By Mike Collett-White
LONDON (Reuters) - Actor-director Robert Redford aims to bring the spirit of independent American cinema to Britain this week with Sundance London, transporting the film festival held annually in Park City, Utah, across the Atlantic for the first time.
The inaugural Sundance London Film and Music Festival will showcase several small budget features and documentaries as a counterweight to Hollywood blockbusters which tend to dominate cinema theatres the world over.
The festival will include the British premieres of 14 feature-length films, discussions, Q&As and musical performances, and will take place at London's O2 music and cinema venue from Thursday to Sunday.
It is the first foreign offshoot of Redford's annual Sundance film festival, and part of his vision of bringing independent cinema to wider audiences.
"I just feel that there's a hunger for other kinds of films as well, and that's what we represent," the 75-year-old "The Sting" star told reporters at a press launch on Thursday.
Redford said that, as a major Hollywood player, he had worked "on both sides of the aisle", and had nothing against big budget action movies. But he added:
"That diversity was not so available in the mainstream film industry because it has scaled down and become more centralized over time and following the youth market.
"So therefore it got narrower and narrower and it was going to be more prone to blockbusters, which is fine ... but not at the expense, I felt, of the humanistic side of cinema."
He took issue with British Prime Minister David Cameron, who caused a stir among film makers and producers recently by urging them to focus on mainstream movies in order to boost the multi-billion pound (dollar) industry.
"That may be why he's in trouble," Redford joked, referring to a tough few weeks for the coalition government which Cameron leads. "That view, I think, is a very narrow one, and doesn't speak to the broad category of film makers and artists."
MUSIC PLAYS "HUGE ROLE"
Music will play a major part at the London event, with the opening night including performances by psychedelic pop band Guillemots and Oscar-winning musician/actor Glen Hansard.
There will also be a performance by Rufus and Martha Wainwright following the world premiere of Lian Lunson's film about the music of their mother, folk singer Kate McGarrigle.
Redford acknowledged that he has not always appreciated the importance of a movie's score.
"A film that I was in, 'Butch Cassidy', the music played a huge role," he said of the 1969 film "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" co-starring Paul Newman.
"I didn't see it at the time, because I thought it was stupid. Suddenly there was a scene where the guy was singing 'Raindrops are falling on my head' and it wasn't even raining. Well, how wrong was I?"
Redford is also expected to join heir-to-the-throne Prince Charles for the premiere of "HARMONY: A New Way of Looking at Our World", a documentary narrated by the prince exploring his environmental campaigning.
Redford voiced reservations about the advance of technology in cinema, particularly the emphasis on 3D.
"I think technology has probably gotten a little too far, too fast," Redford said.
"I'm not a particular fan of 3D at the moment ... but I think it will find its way in or out and the audiences will decide. But my feeling right now is probably things have gone too far, at some great cost by the way."
He hoped Sundance London would prove a success with audiences and allow him to expand the film festival to other parts of the world.
"This is the first step, if it works," he said.
(Reporting by Mike Collett-White; editing by Patricia Reaney)