New Empress had the pleasure of being invited to the opening press conference for Sundance London yesterday, in which the president and founder of Sundance, Robert Redford, programme director John Cooper and Alex Hill (AEG – owner of the O2) told us their thoughts, hopes and dreams for the fledgling international festival.
According to Robert Redford, the reasons for Sundance travelling to London from the mountains of Utah were two-fold: firstly, they were invited by AEG and secondly, they wanted to take Sundance to an international audience. Redford said “The festival had grown to such a degree that we wanted to move internationally. I was reluctant to do that for a while because I didn’t want growth to be just about growth, it had to have some meaning to it…if we could take a scaled down version to another country, upon invitation, that would be a good thing, we would take the alchemy of what we do at Sundance and bring it here and see how it was received.”
John Cooper said: “we’re really watching these next 4 days. We’re gonna see how the whole thing plays out, it’s very different too, going from a pure destination festival where everybody goes there and you know you have them, to a city festival where you’re in with people’s lives and they have to pick and choose what they’re gonna come to…it’s kind of a challenge but it’s exciting at the same time.”
Speaking on the increased role of music in the London festival, compared with its peripheral role in Utah, Redford said,”You see certain things coalescing that were separate before so we try to show that at our festival. Music and film looked like that might be the new hybrid; the importance of music to film, film to music…since that hybrid seemed like it was on the horizon we wanted to show that we were with it…and bring music here with film, to illustrate a connection that’s growing stronger and stronger.”
On the topic of choosing which films to show, Cooper said they wanted to bring a selection of the January Sundance programme with them, including their short film programme, but with a twist: “going out of our borders with American films seemed the right thing to do…”
Redford then spoke briefly about Hollywood and why he started the film festival in 1980: “Diversity was not so available in the mainstream film industry; it is scaled down…following the youth market, therefore it got narrower and narrower and more prone to blockbusters which is fine, that’s entertainment, but not at the expense, I felt, of the more humanistic side of cinema…it’s not to deny or eliminate those films because they are obviously satisfying on a worldwide basis, I just feel that there’s a hunger for other kinds of films as well and that’s what we represent.” Redford also admitted that he is not a fan of 3D; ‘The audiences will decide…time will tell whether it really works or not but I’m not sure it will.”
It is ironic then, that the Sundance festival films should be shown within a Cineworld cinema; that cinema chain being a high profile cheerleader of new technology and Hollywood blockbusters, above all else. We have to wonder: does this represent a step by Cineworld to embrace more independent cinema or is it a one off gesture?
Speaking on Prime Minister David Cameron’s recent comment that the British film industry should focus on producing commercial successful films, Redford had this to say: “Well that may be why he’s in trouble, one reason anyway… I think that’s a narrow view, it doesn’t speak to the broad category of filmmakers and artists. Cooper added “it doesn’t speak to audiences either”.
Redford said; “The question of losing our soul is always on my mind…especially when success comes…the idea of our growing and becoming more successful: I always pay attention to not losing who we and the way we do things. We started with no support, one theatre..over time I realised that coincided nicely with the artists who came, who were also starting from scratch. Welcome success but use it wisely…”
The first-ever Sundance London film and music festival, featuring film screenings, live music performances, discussions, panels and other public cultural programming, will be held 26 – 29 April at The O2, London.
Sundance London will host the UK premieres of 14 feature-length and eight short films shown at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, U.S.A., as well as additional special screenings.