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Redford, who skipped for the second year running the opening press conference earlier in the day, was not personally featured on screen. Instead, the Hollywood director narrated a short visual tone poem about Utah that featured shots of space-pointing telescopes in the Atacama desert that Redford used as metaphors for artists telling stories amid the COVID-19 crisis.
“Every artist holds a mirror to their piece of the universe, to make the hidden visible, the unknown familiar. Even though we have been separated, we’re still bound together. We dream under the same sky, filled with stardust, to say, I’m here, you’re here, we’re here,” a philosophical Redford said.
Then, as a long camera shot of the Egyptian Theater in Park City came into the frame, Redford said the festival had its own story to tell. “Welcome to Sundance 2021,” he finished off.
Festival director Tabitha Jackson and fellow programmers also offered remarks about Sundance movie-goers coming together for the 2021 festival mostly via an online hub to ensure safety amid the pandemic. Jackson explained that this year’s Sundance was conceived amid the darkness of the COVID-19 crisis, economic hardship for many and the Black Lives Matter protests sparked by the murder of George Floyd by police officers in summer 2020.
“But this loss brought new clarity, clarity around the our belief in the necessity of the human voice, our belief in community, and our conviction that freedom of creative expression is a powerful and necessary response to repression and autocracy,” Jackson said.
Also appearing on the video was Sundance Institute CEO Keri Putnam. “As much as we wish we could be together in person, this year’s festival is a chance to embrace what’s different. We’re excited to open up this incredible program to more people than ever before,” Putnam said.
Virtual messages were also featured from festival alumni like Abigail Breslin, Anthony Mackie, Awkwafina and Nick Offerman, who insisted he’d consumed the weed that had been sent by Redford “as payment to record this video.”
The festival’s kick-off video, including Redford’s “Stardust” film and the celebrity montage, was produced by Jeremy Workman of Wheel House Creative. The 2021 Sundance Film Festival is set to run through Feb. 3.
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