By Jeff Labrecque
Updated January 18, 2013 at 05:14 AM EST

In the Day 1 press conference to open the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, Robert Redford struck back at a conservative Utah group that suggested last week that the state should reconsider its funding of Sundance because the festival’s liberal leanings did not reflect the state’s values. “Sometimes the narrowest mind barks the loudest, and we’ve over time come to ignore it,” said Redford, who also reminded Utahans of the $80 million the festival attracts each year to the local economy. “We’re also offering a wide spectrum of choices. It’s up to the audience to choose … So I would just say to these people — we either ignore them or remind them that it’s a free country and maybe they should look at the Constitution.”

But Redford, who took questions alongside Sundance Institute executive director Keri Putnam and Festival director John Cooper did acknowedge that the entire Hollywood industry might need to reexamine the way it treats and markets gun violence, especially in the aftermath of the Newtown shooting. Citing a pair of roadside movie billboards that featured prominant positioning of firearms, Redford, who once famously played the Sundance Kid, said, “My thought was [as I drove by], does my industry think that guns will help sell tickets. I don’t know. It’s not a question that I could answer. But it seems like a question worth asking my own industry. Maybe there’s a reason that — maybe yes. I don’t know but it seems fair because I’ve noticed how often guns are used in ads as though there’s something that translates in a positive way.”

The trio also discussed the Institute’s national and international outreach, seemingly doubling down on its “cultural exchange” in London but slamming the door on rumors that Sundance had eyes on a Brooklyn-based outpost. “There’s no truth to it,” said Redford, who expressed frustration with the initial media report. “I would be uncomfortable pushing our way into some place,” he said. “It’s better to be invited.”

This year, the festival features 51 first-time filmmakers from 32 different countries, and there are as many female directors as male in the dramatic competition. Redford pointed to the festival’s ability to “flow with” and “accomodate” social, cultural, and technological change as one of its most enduring strengths. “[Sundance] is not meant to be commercial; it’s meant to be diverse,” he said. ” The nice thing is that we’re still here [after 30 years] and diversity has proven to be commercial.

You can watch the entire 30-minute moderated panel here.

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