Sundance Film Festival Opening Night and Day One

Happy Endings opens, Scots cast out in force for "On A Clear Day".

by Amber Wilkinson

Maggie Gyllenhaal in Happy Endings

Maggie Gyllenhaal in Happy Endings

The fog clung to Salt Lake City as hordes of journalists and publicists descended on its Park City neighbour on Thursday for the Sundance film festival.

The setting for this coolest of film festivals, both literally and figuratively, seems unlikely but as Robert Redford explained in his introduction to the premiere of Scottish film On A Clear Day on Friday evening - that is the point.

He said the "mountains are dear to my heart and my end of the bargain was to deliver something not for my own purpose but for the State at large. When I said I wanted to put it in the middle of the State, in the middle of winter, they said that it would be difficult to get there. I said 'exactly'."

Sundance comes of age this year, celebrating its 21st birthday, and so it was appropriate that the opening premiere US comedy Happy Endings was light in tone. As a Sundance 'virgin' it took me the best part of an hour to locate both the place to grab my credentials and the venue for the press screening - but fortunately the town is compact enough for you to get the hang of things quite quickly.

The press showing was fairly full and the movie received a moderate reception. I did, however, hear one premiere-goer on the bus home suggesting to someone else that it was "quite funny" - a qualification I'd agree with.

Clear Day dialogue unclear

Day One of the festival and the snow has held off all day. The morning seemed to fly by in a whorl of missed phonecalls and bad reception. Setting a festival in the mountains plays havoc with the technology but undeterred I managed to schedule interviews with Neil Gaiman, Laura Henson and Dave McKean, plus gain the promise of a press ticket to the premiere of On A Clear Day, so all in all a good start. In the afternoon I saw the press screening of the much-touted The Jacket. Starring Adrien Brody and Kiera Knightley it is a thriller-cum-drama-cum-time-travel romp by Brit director John Maybury. Hopefully, I'll have more to report on that tomorrow after I have met some of the cast.

On A Clear DayThe highlight of the day, however, was the premiere of On A Clear Day. A solid Scottish offering in similar vein to The Full Monty. The cast were out in force for the screening with Peter Mullan sporting a dashing purple kilt ensemble with velvet jacket and Brenda Blethyn in a smart, layered black skirt and matching top. Billy Boyd, who confessed he got lost on the way back to his hotel in Salt Lake, and TV veteran Benedict Wong were also there. They were all happy to chat to the press and I take my off hat in particular to Brenda Blethyn who remained both chirpy and unfazed when asked by one less informed member of the Stateside press corps if she was the director. When she explained that she wasn't, she received the response: "Who are you?" "I'm an actress," she replied with more grace than many could have mustered.

The premiere was introduced by the Sundance Kid himself and he certainly had plenty to say about Brenda, recalling her work with him on A River Runs Through It. He wore his politics on his sleeve, too, saying ironically of the emphasis on films from around the globe: "Considering we have a very strong foreign policy, it wouldn't hurt at all to have more education."

The auditorium was almost at capacity for the screening and after Redford had said his piece director Gaby Dellal said a few words about the film and of thanks before the action kicked off. Sadly, the sound balance wasn't great. I live in Edinburgh and work in Glasgow and even I couldn't hear some of the dialogue, so I think, unfortunately, much of the scripting may have been lost to the Americans around me. However, there is a healthy dose of physical comedy in the film, too, and the audience lapped it up. It will be interesting to see how it comes out in the audience vote.

So, after a busy day, I'm now preparing for more of the same tomorrow, hopefully an interview with Peter Mullan, and definitely a chat with some of the cast of The Jacket. Watch this space...

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