In Michael Ritchie’s The Candidate (1972) Robert Redford plays Bill McKay, Democratic candidate for the California senate. Peter Boyle, plays Marvin Lucas, McKay’s campaign manager.
Lucas talks McKay in to running, telling him he is going to lose the election, but during his campaign he can use it as a platform to communicate his message, believing he will not be a senator, but will spur on a great campaign and race to bring the attention to new voters and demographics. What McKay has to say is raw and not PC, he says the things that are not said in politics at that time and were unpopular subjects of the older generation (ie. abortion, poverty, segregation, education, and the environment).
The end (spoiler) is that McKay becomes senator. His run starts idealistic, but then he gets trapped in the numbers, and his words start to lose meaning as he loses hope and passion in the people of California. When he finds himself as senator and a person he never wanted to be, he panics and asks Lucas, “What do we do now?” McKay is now caught in a situation where he doesn’t want to be, never wanted to be, and now his life is no longer his own.
Sundance Film Festival
Here’s where I’d like to parallel the Sundance Film Festival with The Candidate. Robert Redford started the idea of the Sundance Film Festival as a place where new filmmakers could share their ideas, communicate their voices, and be heard. This was supposed to be a places where new ideas, new perspectives, and issues could be explored, that were not being touched on by the Big Box Office films.
Now, I haven’t yet been to the Sundance Film Festival, but from what I’ve heard and read, Sundance has become more of a Hollywood destination, then attracting “real” artists from every way of life.
But another way to look at it is this essence of realness has caught attention of Hollywood as being something different, something new, that Big Box Office films can’t offer, and a place where Hollywood actors/actresses can be inspired and work with new filmmakers of this caliber. Also, the Sundance Film Festival has become a place where big production companies can go financially support these films and let these new filmmakers have their voice on a larger platform. And the film critics love to be able to see films that they really love and can promote through their work.
What The Candidate shows us . . .
What I like about The Candidate is that it reveals the desire and need of so many people to be exposed to new perspectives through fresh ideas that make it seem possible for us as a nation, as a community, to be and do better for ourselves and others. This revives a hope in humanity.
Some people are stuck in their old ways, and cannot see past “normal” conventions, and are frightened when something new and different comes along. The Candidate Bill McKay reveals this new way, new hope, new perspective, but what happens here is this new way, hope, and perspective gets latched on to the candidate, and he is seen as some kind of savior for the American/California people, But what we forget is the candidate is human, just like the rest of us, and that hope and perspective should be driven in all of us and not embodied in one person.
What Sundance shows us . . .
So I look at Redford, like the candidate, he has come to a point where he’s moved on to his artistic/directing projects and has let Sundance become it’s own, but still is recognized as it’s founder. As we can look at Redford as the source of hope & perspective for the film community, we should not lose sight in the community of filmmakers and film lovers. So instead of looking in one direction, at Redford, or Hollywood, we should be open to what is revealed to us, see through the glitz and glamour and look at what’s real and true, and to be open to that.