Sundance: How Trump Made Robert Redford Nostalgic for the Nixon Era

Day One Press Conference - 2017 Sundance Film Festival
PARK CITY, UT – JANUARY 19: (L-R) Executive Director of Sundance Institue Keri Putnam, Director of Sundance Film Festival John Cooper and President and Founder of Sundance Institute Robert Redford attend the Day One Press Conference during day 1 of the 2017 Sundance Film Festival at Egyptian Theatre on January 19, 2017 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images for Sundance Film Festival)

What do you do when you’ve been planning a film festival for a year and Donald Trump’s inauguration is scheduled right in the middle of it? In some ways, this is nothing new for Sundance Film Festival founder Robert Redford to contend with: Sundance is now in its 32nd year, and since it takes place in late January, it butts up against an inauguration every four years. Still, this may be the first time that the incoming President is so thoroughly against everything the festival stands for, including free speech, diversity of voices, and the importance of the arts.

At today’s opening day press conference, Redford shied away from the idea that the festival would change in response to a Trump presidency. “The idea is that presidents come and go,” he said. “The pendulum swings back and forth. It always has and it probably always will. So we try to stay away from politics per se, and we stay focused on what are the stories being told by artists. And if politics comes up in the stories that the filmmakers are telling, so be it.” The role of Sundance, festival director John Cooper said, would be to stay alert to anything that might threaten their filmmakers’ abilities to tell those stories. “Maybe they’re going to need more support,” he said, “and we’re going to give it to them.”

Still, it’s hard to ignore what’s about to happen. Journalist after journalist stood up to ask questions about how art survives in times such as these, as Redford tried to calm down the room with the wisdom of his very sprite 80 years. “In terms of the feeling that a lot of people are having about being fearful and things are getting dark and the darkness is closing in around them,” he said, “You want to look to where the light is coming from.” He was hopeful that the fearful feeling would at least galvanize the previously complacent and create a movement to protect everything the festival stands for.

Those fears seem more warranted every day. The press conference…