Sundance Film Festival - Day Three

Picking up penguins; search for Mullan ends; doc asks Why We Fight.

by Amber Wilkinson

Eugene Jarecki's Why We Fight puts the Iraq War in historical perspective.

Eugene Jarecki's Why We Fight puts the Iraq War in historical perspective.

No one could accuse the Sundance screenings of not being varied - and today I managed to see everything on celluloid from intrepid penguins to allegedly abusive priests - though not in the same movie.

The day began with French family film The Emperor's Journey (March Of The Penguins) tracing a year in the arduous life of your average Emperor penguin, which considering that they are supposed to be swimming around eating fish seem to spend an unseemly amount of time trudging up and down the ice floes in the service of continuing the species. The photography is lush but the soundtrack virtually unbearable.

I followed this with MirrorMask - the British brainchild of graphic novelists Dave McKean and Neil Gaiman. Brimming over with imagination and innovative CGI and design courtesy of the Jim Henson company it makes a change to see a film which illustrates a fantasy world without coming over all Tim Burton.

Tickets for the screening were the fastest selling at Sundance, it features a sterling performance by Stephanie Leonidas in the lead role - looking curiously like a young Helena Bonham Carter - and Rob Brydon in a rare 'straight' role.

After zipping the discs back to the press office it was time for a quick bite to eat. Pizza Hut seemed like the obvious choice for some fast food... until it became apparent that there was only one man running the entire show. Like a whirling dervish he took orders and topped pizzas, which was just as well since my Peter Mullan odyssey was finally about to come to an end.

Scheduled to meet the man at 3.30, I turned up fashionably early, to be told by the publicist over the phone that "things were running a little late, but you know how things are". I soon saw exactly how "things were" when I nipped into the hotel shop to by a packet of mints (pepperoni can be murder on the breath) to spy Brenda Blethyn, Peter Mullan and Billy Boyd enjoying what appeared to be a late lunch by the pool.

My time was to come, however, and barely moments later I was whisked poolside where the atmosphere was decidedly steamy. No, really, it was steamy, like a flipping sauna.

First up was Billy Boyd and a very chirpy chappy he was, too, chatting happily about his role in On A Clear Day and about his next venture - a heist/caper movie about which he remained largely tight-lipped. He has been whooping it up in Park City, however, saying that he enjoyed a night on the tiles the previous night, including a jamming session with a few mates in an unamed bar.

Next up was Peter Mullan - a genuinely nice guy who isn't afraid to say what he thinks. He talked about his role as a Clydebank worker turned swimmer while lamenting the state of British TV, which he described as being at a very low ebb.

Twist Of FaithInterviews finished, there was barely time for my feet to hit the floor of the bus before the press screening of Twist Of Faith, pictured left - a documentary tracing one man's experience of alleged abuse at the hands of the Catholic church. It was fairly harrowing - but undeterred I also made time to catch the screening of the excellent Why We Fight.

This documentary examining the state of the US government and tracing its unfortunate ties to the arms industry and big corporations, is the highlight of the festival for me so far and is a contender for the Grand Jury Prize. And good news for British readers. It is a BBC Storyville production, so everyone will be able to enjoy it eventually.

The Jacket also received its premiere tonight, it will be interesting to see if the public warm to it more than the critics. Also opening tonight is Slamdance. A kind of Sundance 'fringe' the opening film Ringers: Lord Of The Fans - about the worldwide cult surrounding the Tolkein book was a sell out.

Tomorrow holds the promise of a press conference with the cast of Marilyn Hotchkiss Ballroom Dancing And Charm School, including John Goodman, Robert Carlyle and Mary Steenburgen, plus a few more screenings... now where did I stash my intravenous caffeine drip?

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