Robert Redford - an indipenjdent spirit
director   Herbert Krill
dop Roland Breitschuh, Hans Jakobi
editor   Niko Remus
length   72 minuts
format Digi-Beta
broadcasted 2003, ARTE

Born August 18, 1937, in Santa Monica, California, Redford has been one of the most popular, high profile stars of the Hollywood "dream machine" for the last four decades. Movies like "Inside Daisy Clover (1966), "Barefoot in the Park", "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" (1969), "The Way We Were" (1973) and "All the President's Men" (1976) catapulted him into the upper echelons of Hollywood stardom. His boyish good looks, intelligence and charm earned him a worldwide status that only very few actors achieve.

But, what makes Robert Redford different and special is that just being "the good looking guy" was never enough for him. He soon found himself standing behind the camera, instead of in front of it with his moving directing debut "Ordinary People" (1980) for which he won an Oscar for best director. And that against competition that was anything but lightweight: Martin Scorsese, David Lynch, Richard Rush and Roman Polanski. "Ordinary People" also picked up the Oscars that year for best picture and best screenplay. Afterwards, Redford directed five more films, including standouts like "A River Runs Through It" (1992) and the ambitious "Quiz Show" (1994).

For Redford that was still not enough. Early on, he got actively involved in movements for the environment, social justice, freedom of speech and the rights of American Indians. And he paid much more than just lip service to these efforts. In the mountains of southern Utah, where he has a home, Redford founded the Sundance Institute in the early 1980s, which since has become a synonym for independent filmmaking. The annual Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, attracts thousands of film buffs every January to this ski resort nestled in the Rocky Mountains. But it is also a haven for producers and Hollywood agents looking to discover new talent. Well-known filmmakers, like Steven Soderbergh, Quentin Tarantino, Paul Thomas Anderson, Wes Anderson or James Mangold, began their careers with movies shown at the festival. In addition, Sundance offers so-called "labs" to young composers, theater people and, of course, filmmakers to have their projects evaluated and their concepts tested and developed further in intensive workshops with the help of prominent advisers. Redford helps arrange the distribution of Sundance films to movie theaters and promotes the exposure to wider audiences by getting films on DVD or video. Redford also owns a third of the Sundance cable television channel, which is dedicated to airing independent films.

In his documentary, Herbert Krill, who interviewed Redford twice, in 1981 and 1993, traces the actor's career. Today, Redford lives very secluded in Napa Valley near San Francisco and does not give interviews about himself. So instead, Krill visits the important arenas of Redford's activities: the U.S. East Coast, California, Montana and Utah. He makes a point of taking in the film locations for "A River Runs Through It" and "The Horse Whisperer" in the wide open spaces of Montana. He speaks with the people who were around Redford and who still, even today, eagerly recall his personal warmth and generosity: Keith and Marie Engle, for instance, whose ranch formed the setting for "The Horse Whisperer"; or, Dennis Aig, who directed "The Making of..." documentary about "A River Runs Through It". There is also William "Gatz" Hjortsberg, who wrote the screenplay for that film, Suzanne Schneider, the owner of the Sports Bar in Livingston, which Redford frequented regularly, and Pat Miller, the local historian.

In Utah, Krill talks to Ted Wilson, the former mayor of Salt Lake City and the graphic designer McRay Magleby, who has worked for the Sundance Institute for many years. Krill interviews Nicole Guillemet, the former co-director of the Sundance Film Festival, and Gyula Gazdag, director of the "Film Lab" at Sundance. He also drops in on Douglas Mankoff, the producer of "Levity", the film that opened the 2003 Sundance festival. Furthermore, with Allison Anders and the Turkish director Yesim Ustaoglu, Krill has two successful "graduates" of Sundance labs. Then there are filmmakers Randy Redroad and Sonny Skyhawk, who talk about Redford's involvement with the Native American movement.

Krill interviews the British-American film journalist, David Thomson, the biographer James Spada, who wrote a book about Redford in 1977, and Daniel Kothenschulte, the author of the only book on Redford as a director. And last but not least, Krill talks to representatives of the public service organizations, which Redford actively supported, such as the Indian aid group, Red Feather, the environmental action National Resources Defense Council and Joan Claybrook from Public Citizen, whom Redford once initiated into the art of lobbying.

This rich reservoir of material forms the basis of Krill's unusual star documentary. It is a multi-faceted portrayal of a man, who focuses his tremendous talent, enterprising vigor and wide range of contacts to promote the issues that are important to him.


The Redford Brand Name

He was so handsome in his youth, say even the film critics. And there is an unusual twinkle in the eyes when they talk about his career, when they leaf through the books they have written about him. Robert Redford is a trade mark, a brand name, a powerful American archetype. He is one of the few movie stars where the physical and the intellectual seem to magically come together.

Herbert Krill titles his portrait of Redford "An Independent Spirit".  But the spirit evaporates quickly in the course of the film. Robert Redford stubbornly refused to cooperate. with the team. No interviews. One would have to make do with excerpts from earlier interviews. One particularly fine scene is from the 1980s after Redford's directing debut of "Ordinary People". Tousled and all diligence, one can see and feel the enthusiasm he has for making his own films independently. As an actor, he once said , you are always at the mercy of the director of the cutter, you only control a small portion of your work. He has a very intelligent and very passionate method of directing, says one person who has watched him work. Redford runs an otherwise tough business as a sort of Zen meditation.

The desire for freedom was something Redford felt during his youth. He set out to study art in Paris and Munich. Later, he was attracted to nature, skiing, hiking and camping and at one point he took two years off, away from the movies, to build a solar house.

The film follows him outdoors, to Montana, where Redford filmed "A River Runs through It" and "The Horse Whisperer" and to Utah, where he launched the legendary Sundance Film Festival, which helps showcase, produce and distribute independent films in the United States. Directors, like Soderbergh and Tarantino, had their first films presented there. Since then, Sundance itself has become a trademark. The distance to Hollywood and its ravenous studio system has shrunk precariously. Sundance is now infested with Hollywood types, complains the film historian David Thomson, and cell phones ring the way they do at previews in Los Angeles. Pure commerce, which Redford it seems has been unable to prevent from happening. Of course, one yearns for the time when the young Redford was lying in the arms of Natalie Wood or Jane Fonda.

Süddeutsche Zeitung,

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