Redford applauds name helmers’ return to Sundance

Fest founder protests festgoers with the wrong agenda

Robert Redford isn’t crazy about the hype that Sundance has gathered over the years, but if it brings attention to independent filmmakers, well … he’ll live with it.

“The festival has gotten to a point where there’s a great deal of hype,” Redford said during a relaxed news conference to kick off the Sundance Film Festival on Thursday. In a Q&A with the audience, the Sundance founder showed some genuine optimism for the future of the independent film world, particularly as digital platforms and alternative distribution begin to attract well-known filmmakers back into the fold.

“With the collapsing of the mainstream (studio system), with the business changing so radically, what I’m seeing now is that the independent film category is growing,” Redford said. “People who used to work in the mainstream are coming to independent work. For example, in this festival, you have Spike Lee, you have Stephen Frears.”

But he’s never been comfortable with what he calls “leveragers” — people who come to the fest to advance their agendas beyond support of independent films.

“Now, it’s a free country, there’s nothing we can do about that,” Redford said. “But we are a nonprofit, and there’s very little that we can control. But we have to work harder and harder to point that out … sometimes it’s been hard for me.”

Redford didn’t specify the sources of his irritation — too much corporate sponsorship? The Occupy movement, which planned to demonstrate in Park City this year? — but he didn’t waste an opportunity to get an off-topic agenda off his chest.

“In terms of Mitt Romney … I’m not gonna get into politics. The fact is you can see with the debates going on, this mushroom cloud of ego hovering over everybody. It’s kind of silly and stupid, and I’m sorry about it.”