“Having hosted the Sundance Film Festival for the past three decades, it’s quite different for me to be heading to London, with so many great independent filmmakers and musicians in tow…” Robert Redford includes in his welcome note to the first Sundance London Film Festival.
The Sundance Film Festival usually takes place in the small town of Park City, in the mountains above Salt Lake City, Utah. The reason it takes place in such a remote place is because this is Robert Redford’s home and, to him, ‘the perfect host for the inspiration of ideas’. As a young actor in the early 60s, Redford embarked on a motorcycle journey across the USA, and fell in love with this stretch of land in the mountains. It was only years later that he could afford to buy any, and indeed only in 1978 that he was able to commence the first Sundance Film Festival in the area. Now the festival has become somewhat of an institution, synonymous with Redford as its figurehead and the Sundance Institute produces not only the festival, but a number of training programmes for filmmakers, a TV channel, Sundance Cinemas and even a luxury resort.
Now, for the first time, the festival is travelling outside of the USA, hosting the best American Independent Cinema from the Sundance Film Festival 2012, which took place in January. Described as a ‘Film and Music Festival’, there are not only a number films, but an effort to tie together film and music within the film themes and panel discussions, and also nightly performances by both famous and little-known artists. The festival is certainly high profile, taking place at the O2 arena and with most of the filmmakers attending the screenings – the essence of the Utah festival can be felt. But there is also something exciting and fresh in the air at the O2. There is energy in the new endeavour that is taking place, a community spirit among the volunteers and staff – many from the Utah festival – and indeed the buzz of London surrounding the event. In essence, perhaps much like the beginnings of the Sundance Film Festival, there is something special happening for the first time and everyone can feel it.
…the essence of the Utah festival can be felt
The first day kicked off with documentary UNDER AFRICAN SKIES, detailing the making of Paul Simon’s legendary album, Graceland, and the political explosion this caused, having been made in South Africa during the time of Apartheid. The film explores Simon’s return to South Africa during the twenty-fifth anniversary of the album’s release. This signals the start of a long weekend, showcasing 14 films, a number of music events, including live performances by Rufus and Martha Wainwright, and many filmmaker panel discussions. In fact, the hot ticket of the first night is the rare chance to witness discussion between Robert Redford and musician T Bone Burnett – actively bringing together the best of the film and music worlds in human form.
Now in full swing, those fortunate enough to attend the event have much to look forward to, especially the incredible atmosphere. In just one weekend, London audiences are able to feel the magic of the Sundance Film Festival. It is a different event taking place, but as Redford admits, ‘… not different at all. We continually seek out to new ways to support artists. As such, Sundance London is an opportunity to showcase the work and passion of American Independent filmmakers to a broader international audience.’