Sundance Film Festival - Day 8

Mardi Gras beads of sweat and pain; gay thriller The Dying Gaul; class drama Junebug; Utah's odd booze laws.

by Amber Wilkinson

Dying Gaul isn't afraid to take risks

Dying Gaul isn't afraid to take risks

The penultimate day of press screenings and things are starting to quieten down here. The average age of the people you see on the street has come down by about ten years since the elder statesmen and women of the press, directors and producers head out of town to cut their deals back in LA.

Bits of the town are 'disappearing' too, with temporary press venues being dismantled. There were still plenty of movies to be seen, though. Watched U.S. documentary Mardi Gras: Made In China last night. It tracks the origins of Mardi Gras beads - famed in these parts for being thrown around at the New Orleans carnival in return for men and women flashing their bits - from the factory where they are made in China.

Veterans of documentaries concerning migrant workers and sweatshops will be familiar with the theme. Lots of people, eat, sleep and work in the factory, aiming to reach their bead quota and avoid any 'punishment' penalities, which are meted out for everything from talking on the workshop floor to wearing high heels.

The workers are, beyond a doubt, exploited and they know it, but there is little that can be done unless pressure is brought to bear on the import companies: depressing really, but perhaps it will galvanise some people into action.

First thing this morning, we get up early to catch the screening of The Dying Gaul - which has had a good press buzz surrounding it all week. It is pretty good, a thriller, with shades of film noir, that isn't afraid to take a few risks. It includes tastefully portrayed gay sex, which will doubtless rile up the Christian right. The plot concerns a screenwriter with a gay script who compromises his integrity, among other things, as he tries to get it made. Patricia Clarkson is a stand out as his producer's beleagured wife.

Twist Of FaithI followed this with the screening of Junebug, another film which I am sure will have no problems in finding a distributor. George (Alessadro Nivola) brings his new wife Madeleine (Embeth Davidtz) home to meet his family in the South. She is a British sophisticate who struggles to find common ground with George's mum Peg (Celia Weston), dad Eugene (Scott Wilson), brother Johnny (Benjamin McKenzie) and the naive Ashley (Amy Adams) who dotes on her with a childlike enthusiasm.

The film's emotions have a perfect ring of truth to them and the cast is superb. Amy Adams, pictured above left, in particular, is note perfect as the young, heavily pregnant Ashley who is overwhelmed by Madeleine's presence.

Following the screening, we decide to play hookey and head down to Salt Lake City for a look round. In order to get lunch we have to 'become members' of a bar. This is a common thing round here. Utah is a bit particular when it comes to alcohol. It can only be bought to take away from 'State Liquor Stores' which put me in mind of the Eastern bloc 15 years ago. When it comes to drinking in a bar, you have to 'be a member', usually this is just a nod through the door but, on occasion requires the stumping up of a fee.

Other quirky alcoholic rules include a law which prevents you from being served with a second cocktail until you have finished your first. Am not quite sure why anyone would want two cocktails simultaneously... maybe there was an 'incident'. It is certainly okay to serve shooters alongside beer, though, and yesterday I watched several pretty young things necking back considerable quantities of alcohol in JB Mulligan's bar on Main Street. Justin King was playing and was well worth the $5 cover.

Head home to watch screener of Matando Cabos... more about which, tomorrow.

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