Robert Redford arrived for a news conference Thursday that kicked off Sundance 2011. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)

Park City, Utah --

Sundance Film Festival founder Robert Redford kicked off the program's 30th anniversary with upbeat and reflective opening  remarks. Sharing the stage at the venerable Egyptian Theater in Park City with festival director John Cooper and Sundance Institute Executive Director Keri Putnam, Redford reflected on the program's humble beginnings, its mission of encouraging new and unique voices in film, and its growing global presence through satellite programs in Europe and India.

“In 1980, I wanted to create a space and a place for independent artists with new ideas and new voices to have a place to go,” he said. That vision grew from a maverick no-budget operation that exhibited movies on church pews in borrowed garages to the premiere international showcase for emerging filmmakers. Through it all, he said, the event has retained its “shoestring” mentality. “We are doing it the same way we did 25 years ago. Nothing has changed in terms of the programming. We don't program by commerciality, we program for opportunity and for new fresh ideas and more independence.”

The 10-day festival has evolved to reflect the challenges and opportunities of the multimedia era. Redford praised the New Frontier program, which pushes the cinematic envelope with art installations, videos and other innovative technologies.

"I see the future continuing more as a hybrid. Film will be more of a hybrid experience,” he said, invoking “Howl,” the 2010 festival's opening night presentation. “Last (year) we had a film where we blended three elements: documentary, narrative and animation.” The outlook for Sundance is strong, he said. “we can tell from ticket sales & the word on the street that it’s going to be a very big year, and be very crowded on the streets.”

Redford's vision for the future does not include handing over the reins any time soon. Looking fit at 74, he said he has no plans to step down like fellow septuagenarians Larry King and Regis Philbin.

“I have not thought about retiring,” he said. “I mean, I’m gonna die, but....” he added with a smile.

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