By Piya Sinha-Roy
PARK CITY, Utah (Reuters) - Actor and filmmaker Robert Redford opened the Sundance Independent Film Festival on Thursday by steering clear of politics and instead criticizing the news industry.
"The news media world has shrunk into more of a sound bite world. Everything's so clipped and short, it gives you no time to digest, no time to contemplate. It's already moving onto the next event," Redford said at Sundance's opening news conference.
Documentaries, on the other hand, are filling the gap Redford said, highlighting their growing role at the industry's biggest indie film festival.
"I felt like documentaries are having a more important role than ever because it becomes long-form journalism. It has a chance to really tell the story so the public can really digest it and see how they feel."
The 80-year-old Oscar-winning filmmaker faced numerous questions about Republican U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, who will take office on Friday.
Much of Hollywood opposed Trump in the 2016 elections and instead raised millions of dollars for his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.
Redford did reflect on one of his most notable roles, as Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward in the 1976 Watergate thriller "All the President's Men," saying he learned the value of investigative journalism.
"Dig in and dig deep - those two things affected my filmmaking attitude," he said.
A leading Hollywood man in the 1970s and 1980s, Redford created the annual Sundance gathering in Park City, Utah to showcase independent film and talent outside of the big studios.
This year, the festival has a slew of documentaries exploring topics mined from recent headlines, as well as a showcase of climate change films.
Redford said the festival would not take a stance on current U.S. politics, but rather would support independent filmmakers who want to explore the issue.
"Presidents come and go, the pendulum swings back and forth. It always has and probably always will, so we don't occupy ourselves with politics. We try to stay away from politics, and we try to stay focused on what stories are being told by artists," Redford said.
However, Trump's inauguration will not go unmarked at Sundance.
Talk show host Chelsea Handler will lead a Women's March on Saturday down Park City's Main Street, timed to Washington's women's rally aimed at bringing attention to civil and human rights issues.
(Reporting by Piya Sinha-Roy; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)