Robert Redford sorta knows me from way back. Not as any kind of acquaintance or favored journalist pally, but as a guy who’s been in the game since the early ’80s, and as one of the Oscar handicappers who totally fell for his solo performance in J.C. Chandor‘s All Is Lost.
I realize that Redford is more or less in a retirement mode these days and is only slightly involved in the Sundance Film Festival, if that, but I figured it couldn’t hurt to tell him of my Sundance troubles. So I sent along the following email on 1.3.19. No response so far, and that’s okay. At least I gave it a shot.
TO: Robert Redford c/o Sundance Film Festival
FROM: Jeffrey Wells, Hollywood Elsewhere
RE: Sundance ’19 press pass
This is way below your station and pay grade, but please take a couple of minutes and read this over.
After covering Sundance with a press pass for 25 years (since ’94) I’ve had my press accreditation for the 2019 festival denied by the Sundance powers-that-be. I’ll be attending anyway and catching films by the good graces of publicist pals, but it’s my presumption that my pass has been deep-sixed because I’m regarded as insufficiently “woke” in my general attitude as a film critic and columnist.
I’ve been told that it was a matter of making room for new journalists and that the number of press passes are finite, etc., but nobody believes that. My guess is that it more or less boils down to a high-school-level thing — the cool kids don’t like me any more and I’ve been elbowed out of the “in” crowd. Another way of looking at it is that I’ve been politically blacklisted.
Last year I conveyed a critical impression about the festival that may have riled a couple of people. I wrote that the festival has largely become a politically instructive experience as opposed to a festival about general cinematic excitement and stimulation. I said that Sundance ’18 felt to me like “a socialist summer camp in the snow.”
I’ve written to Jason Berger and John Cooper, asking for forgiveness for whatever I may have done (or may have failed to do). But to cut to the chase, here’s (a) a Hollywood Elsewhere piece I recently wrote about the situation and (b) a 12.12.18 letter I wrote to Cooper and Berger.
Since announcing in my column that the Sundance press office is zotzing me, I’ve heard from colleagues and filmmakers who’ve found this decision “alarming, deplorable, appalling, ridiculous,” etc. Their opinion as well as my own is that this episode smacks of “woke” McCarthyism, and is clearly not in keeping with the liberal, inclusive, independent-contrarian spirit of the Sundance Film Festival.
It’s a fairly simple notion that arbitrary withholding of press credentials under these circumstances (all of us being in the the midst of revolutionary changes in the industry as far as inclusion, identity politics and representation, #MeToo and #Timesup advocacy, p.c. admonishings of older white guys, SJW sloganeering and a general climate of “woke” political intimidation) is not a good idea and that it sets an unhealthy precedent, freedom of the press-wise.
Anyway, I’d be most grateful if the offended parties with the Sundance organization could find it within their hearts to turn the other cheek and let bygones be bygones, etc.
I’m not entitled to a Sundance press pass, Bob, but the fact is that I’m a fairly well known guy in Hollywood journalist circles and a well-read columnist, and it just strikes me as strange that the festival would suddenly change its mind after a quarter-century of due diligence on my part.
I’d be honored to return to Park City this year with my usual press pass. It would certainly make my job a lot easier and simpler.