“Presidents come and go, the pendulum swings back and forth,” said Robert Redford today at the annual opening press conference to kick off the 2017 Sundance Film Festival. “We try to stay away from politics, we stay focused on the stories of the filmmakers,” the low-key Oscar winner and recent Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient added of the fest’s role in the Age of Donald Trump.
“There was a time when two sides worked together and that makes me depressed about today,” the All The President’s Men actor said onstage at Park City’s Egyptian Theater. Redford admitted that he saw a real difference from the Congressional hearings of the Watergate scandal in the early 1970s and the current partisanship and the soon-to-be presidency of a former reality TV host.
With the inauguration less than 24 hours away, Trump was clearly the big topic at the opening of the Utah-based fest, but Redford was not willing to engage in the topic too much. “We do not take a position,” he said. “We don’t play advocacy.” Festival director John Cooper added, “We are going to stand behind our artists.”
Cooper will be participating in the Chelsea Handler-led Women’s March on Main, which is set for Saturday on Main Street in Park City in conjunction with anti-Trump marches across the country. Nashville’s Connie Britton, Mary McCormack, and Star’s Benjamin Bratt will be marching at the event, which is not officially connected to the festival. No word if Redford will be marching, but that appears unlikely.
“You want to look for where the light is going to come,” Redford said of the feeling of pessimism Trump’s election brought to many in the media industry. “In this current dialogue, it looks like a lot is going to be taken away from us and that will galvanizes the people,” he added. “I hope and I think it will be followed by a movement.”
Things were little different this year for the fest’s opening presser, as Sundance tried to mix it up — to mixed results. Directors and Sundance alums Sydney Freeland and David Lowery, both with films in this year’s lineup, first joined Redford onstage. “It seemed to me that there were a lot of stories that weren’t getting told,” the Ordinary People director told the crowd early in the event about the genesis of his indie-themed institute and festival decades ago.
Afterwards, things went back to the more traditional SFF opening format, with Sundance Institute executive director Keri Putnam and Cooper joining Redford to take questions.
As in 2013 with the Nick Nolte co-starring A Walk In The Woods, Redford has a pic in this year’s festival with the Charlie McDowell-directed The Discovery. Co-starring Rooney Mara, Jason Segel and Riley Keough, the Netflix romantic sci-fi pic focuses on a discovery, get it, by the Redford-portrayed Dr. Thomas Harbor that changes the way the world thinks about life and death. It debuts Saturday at the Eccles Theatre, with an additional four other screenings throughout the festival.
Sundance 2017 runs from today to January 29.