“Having done this for God, 34 years now, since the festival started,” the Oscar winner told media and others on Thursday as he stood alone onstage at Park City’s Egyptian Theatre. “I think we are at a point where I can move on to a different place.”
Redford’s exit from Sundance today follows his announcement last year that Fox Searchlight’s The Old Man & The Gun would be his final on-screen performance.
“I’ve been spending a lot of tine introducing things but I don’t think that the festival needs a lot of introduction any more,” the leather jacketed 82-year old Redford added, noting he wanted to spend more time with filmmakers this year.
With that, Redford made a joke about his longtime foil festival director John Cooper not being there and then introduced Sundance Institute Executive Director Keri Putnam to the snowcoated and hatted crowd. At that point, the SFF founder asked if he should sit in one of the five seats onstage and Putnam said he could leave, which Redford did, stage left.
Starting a bit late with that shocker and officially kicking off the 36th annual film and television shindig, the opening press conference comes as Sundance looks to face days of politics and potential protests as well as premieres, panels and deals.
In her remarks, Putnam reiterated that Sundance was a non-profit organization and a “home for independent artist around the world to gather.” Noting Sundance had more submission than ever for this year’s fest, the executive director also noted their commitment to inclusion. “Diversity isn’t about who is making the films but how they enter the world,” Putnam declared, noting the increase in representation among accredited media this year.
After that, Sundance’s new Director of Programming Kim Yutani and several festival programmers joined Cooper at the Egyptian. Before the group spoke about their programming, took questions from the media and praised Redford, Cooper in his own opening statement said that he felt that the festival was “more relevant in divided times than ever.”
“Together we have seen thousands and thousands of films, millions maybe. I think that when we encounter something new, we realize it right away. We know when we see something special, how important it is to bring that to audiences.” @kimyutani, #Sundance Director of Programming pic.twitter.com/PPsTtvW2uQ
— SundanceFilmFestival (@sundancefest) January 24, 2019
The 2019 Sundance Film Festival runs from today until February 3, with or without Robert Redford in the front seat.