Sundance : Day Four

Amber interviews cast and director of Lucky Number Slevin, enjoys the hospitality of the Sundance Institute, as well as snagging her first goody-bag!

by Amber Wilkinson

Son of Man - a beautiful, hard-hitting telling of the story of Jesus. Completed on 13th January 2006 - just in time for the World Cinema Competition.

Son of Man - a beautiful, hard-hitting telling of the story of Jesus. Completed on 13th January 2006 - just in time for the World Cinema Competition.

Early start again today, so that I could gen up on all things Lucky Number Slevin before this afternoon's interviews. Thankfully, the snow has stopped for the moment, as have the nosebleeds. Realised this morning that no matter how much I don't want to, I'm going to have to brave a petrol station at some point. Naturally, I keep forgetting to check which side the tank is on and am bound to pick the wrong one.

A day of interviews and meet-and-greet sessions beckoned, so I grabbed a couple of screener discs from the Sundance HQ first thing. - not quite sure when I'm going to get to watch them, but hope springs eternal.

Did I mention how cold it is, lately? To give you some idea, I bought a sandwich at lunchtime and left half of it in the car. When I got back at 11 at night, it was frozen solid.

On the festival front it was round table time for Lucky Number Slevin, so after a wait in the cold, while Lucy Liu (taller than you'd imagine) and Josh Hartnett (shorter than you'd imagine and, sadly, wearing more than a towel on this occasion) nipped out for lunch it was time to get down to business.

The meetings were in The Claimjumper, a bar smack bang in the middle of Main Street, the basement of which had a serious dank vibe going on. I'm guessing it doesn't get many visitors in the daytime. On the plus side, the publicist laid on pizza, which kept the assembled masses happy. Josh and Lucy were doing the roundtables together, which was a bit of a shame, as it didn't leave much room for questioning. That said, they were both very upbeat about the film and the festival. Lucy, on her first visit to Park City remarked it was "amazing to be here" citing the fact that it is a "little more casual" than some other places.

Josh has been here before (The Virgin Suicides) but seemed equally happy to be back. Scots director Paul McGuigan was also on hand to answer questions and I had the opportunity to speak to him on his own, too. He's a very nice bloke and was happy to talk about the state of the Scottish film industry, Slevin and his next film, an adaptation of Marvel Comics' Deathlok.

The interviews over, I went to one of the filmmakers' receptions. The Sundance Institute organise a few of these press dos over the duration of the festival, so that you can meet the directors of some of the smaller films on show. As a bonus, the occasion took place in Cicero's, an Italian joint, so there was plenty of free food on offer. An hour there and it was time to head off to another junket.

It was that sort of day.

This was the Asian Pacific Filmmakers get together, now in its fifth year. Hosted by a Chinese restaurant, The Panda Palace, the noodles and won ton flowed freely, as moviemakers, including Julia Kwan, director of Eve And The Fire Horse, which won an audience award at the Vancouver Film Festival, networked like mad. Many of the Asian Pacific films were represented and there was a bit of television glamour, too, in the shape of Yunjin Kim, who plays Sun Kwon in the TV hit series Lost. I had thought I had spotted her yesterday, but wasn't sure enough to stake my diary on it. She was looking glamorous, despite the cold.

I also snagged my first goody bag of the festival. There are those journalists who go on the hunt for these, with swag ranging from must-have techno gizmology, such as BlackBerry phones, on offer. Personally, all the freebie chasing seems a bit of a far cry from the intended spirit of independence, which is supposed to prevail here. Even so, fitting in with the hypocritical theme, I accepted one and very nice it is too, containing a trendy beach towel, hat and T-shirt among other things.

Talking of freebies, I took a brief meander into the Airborne Lounge on Main Street. I suspect that this is what Robert Redford meant by ambush marketing. They are giving out samples of Airborne, tablets that dissolve in water to give a fizzy drink, which allegedly wards off colds, particularly on flights. Not sure whether their marketing slogan, "Created by a schoolteacher," would prove a hit in the UK, though. Some of mine could barely put a lesson plan together, let alone a health supplement.

By this time in the afternoon I was getting quite excited about having managed to snag a ticket for the premiere of Son Of Man, the follow up to Berlin's Golden Bear winner U Carmen - I'll be talking to director Mark Dornford-May and star Thandiwe Mesele tomorrow. It is a retelling of the story of Jesus, brought up to date and set in a South African township.

Told in Xhosa, it features powerful imagery, a breathtaking score and a hard-hitting storyline with a political point to make both in and out of South Africa. At the end of the screening, the director and Thandiwe, looking impossibly beautiful in a cream dress, took questions. The first questioner was so overcome by the whole experience, she started crying, something I don't think you would see at a European premiere.

When asked about the movie, Dornford-May said that the "cultural and spiritual inspirations come from the townships of South Africa." He added, "If you are making films set in South Africa, it is impossible to ignore the history," which, some might think, is stating the obvious.

"We wanted to show the community." Thandiwe said. "We were trying to show what the elders were doing to us."

When asked about Mel Gibson's approach to Christ's passion, Dornford-May was keen to point out that this production is doing something very different. If the audience's reaction was anything to go by, I imagine it will do quite well in the States. How it will fair in the more secular UK, however, remains to be seen.

Screening over, it was time to spend half an hour defrosting the car - while freezing up myself - and then heading back to the motel where I virtually collapsed. I don't know about a vitamin pill to stop getting a cold, I could certainly do with one to give me a bit more stamina.

Oh, and I finally remembered to check. The gas tank. It is on the driver's side.

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