With a declaration of “much love to you,” the festival founder praised outgoing festival director John Cooper onstage Thursday at a packed Eccles Theatre in Park City. In tribute to the departing director after more than a decade at the helm, Redford laid out possibly the greatest praise he could that “at some point the festival became his,” in reference to Cooper.
The remarks from Redford, who last year stepped back as the public face of Sundance, earned rich applause from the opening-night attendees. It was his first public appearance of this year’s festival, the first in many years not to have an opening press conference. Instead, organizers sent out prerecorded videos from Cooper, Sundance Institute boss Keri Putnam and festival programmer Kim Yutani, along with a note from Redford published in the official fest guide that included more praise of Cooper.
In words familiar to Sundance patrons over the festival’s three-decade-plus run, the Ordinary People director also noted that “I’ve always believed that artists should help artists.”
The first of 118 films to be screened this year, the Nicole Newnham- and Jim LeBrecht-directed Netflix documentary Crip Camp is executive produced by Barack Obama and Michelle Obama. Their Higher Ground production company has an overall deal at the streamer; their first project together the now-Oscar-nominated American Factory.
Crip Camp, the opening film in the U.S. Documentary Competition, explores the revolution of an unorthodox summer camp for teenagers with disabilities in the early 1970s that transformed their lives and ignited a landmark movement.
After its Park City run, the documentary will hit Netflix in March.
The Sundance Film Festival runs through February 2.