Robert Redford, the Hollywood actor whose Sundance Film Festival promotes independent cinema, praised Prince Charles and criticized U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron as he brought the event to London for the first time.
Sundance London, which runs through April 29, will feature public screenings of 14 full-length films -- including “Harmony,” a documentary on Prince Charles’s longstanding ecological engagement. “Harmony” gets its world premiere on April 28, in the presence of Charles, the narrator.
At a news conference, Redford said he shared Charles’s environmental concerns, and differed with Cameron’s recent remarks indicating that subsidies should go to films that are likely to draw a wide audience.
“That may be why he’s in trouble -- one reason,” said Redford, a reference to the Cameron cabinet’s negative coverage in the past few weeks. “I won’t get into the other reasons, that’s not my business.”
“That view is a very narrow one, and doesn’t speak to the broad category of filmmakers and artists in the business,” Redford said, as he sat on a movie-theater stage in a tan-colored blazer, flanked by the Sundance Festival director of programming and two others.
“We don’t have the subsidies that other countries have, like you do, and I think it’s a tragedy,” he said.
The festival was started in 1978 as a springboard for alternative moviemaking, and takes place every January in snowy Park City, Utah. The London venue could not be more different: It’s the O2, a giant concert arena with cinemas, bars, restaurants and exhibition spaces.
Movies screening at the London festival include “Under African Skies,” where Paul Simon tours South Africa recalling the making of his album “Graceland;” “Luv,” the story of an 11-year-old orphan boy who discovers an ugly truth about his uncle; and “The Queen of Versailles,” a documentary about a couple whose plan to build America’s biggest house is thwarted by the financial meltdown.
Simon made a surprise appearance after the screening of the “Graceland” documentary, and talked about the criticism he faced for recording the album in Apartheid-era South Africa, in spite of a United Nations cultural boycott.
“I don’t have any regrets, because it’s a happy ending,” he said on stage after the screening.
The singer-songwriter said he was unaware of the boycott when he went to South Africa in 1985 to record with South African musicians, and in any event, recording was different from performing in front of a segregated audience.
“It was never specifically declared to be something that shouldn’t be done,” he said.
Special events at the festival include a performance by Rufus and Martha Wainwright, and a Redford talk with T Bone Burnett, who composed music for the Sundance documentary “Finding North” about hunger in present-day America.
Redford said he brought the event to the U.K. capital because the managers of the O2 invited him, and also “to inspire support of that same type of creativity in London.”
He originally started Sundance in Utah because he could only afford to host it in his own property in the mountains, he said.
“I’ve been fortunate to work both sides of the aisle, so to speak,” said Redford. He recalled his early career “in large Hollywood films, most of which were fun and great,” and his “need” for “something maybe a little bit more risky, therefore more low-budget and independent.”
“When we started Sundance, it was basically to enlarge the category of film to include those people that might be shut out of the mainstream thinking,” he said. “There’s hunger for other kinds of films as well, and that’s what we represent.”
Asked about the royal presence at his festival, Redford said Sundance’s longstanding emphasis on the environment and sustainability brought him into contact with the prince, who “was working on the same topic.”
“It seemed like a natural fit that we could support his film in his country,” he said.
For more information: http://www.sundance-london.com.
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