“I’m not into the Oscars,” said Robert Redford today at the opening of the Sundance Film Festival. “What I mean is I’m not focused on that, to me it is about the work,” he added, joking that he feared an Oscar bashing headline out of his remarks. Despite attempts by media attending the fest’s annual kickoff press conference, the 2-time Academy Award winner refused to be pulled into the debate about the lack of nominations that people of color received last week from the Academy. “Diversity comes out of the word independence,” Redford said earlier on Thursday about how Sundance differed from mainstream Hollywood in its outlook. “If you are independent minded, you are going to have a more diverse product.”
With no people of color among the top acting Oscar nominations last week, Jada Pinkett Smith, Spike Lee and others have said they will not be attending this year’s Academy Awards. Today, Concussion actor Will Smith confirmed that he would be joining his Magic Mike XXL actress wife in skipping the February 28 ceremony. After being slammed online for the second year in a row with #OscarsSoWhite, AMPAS prez Cheryl Boone Isaacs said in a statement on Martin Luther King Jr. Day that change would be encouraged and coming in the organizational changes within the group. Lee is debuting his Michael Jackson’s Journey From Motown To Off The Wall docu at Sundance this year before it premieres on Showtime next month.
As in past years, Sundance Institute Executive Director Keri Putnam and festival director John Cooper joined the fest founder on stage at Park City’s Egyptian Theater at the press conference. Two years ago, the Oscars were also a topic at the Sundance presser when Redford was snubbed for a widely expected nomination for his role in JC Chandor’s All Is Lost.
“The artists are making films about what’s on the public mind, the public conversation,” Redford noted on the films that are featured in this year’s Sundance that are focusing on guns in America and abortion, to name two examples. “We don’t take a position of advocacy.” Putnam added, “our job is not to tell anyone in Hollywood what to do.”
Earlier in the presser, Redford joked that the thing he was most excited about Sundance 2016 was the “wrap party.” Putnam told the crowd the thing she was most interested about this year was the different number of formats the festival is offering. With an emphasis on VR, Sundance 2016 sees the 10th anniversary of the New Frontier installation element of the festival.
The 2016 Sundance Film Festival runs from today through January 31.