Sundance Film Festival - Day Six

Amazing amnesia documentary; hot shorts; poetry and song at Sundance.

by Amber Wilkinson

Rupert Murray's Unknown White Male documents how his friend Doug Bruce woke up on Coney Island with no memory of his entire life.

Rupert Murray's Unknown White Male documents how his friend Doug Bruce woke up on Coney Island with no memory of his entire life.

First day this week when I haven't been due to attend an interview or press conference, which is something of a relief. Rented a DVD player from the hotel desk and watched a couple of screener discs this morning. Trudell - which tells the tale of poet and activist for the indigenous peoples of America John Trudell - is first up. But while interesting to a point, concerns a piece of social history so uniquely American, it's hard to see it making the leap to Europe.

Next up is a screener for 212 - a feature-length drama about the life and loves of a group of people who share the same area phone code. By turns funny and touching, it is an enjoyable watch, though falls into the 'inserting a pop video into the middle of a film' trap that I seem to be whinging about a lot lately.

It's back to the documentaries in the afternoon - watching FilmFour's Unknown White Male. The story is an amazing one, tracking Doug Bruce, a man who suffered complete amnesia, as he rebuilds his life, documenting the changes his friends and family see in him as well as his hopes and fears. Although the story is compelling, the direction is overly clever, in a "look at me, I could be making feature film" kind of way, which is a shame. It was preceeded by an excellent short documentary called Recycle about a down and out living in Echo Park, Los Angeles.

Short films pop up all over the festival - and the ones I have seen have been uniformly good. My personal favourite was Motel, a spooky tale of one man's discovery of a place to stay that seems almost too good to be true.

Grizzly ManAfter the screening we head for the press office to trade screening discs, snagging copies of Werner Herzog's latest documentary Grizzly Man, pictured left, and a documentary on Rwanda called Shake Hands With The Devil: The Journey Of Romeo Dallaire. Then we dash down to Main Street to the ASCAP cafe, where Suzanne Vega is due to sing. She is fantastic, singing lots from her back catalogue including Small Blue Thing, Marlene on the Wall and Tom's Diner. She also, after prompting from the crowd, embarks on an acoustic version of Blood Makes Noise, saying she doesn't think it will work. It does, though, and almost brings down the house.

It is at around this point I realise I haven't eaten since breakfast, so we head to a bistro for dinner. The food is good and the special of the day is roast elk. Casting my mind back, I can't remember seeing that particular piece of roadkill on the drive in today, so opt for lamb instead.

Dinner over, it's back to ASCAP to hear Glaswegian composer Craig Armstrong (Moulin Rouge, Plunkett And MacLeane), he's very good (especially as it turns out he is playing with a broken finger) but you can tell that most of the crowd - including the previously mentioned John Trudell - are really waiting for Daniel Johnston. A manic depressive singer songwriter, there is a documentary about his fragile genius showing at Sundance this year and he has something of a cult following in the States. He reminds me vaguely of Nick Drake and I hope his demons don't drag him down the same tragic path.

Excitement over for the day, we head home as the rain starts to fall. Suspect we'll have snow by tomorrow.

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