When Robert Redford set out to create a place for independent filmmakers to show their wares 30 years ago, he didn’t know it would become the behemoth star-filled event that is Sundance today. Coming to the festival for the first time this year, I had my own preconceived notions and thought, like many people, that Sundance has gotten too big, too commercial. But even with the fancy parties and the major movie stars strolling down Main Street, I was still blown away by the wealth of new and groundbreaking films at my fingertips this week. While Redford acknowledges that the marketers and the glitz have taken something away from the festival’s roots, he is still able to see it through a first-timer’s eyes, and says that there is opportunity in its success – and that this might just be the best year yet.
“When we started this process back 30 years ago, when I had the idea for the festival and to put it in Park City, I thought it’d be a good idea to maybe make it a little weird because maybe that would attract people,” Redford says. “We just sort of went along and tried to stay true to our core beliefs about who we were, what our mission was in terms of providing a platform for new filmmakers to have a place where their voices could be seen. And at the beginning, there were a lot of people who saw this as kind of a crazy thing. I would have to go on the stage at the opening of the festival and sort of explain who we were, what we were trying to do, but now the nice thing is we don’t have to explain anything—we just are and I think people understand what we are.”