The solor energy people are a fervent group, the sort who will go to a buffet dinner featuring Robert Redford and then cluster in corners saying things like "wood right now is a 4 percent energy source in New England" or "have you looked out in New Mexico where they've been digging uranium" or "hydropower is a 1 percent energy source" or. . .

The thing was, Redford sounded a lot like that himself. But then, last night his role was solar advocate instead of box-office blockbuster because he was hosting a screening of a very serious film.

Which is, "The Solar Film," an eight-minute short about alternative energy full of dewy leaves and crashing waves and and a little child walking into the sunset. It's been nominated for an Academy Award." The film is just an awareness film," explained Redford.

He said this in brief remarks to about 150 solar folks collected at the Kennedy Center, folks who barely murmured when Redford arrived in a green sweater and tweed jacket. Making a pass was definitely declasse, although a few women who couldn't resist did look back for a quick gape.

Then the lights went out and the film began to roll.

Afterward, there was a formal question and answer session where an intricate discussion of high and low technology occured, interspersed with some nit-picking from reporters.

"I thought they were small," said Redford, who once played a reporter who helped oust a president. "The point was missed. I hear cynicism, I hear . . . I'm just bored with it, that's all."

The last item on the evening's agenda was the buffet, which was crepes and chocolate mousse. This attracted alternative energy supporter Sen. Birch Bayh (D-Ind.) as well as Esther Peterson, the president's consumer affairs adviser.

Steven Ross, the chairman of Warner Communications, was around to answer questions and talk about the possible Academy Award for "The Solar Film." His company paid for it.

"We're excited," he said. "It's one of our few Academy nominations. We don't get money. All we do is earn money."