s “Edward II.”

     

He’s also pleased with the new Piper-Heidsieck Tribute honoring actor John Turturro on Thursday. “Actors have long been an unsung part of the process,” Redford said. “We’re giving credit to actors in a world that gives credit only to directors and writers.”

The festival has been financially successful for two years in a row, Redford said. “We’d like to think we have a pretty exciting festival this year.”

Yet, seven years ago, when he was first approached about getting involved he was reluctant. There were too many film festivals, Redford explained, and something had to set this one apart. “I was only interested in a festival that would produce action on the back end,” a showcase to help launch independent films into the marketplace. “It was born out of an idea to create a workplace for filmmakers of independent vision.”

Redford said last year that he intended to lower his profile a bit with respect to the festival, to encourage the operation to run on its own steam. And apparently that has happened. He’s been working on several film projects – directing “The River Runs Through It,” which opens in the fall; executive producing “The Dark Wind,” scheduled to open next month; narrating and executive producing “Incident at Oglala,” which is in the festival and in search of a distributor; and acting with Sidney Poitier, Dan Aykroyd and River Phoenix in “Sneakers,” currently shooting in Los Angeles.”

     

“I’m working this year, so I’ve been gone, and it’s doing great. (But) I’ll always be here as a part of the festival. It’s close to my heart.”

As to the future, Redford addressed the problem of growth, though he admitted there’s no real solution yet. Especially toward the end of the festival’s 10 days, moviegoers mob Park City but often can’t get into movies.

“Yes, we’re going to buy Park City,” he joked. The festival has approached Park City about the issue of upgrading theaters and expanding, though Redford disdains minitheater complexes. At one point, the festival threatened to pull out and go elsewhere. “This has been a problem coming for the past three years. And after every festival that’s the first issue addressed.

“Maybe next year’s festival will answer your question.”