Park City • Robert Redford has high hopes for the #MeToo movement and the change coming from women telling their stories about inequity, harassment and abuse.
“It’s a time of change that I hope will lead to a new conversation,” Redford said Thursday at the opening news conference of the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. “For women to step forward, and exercise their voices more and more, is a wonderful thing. The role now for men is to listen.”
Redford, founder and guiding light of the Sundance Institute that runs the festival, said he thinks the man whose transgressions sparked the movement in the entertainment industry — movie mogul Harvey Weinstein — is a blip on the radar.
“Harvey Weinstein was like a moment in time, and we’re going to move past that, and others like him who were accused of the same thing,” Redford said onstage at Park City’s Egyptian Theatre. “I don’t think he’s going to stop the show.”
Topics in the hourlong news conference included the rise of Netflix, the role of journalism in democracy, and Redford’s work with frequent co-star Jane Fonda. But the topic of the #MeToo movement, and the reaction to stories about sexual misconduct by Weinstein and other powerful men in entertainment, kept coming back around.
Weinstein was, for many years, a force during Sundance, starting a reputation for dealmaking that started with Steven Soderbergh’s “sex, lies and videotape” in 1989 and continued for decades after.
Weinstein, and wheeler-dealers like him, “came to the festival with one thing in mind,” Redford said, “to see what they could take for their own purpose. Our purpose was to make sure the festival was just showing the work of the artist.”
Keri Putnam, the Sundance Institute’s executive director, reiterated that everyone at Sundance was “sickened” at reports that Weinstein had engaged in a yearslong pattern of sexual harassment, abuse and even alleged rapes. (Weinstein has denied the rape accusations.) Two incidents, in 1997 and 2008, were reported to have happened in a Park City hotel during the festival.
“Sundance as an institution never contributed to that behavior,” Putnam said.
At Sundance, she said, “we do work with a lot of underrepresented storytellers.” What she has felt from them, she said, “in the wake of this movement, is a really different energy happening. … We’re not going to go backwards from here.”
Sundance has spearheaded programs to help women filmmakers who have a breakthrough get their second movies made. Putnam also stressed Sundance’s ReFrame project, an effort with the activist group Women in Film to urge movie studios toward hiring more women in behind-the-camera jobs. ReFrame, she said, is now part of the Time’s Up coalition, a campaign announced at the first of this year to speak up for women’s representation in all fields.
Engaging in campaigns like Time’s Up is key to what artists do, Redford said. “The role of art in society is to describe it and critique it,” he said. “You describe it, so that people understand what’s going on. And then critique it, in terms of democratic principles, what’s not working the way it should, and what is working the way it should.”
After Thursday’s opening-night films, the 2018 Sundance Film Festival kicks off in full Friday in Park City and at venues in Salt Lake City and the Sundance resort. It runs through Sunday, Jan. 28.