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PARK CITY, Utah (Reuters) - Whatever people may think, Robert Redford and his daughter Amy Redford say that her debut as director of "The Guitar" at the Sundance Film Festival was all Amy's doing -- no help from the Sundance Kid.
"It's a very basic question, and one I would ask," Amy Redford, 37, told Reuters. "But the thing I feel good and confident about is that I've been involved in other films that haven't made it, and it's a democratic selection process."
The elder Redford, who founded the festival named after his role as the outlaw Sundance in the 1969 film "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," told reporters at a separate news conference that his only role was as a father who supported his daughter.
"I'm happy to say she is here on her own drive," he said.
The Sundance Film Festival, which began on Thursday and ends January 27 at the Utah ski resort of Park City, is the premiere gathering for U.S. independent film. Each year thousands of filmmakers submit movies in hopes of gaining entry and, perhaps, the exposure that can make them Hollywood stars.
Of the more than 3,600 movies submitted this year, only about 120 were selected from 25 countries around the world, so it's natural that some people might suspect nepotism was involved in "The Guitar" winning a spot.
Yet, the festival employs many programmers to screen all those films, utilizes a selection committee to pick entries, and Robert Redford is not in that group.
"The Guitar," which tells of a young woman finding her own true spirit and independence, debuted at Sundance on Friday, and like any first-time director Amy Redford said she was nervous.
"Like I have tarantulas in my stomach," she said.
The drama stars British model-turned-actress Saffron Burrows as an office worker, Melody, who loses her job, is dumped by her boyfriend and is told she has inoperable cancer that will kill her in 60 days or less.
So she takes what little money and credit she has, moves into a gorgeous loft apartment, furnishes it lavishly, eats fabulous meals and lives her final days as a free spirit with male and female lovers.
Her one goal is to learn to play rock guitar, which she has longed to do since childhood, and it is Mel's mastery of the music that represents her finding comfort within herself.
Redford began directing school plays, but said she was "hijacked" into acting by others who saw her passion. She worked on television and in film throughout the late 1990s and 2000s.
"But the way I thought about projects was more as a director," she said. "I love the process of collaboration, putting a film together and conceiving of all the different elements. That's very exciting."
Burrows called Redford "a natural" as a director and said she brought the crew together as a team but also allowed each staff member to exercise control over his or her areas of expertise, such as costumes or production design.
The actress said that when she read the screenplay and agreed to meet a first-time director, she did not know Amy Redford was the daughter of her Oscar-winning father.
"He's been supportive in endorsing my dreams, whatever they were. It could have been acting, directing, writing, business," Amy Redford said of her dad. "He knows you just have to do it. You have to learn on your own, otherwise you are building a house of cards. So, I've fought it out with the best of them."
Editing by Jane Clark and Xavier Briand