Sundance 2013: Festival Founder Robert Redford Addresses Sex, Guns and Family Values

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The filmmaker questions why Hollywood uses firearms in ads to sell its movies.

PARK CITY -- Robert Redford addressed sex, guns and family values during a news conference Thursday at the Egyptian Theatre to kick off the 2013 edition of the Sundance Film Festival.  

Festival founder Redford, who was joined by festival director John Cooper and Sundance Institute director Keri Putnam, was fighting off a cold as he took the stage before an audience of antsy journalists.

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Asked to sum up this year’s installment of the festival in one word, Redford responded: “Change. You can fight it, resist it, dread it or you can use it. That’s where I am; that’s what I’ve always done -- giving the audience an opportunity to choose.”

With 119 films from 32 countries scheduled to screen, Cooper added: “I feel like I’m sitting on a powder keg of talent. I just want to get this started!”

Cooper pointed out that sex is a prominent theme among these year’s feature films -- and, Redford joked, it’s what Cooper is most excited about.

“I’m not sure why that is, but I love that these themes are told from the perspective of both men and women,” said Cooper, adding that an unprecedented 50 percent of festival films are directed by women.

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A reporter asked Redford to comment on annual grousings from local conservatives that the festival doesn’t reflect the values of the festival’s Mormon-heavy home state of Utah.

“Well, this comes up every year,” said Redford, veering slightly toward irritated. “Sometimes the narrowest minds bark the loudest. We can ignore them or remind them that it’s a free country and look at the Constitution.”

Added Putman, succinctly, “The festival brings in $80 million in 10 days.”

Addressing the fact that some blame Hollywood and its filmmakers for contributing to the climate of gun violence in America, Redford offered an anecdote.

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“I think it’s appropriate and overdue to have this dialogue,” he said. “I have a question, though. I was driving in L.A. recently, and I saw two billboards that featured guns prominently. It made me wonder, ‘Does my business think guns will help sell tickets?’ It’s worth asking that question.”

Cooper added that one documentary in the festival -- Valentine Road, about the 2008 fatal shooting of eighth-grade student Larry King by his classmate -- was selected before the Dec. 14 tragedy in Newtown, Conn., giving the film added poignancy.

“Newtown and the gun-control dialogue going on will change what the documentary means to people at the festival,” he said. “But for us, a truth is a truth, and it’s about allowing our filmmakers to tell a deeper story.”