The only way to have diverse, distinct and individual voices was to have a festival away from the mainstream media markets, he said.
Redford acknowledged that over the years that same sense of diversity has become commercially viable, alluding to past Sundance successes, such as "Little Miss Sunshine," "Reservoir Dogs" and last year’s darling, "Beasts of the Southern Wild," which earlier this month received four Oscar nominations.
The panel with Redford, Putnam and Sundance Film Festival director John Cooper — moderated by Salt Lake Tribune film critic Sean P. Means — devoted much of its 45 minutes to a Q-and-A session. One reporter asked the panel’s response to a Salt Lake City-based conservative policy group, the Sutherland Institute, which on Jan. 11 issued its annual statement terming the film festival an affront to Utah values.
Redford was unabashed in his criticism. "Sometimes, the narrowest mind barks the loudest," he said. "We need to ignore them."
The festival infuses some $80 million annually to the Utah economy, and Redford defended that impact by saying, "We bring something to the table." Finally, alluding to the filmmakers’ and filmgoers’ right to assemble and engage in free speech, Redford added that the Sutherland Institute "should read the Constitution."
Sexuality and music are two trends that seem prominent among films to be screened on this year’s program, Cooper said.
Some questions focused on the Dec. 14 Newtown school massacre and how audiences might respond differently to movies about guns and gun violence in the wake of the tragedy — even though the films on this year’s slate were chosen before the Connecticut mass shooting.
The national dialogue on gun control was "not only appropriate, but overdue," Redford said. He told a story about one of the first festivals and how the shooting of President Ronald Reagan influenced festival organizers to discuss gun control and violence.
Recently, while driving around Los Angeles, Redford saw two movie billboards in the span of a few blocks that prominently displayed guns. "Does my industry think that guns will help sell tickets?" he said. "It’s worth asking that question."
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