Robert Redford, Spiked Lemonade and Bush-bashing

The Sundance Film Festival: Storytime
The Sundance Film Festival: Storytime

The High West Distillery was serving lemonade spiked with rye whiskey in the lobby of the Egyptian Theater before Robert Redford turned up to address the press about what may or may not be the Festival’s 25th anniversary.

It was 2 in the afternoon. I tried the “mulled lemonade” (flavored with clove, nutmeg, vanilla and cinnamon), but I asked them to skip the whiskey. So liquor does not explain why Redford–who isn’t always the most articulate guy in the world–sounded so passionate and engaging as he talked about what Bob has wrought with his Institute and Festival.

He still had moments when eloquence eluded him. He started out, for example, talking about whether this is, in fact, the Festival’s 25th anniversary. “I keep hearing it’s our 25th but I don’t quite know what it is,” he said. “It feels to me like the last three years or so, we’ve been celebrating our anniversary.” Which led to a conclusion worthy of our outgoing president: “I think there’s anniversaries each year.”

Redford had some choice words for that president, repeatedly expressing his relief that “the gang that couldn’t shoot straight” is fading into the sunset. “You got a lame-duck guy going out of there but he sure was doing a lot of quacking for the last while,” Redford observed. Now, he has hope that art and culture will be on the White House’s agenda, even if it has to wait a while because of the dire economic situation.

At one point, Redford was asked whether he would serve if the new administration creates a cabinet-level position dedicated to the arts. His answer was a succinct, “No.”

What with technology and the economy, Redford noted, the world of movies is undergoing dramatic change (as we all know) and how that will affect the Festival is unclear to him. “Art will always find a way,” he said. Festival director Geoff Gilmore chimed in, saying that ticket sales were ahead of last year and sponsorships are “solid.”

Redford reflected on the Festival’s early years, when there was speculation that it might not survive, and expressed his satisfaction with what it has become. He noted its role in promoting documentary film and said he was pleased with its international flavor. It appears that the Festival may be exploring a version of itself in Abu Dhabi, although in describing the apparent complications involved with that effort, he came up with another distinctive phrase: “When you get too many cooks in the kitchen, you’re going to slow down the parade.”

Naturally the issue of outrage over Proposition 8 was raised. “To try to target Sundance seems sort of self-defeating, since diversity is the name of our game,” Redford said. Gilmore merely added, “We’ll see what this week brings.”