Sundance 2011: Opening-Day Ceremonies



It’s the time of year when the entertainment industry descends upon Park City, Utah, painting the white, snowy mountain town black with designer fashion. The flights to SLC from JFK and LAX are overbooked with people who all seem to know each other. The welcoming signs at the airport read “Entertainment Weekly,” “Saab,” “JP Morgan,” and “Sundance Channel.” From here, at least, it appears the economy has made a turn.

On opening day, the streets glittered with silver Sundance 2011 tote bags. Blue lanyards flapped over wool and down coats identifying filmmakers, press, and industry.  Transparent yellow Brita and Nalgene-sponsored water bottles hung clipped from bags. Volunteers wore purple down vests made by Kenneth Cole. Filmmakers received their Timberland boots. The town wasbranded once more.

Cameras lined the back of the Egyptian Theater like insect soldiers at the opening press conference with founder Robert Redford, director John Cooper, and executive-director-to-be Keri Putnam. Robert Redford, 74, but not worse for wear, appeared a little bit country and a little bit man about town in his green and brown shadowy plaid shirt, jeans, and lace-up boots with a fringe at the toe. His mussy red hair looked shampoo-commercial-ready and his tortoiseshell glasses gave him a stylistic bookishness.

He began his remarks with “Why are we here? What’s our point?” He focused on the origins of Sundance as a shoestring operation and said that the core of the festival has not changed—though the “ambush market,” or “riff-raff,” as Cooper called the gifting and swag aspects of the festival, has grown exponentially. Cooper later reminded us, “The magic happens in the theaters of our venues in Park City.” When you walk around town, it’s easy to forget that Sundance is about the movies—but it’s not until the lights go out in the theater that the colors really glow.