Thursday, January 12, 2017

Sundance puts spotlight on climate change

It certainly reads like a political statement: Next week, one day before Donald Trump takes the presidential oath of office, the Sundance Film Festival will open its 33rd edition with a climate-change documentary starring former vice-president Al Gore. Mr Trump has mocked the science of global warming as a Chinese hoax and selected a climate-change denialist to run the Environmental Protection Agency. What better way for the very liberal Sundance to respond than to put forward An Inconvenient Sequel, the follow-up to the Oscar winner An Inconvenient Truth (2006)? Not so fast. "We stay free of politics," actor Robert Redford, who founded Sundance, said by telephone. "It just happened to coincide." He added: "We don't want to be tied into the current political cycle. That would be a terrible mistake, if we start to drive the story, when our whole mission is to support film-makers who have stories they want to tell." At the same time, his top programmers, Mr John Cooper and Mr Trevor Groth, say they are taking a specific stance that is political by nature: For the first time in the festival's history, there will be a spotlight on one theme - global warming and the environment. Their goal? "To change the world," Mr Groth, programming director, said with a grin over lunch here recently. Mr Cooper, Sundance's director, added quickly: "Or die trying." As the pre-eminent showcase for American independent film, Sundance sets the pace for what arthouse audiences will be watching in the coming year. Mr Cooper and Mr Groth said that they decided over the summer to use that power to push eco-films because they felt interest in them was waning. "That seemed a bit odd, given how large and important the topic is," Mr Cooper said. (Redford, it should be noted, is a long-time environmentalist, although he said that had no bearing on the festival.) A new Sundance subsection, the New Climate, will include 14 documentaries, short films and special projects, including a virtual-reality experience that turns participants into trees that are violently chopped down...more

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