Robert Redford opens guns and films debate at Sundance

Actor-director Robert Redford waded into the debate over the depiction of gun violence by Hollywood in his opening address Thursday at the Sundance Film Festival.
Robert Redford, founder and president of the Sundance Institute, speaks during the opening news conference of the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, Thursday. (Chris Pizzello/Invision/Associated Press)

Actor-director Robert Redford waded into the debate over the depiction of gun violence by Hollywood in his opening address Thursday at the Sundance Film Festival.

Redford, who founded the festival in 1984, seemed to criticize the film industry for its obsession with firearms.

"I've noticed how often guns are used in ads, as though there's something that translates in a positive way." Redford said."Does my industry think guns sell movies? I think it's worth asking that question."

The remarks came a day after President Barack Obama announced new measures to curb gun violence in the U.S. and called on anti-gun activists to speak out.

Redford said a debate over the role of guns in American society is overdue, noting the same questions were being asked after the assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan by John Hinckley Jr. in 1981.

Tarantino dismisses linking films and gun use

Director Quentin Tarantino took a different view last week, saying he saw no link between film violence and real-life killings like the Sandy Hook tragedy in which 27 people were murdered..

On Thursday, Arnold Schwarzenegger appeared to back him up.

"I personally feel that this is entertainment. The other thing is a serious real life tragedy. I think that we are going to continue doing entertainment," the star of The Last Stand said. 

Redford also reminisced Thursday about the changes to his festival, which he formed as a way to cast a spotlight on independent film and help the young filmmakers he trained at his Sundance Labs.

He said he had not predicted the interest of Hollywood in a film festival in the ski resort town of Park City, Utah.

Hollywood in Park City

The red carpets, paparazzi, stars and high-priced real estate of recent years had meant the festival was "not as much fun," Redford said. 

But he credited the deal-making that came along with Hollywood interest with paving the way for films like Beasts of the Southern Wild, which went from Sundance last January to four nominations at the Oscars this year.

Redford said the recession is keeping some Hollywood studios away this year.  

"What Sundance stands for is giving new voices and new filmmakers an opportunity to be seen and heard," he said in an interview with Associated Press. "We show what's there, and what comes up will usually give you an indication of changing times."

One of the noted changes to this year’s festival is the presence of more female directors, especially in the U.S. dramatic competition, which features eight films by women and eight by men.

Rise of women directors

Sarah Polley says she sees more women filmmakers at Sundance in recent years. (Canadian Press)

Canadian director Sarah Polley who shows her documentary Stories We Tell on Friday, says she’s seen a rise in the number of women at Sundance since she first came in 2000.

"I feel like there's been a seismic shift since I had my first short film at Sundance when I was 20 and now going back today at 34," said Polley,

"My first time at Sundance, I spent the whole time just trying to find other female filmmakers. Now you see there's been huge progress."

Stories We Tell examines the secret life of her late mother and just who Polley's biological father is.

The Sundance Film Festival continues until Jan. 27 in Park City, Utah.