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Diversity and change were the buzzwords in the opening day press conference of the 30th Sundance film Festival held in Park City, UT.
Festival founder Robert Redford was joined by festival director John Cooper and Sundance Institute director Keri Putnam for a conversation that touched on distribution, festival highlights but also current events.
Redford’s film, A Walk In the Woods, is set to premiere at the festival on Jan. 23. “It’s weird. Very weird,” Redford said when asked by an audience member about promoting a film at the very festival he created.
When asked by The Hollywood Reporter why there is such a disconnect between the diversity of filmmakers at the festival and the business of Hollywood – most recently seen in the dearth of non-white acting and directing nominees for this year’s Oscars – the panelists displayed rare candor.
“If we knew the answer to that question, we’d be publicizing it widely,” said Putnam. “We have spent a lot of time thinking about this – in terms of gender diversity as well – and I think there is a huge pipeline of talent out there but somewhere along the way, they fall out of the business.”
Cooper paused and said wryly: “[Selma director] Ava Duvernay won best director here for Middle of Nowhere. That’s all [I’ll say.]”
The panel also address the encroaching confluence of TV and indie filmmaking. Redford said he started his career on the small screen and is a “big fan” of what companies like Amazon are doing the push the medium. “There are more opportunities for artists. I think TV is advancing faster than filmmaking.”
They also discussed the increasing popularity and influence of documentary films at the fest, showcased last year in the Roger Ebert doc Life Itself, and this year with the push by CNN Films to spark debate with timely docs like The Hunting Ground which examines rape on college campuses.
“I’ve always been committed to the journey of documentaries,” said Redford. “Where is the truth anymore? Where is the chance to slow down and really examine how you feel about something? Docs are long-form journalism. They give this chance. That’s why we have been pushing our documentary lab. It’s all about the growth of the festival.”
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