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Sundance Kicks Off With Jodie Foster, Robert Downey Jr. and Kristen Stewart

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On Thursday night time, the Sundance Movie Pageant in Park Metropolis, Utah, which is celebrating its fortieth version this 12 months, was bustling. Banners held on snowy Foremost Avenue, Leon Bridges was acting at a brand new music venue and the Eccles Theatre was packed for one of many opening movies: “Freaky Tales.”

And round 7 p.m., some 500 friends shuttled to a conference middle about 20 minutes away in Kamas, Utah, for the competition’s Opening Evening Gala, hosted by the Sundance Institute. The group, which places on the competition and has the mission of supporting impartial filmmakers, held this sort of fund-raising occasion for the primary time final 12 months.

The Sundance Institute introduced collectively a crowd of individuals, which included movie business gamers like Christopher Nolan, who discovered early success via the competition. They filed right into a cocktail reception, unfold throughout two flooring.

The gown code, listed as “upscale mountain stylish,” led to ensembles starting from boxy sweaters to velvet fits. Company mentioned the movie lineups, ate dates wrapped with bacon and drank espresso martinis. Close by, actors and actresses posed for photographers and dredged up previous competition reminiscences.

Sundance has develop into recognized for propelling little-known movies and filmmakers into the highlight. “The Blair Witch Venture” (1999), “American Psycho” (2000), “Napoleon Dynamite” (2004) and “CODA” (2021) all emerged from Park Metropolis.

Jodie Foster remembered the competition within the Nineteen Eighties. “I used to be on the jury for the 12 months of ‘Intercourse, Lies, and Videotape,’ which was an enormous 12 months,” she mentioned, referring to Steven Soderbergh’s 1989 movie.

“One 12 months, I produced a film, and everybody was youthful than me, and so they all went out all night time, after which at 5:30 a.m. I wakened and had breakfast with them,” Ms. Foster mentioned, including, “We had pancakes and that was probably the most enjoyable factor.”

(Ms. Foster’s associate, Alexandra Hedison, who was standing beside her, was at Sundance for the primary time this 12 months displaying her movie “Alok.”)

Jennifer Gray, who performs a personality named Marcia within the movie “A Actual Ache,” mentioned the actor John Slattery related the actress to her ex-husband on the competition within the Nineties.

“We went to this restaurant for breakfast, a spot all people used to go to,” Ms. Gray mentioned, “and I mentioned, ‘Who’s that?’ John then launched us.” (Ms. Gray and her associate introduced their break up in 2020.)

Kristen Stewart, who was honored on the gala and carrying a black-and-white look by Chanel, began attending Sundance within the 2000s.

“Again then I used to be, like, carrying no-show socks and my Hollister denims,” Ms. Stewart mentioned, “and I used to be like, ‘I simply wish to hang around with all the most effective actors.’”

She felt at dwelling. “If you happen to make an impartial movie in America it’s since you’re loopy,” she mentioned. “You’re making an attempt to do one thing unimaginable and silly, however you do it since you may truly contact somebody. Coming right here makes you’re feeling much less ridiculous as a result of we’re all doing this. It’s probably the most affirming factor.”

Jesse Eisenberg, who directed Ms. Gray in “A Actual Ache,” famous that he was about the identical age as Sundance. “I ponder if the competition additionally has again issues?” he joked.

He added that for him, these weeks are work, and he’s typically distracted. “The reality is after I’m at Sundance I’m all the time nervous as a result of I’m right here for one thing that has some sort of stakes,” he mentioned.

After cocktails, friends sat for a three-course meal, which included trout, roast beef and polenta. The night raised $1.6 million.

In a speech on stage, Christopher Nolan, who was honored on the gala, credited the competition with serving to to begin his profession after “Memento” premiered in 2001. “It enabled a lot extra that got here after it,” Mr. Nolan informed the viewers.

However Robert Downey Jr., who launched the filmmaker, joked that he wasn’t certain the “Oppenheimer” director, who’s camera-weary, was truly completely satisfied to be found.

Mr. Nolan, he mentioned, “wants his spirits lifted.”

“He’s a bit blue as a result of a horrible tragedy has befallen him,” Mr. Downey continued. “He has develop into recognizable on the road.”