Sundance : Day Three

Nosebleeds, technological SNAFUs, and soaking up the atmosphere - along to the sentimental tones of Rufus Wainwright. And another three movies!

by Amber Wilkinson

Madeinusa - "lovingly shot and absorbing"

Madeinusa - "lovingly shot and absorbing"

Having just begun to recover from Wiggles flashbacks ("mashed pot-ay-to, mashed pot-ay-to"), I woke this morning to a new ailment - a nosebleed. I blame the altitude, but another journalist told me that it's the dry atmosphere that really brings them on and suggested I shove some of my moisturiser up my nose. So now I'm wondering how many of my fellow filmgoers are "doing" Vaseline Intensive Care Lotion.

I didn't go to any screenings this morning, but watched Madeinusa at the motel. The Sundance technological curse - see last year's reports - seems to be determined to continue for me. Cheap DVD player plugged into the telly fine, but if there is an AV button to allow me to actually watch anything I'll be blowed if I can find it. Fortunately, however, the disc played fine on my laptop.

This Peruvian film tells the story of Madeinusa, a naive teenager in a provincial village, who is even unaware of what her name means. She lives with her sister and father, the town mayor who drinks and dreams of incest. Once a year, from Good Friday to Easter Sunday, between Christ's death and resurrection from the grave, sin ceases to exist for the community and the village gives way to a festival of debauchery. On the eve of these Hieronymous Bosch-like festivities an outsider from Lima ends up in town. He is met with hostility by the locals, who fear he will spoil their fun. Madeinusa, however, sees a route out of her current life, triggering a series of events, which might prove fatal. The film is lovingly shot and absorbing. Plus its simple plotline is a welcome relief after the series of ensemble pieces I've been watching over the past few days.

I skipped the 11 o'clock screenings since I had a mountain of admin to catch up with. This is the up and the downside of Sundance. There is so much going on all the time that it's tricky to keep on top of organising interviews, watching screenings and just trying to find a moment to soak up some of the atmosphere. Most of the fresh-faced journalists who were scurrying around on Friday are beginning to look distinctly grey about the gills.

Decided to pay a visit to the ASCAP cafe this afternoon., which wouldn't have been so bad, apart from the huge queue - and the snow, which was falling heavily again.

Queues are a pretty good place to make "Festival friends." People seem happy to chat away about what they've seen, what they think of the place and, of course, the weather. There's a free shuttle bus, which operates all day and night, too, which is just as well since parking is seriously hard to come by.

It's amazing who you meet on buses. I bumped into director Ham Tran (Journey From The Fall). Seemed a nice bloke. I'm having a chat with him on Wednesday after I've watched his film, so at least we've broken the ice.

Meanwhile, back to the ASCAP music cafe... This is a great, intimate venue, featuring some fantastic artists who have contributed to movie soundtracks. Rufus Wainwright is clearly a crowd puller, as some 40 or 50 of us were queuing to see him. I got chatting to a couple of college kids in the line and discovered that they stood there for an hour the previous day, hoping to see him, but had been turned away at the last minute as they were "only letting in people with press credentials." It seemed such a shame. Then I remembered I have a plus one press pass, so they came in with me. Am hoping the good karma will spill over into all things electrical and that my new dictaphone will work properly when I speak to the cast of Lucky Number Slevin tomorrow.

The programme at the cafe was running late so I had the unexpected treat of seeing Imogen Heap. She has a fantastic voice and a very distinctive style, reminiscent of Kate Bush and Tori Amos. Can't say I'd come across her before, though apparently she also sings as part of the duo, Frou Frou, but I'll definitely be buying an album when I get back. She was followed by Rufus W, who has a voice that could melt even the hardest of hearts. The venue is so small that the atmosphere is second to none.

In the random happenings department, I got hugged by a gay guy who was clearly feeling "loved up" by it all. On exiting the cafe, I was amazed to see that some people are still trying to wear stilettos, despite the snow and the one-in-ten gradient of Main Street. Idly began to wonder how many fashion related accidents occur each Sundance. Hypothermia must be a prime contender, as I have seen no end of people wearing wafer thin jackets in an attempt to look cool. End result? They don't look cool... just cold.

Thought it was about time I watched a film, so went to see Somebodies, which is part of the Dramatic Competition this year. It is another ensemble piece - there's a lot of these about - starring, written and directed by Hadji Hand, though he only cites his first name in credits.

It is not so much a narrative story as a series of vignettes, tracing college kid Scottie, as his life crosses paths with family and friends. The characters are larger than life and the script laugh-out-loud funny. When this film is good it's very, very good, but it tends to meander when no one is looking. With a slightly stronger storyline, this would have been a real smash, but, as it is, there are enough moments of brilliance to hint at great things to come from Hadji in the future.

Nipped to Albertson's after the screening - one of Wal-Mart's competitors - to discover that the drink laws have moved with the times since my last visit. Joy of joys, you can buy a couple of beers if you want, though they don't stock any of that nasty hard liquor, or wine.

I seemed ready to drop by 10 o'clock, but headed back to the motel to watch Crossing Arizona, an excellent documentary about Mexican illegal migrants being forced to make their crossing through the desert, due to tightened border controls. The best thing about it is its balance. While there are plenty of emotive scenes of Mexicans, separated from their coyote (the people smugglers who act as guides), wandering aimlessly without water, there is also the flipside, groups who leave water to stop the illegals from dying being given there say, alongside ranchers who have cattle killed by the migrants and vigilantes who police the border "because the State won't."

It is interesting to see how the debate about Iraq leaks into this discussion, with many feeling soldiers would be better deployed protecting borders. It also gave a fascinating insight into the nature of migrant work in the States. Many immigrants cross the border to work for the summer months, propping up the Stateside economy with cheap labour, returning to their families at the end of the season, which raises a very real question: if the migration is stopped, will the economy be able to take it?

Up early tomorrow, so bed beckons?

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