Sundance 2006 : Day Five

Mascara worries do not faze Amber on her fifth day of Sundance! Indeed, the best film of the festival thus far awaits... And the search for a Bud may be the toughest challenge, yet.

by Amber Wilkinson

The Aura - "the first five-star feature I have seen this festival". Also in the World Cinema Competition.

The Aura - "the first five-star feature I have seen this festival". Also in the World Cinema Competition.

Sadly, I learnt nothing from the frozen sandwich incident yesterday. I was so worn out when I got back last night that I forgot to take my make up out of the car. Pulled the mascara brush out of the tube this morning and left the bristles behind, frozen to the sides. Just as well Sundance isn't dependent on glamour and that my ticket to the Variety party, which is apparently happening tonight, got lost in the post.

Today was also the big day when I braved the petrol station. Fine until I couldn't get the petrol cap off. American guy at the next pump most amused by the proceedings but, thankfully, helped me out. Basically, you have to twist the cap past the point where it sounds like it is about to snap off.

Headed up to town for an early interview with Mark Dornford-May, director of South African film Son of Man and one of his stars Thanidwe Mesele. It took place in the Intel lounge (hands up who just had the irritating Intel jingle flit through their mind) which is showcasing the latest state-of-the-art gaming technology.

"Just to give an idea of how bloody cold it is."

Both actress and director seemed on good form and were happy to talk about their reinterpretation of the story of Christ, with particular reference to the inclusion of female disciples, something that caused "a lot of debate" within the company. Apparently, plans are already afoot for their next movie, this time not biblical, although Mark couldn't go into details due to rights issues.

Interview over, I headed to the journalist's HQ to watch a screener disk of The Aura, the first five-star feature I have seen this festival. Starring Ricardo Darin, who has a great crumpled but cute thing going for him, it is the latest film by Nine Queens director Fabien Bielinsky. Darin (who starred in Nine Queens) plays an epileptic taxidermist who dreams of hold ups only to find that an accident puts him at the centre of a heist. With film noir credentials and wonderful characterisation, it is an absolute must-see and a very strong candidate for the foreign film Oscar.

Stuffed my face at Pizza Hut for lunch and then headed up to the ASCAP lounge to catch Bruce Hornsby. Boy, can that man play the piano! I'd never appreciated just what a talented musician he is, but as he mixed jazz riffs with Bach it became clear that he's got a lot more range than most people, including myself, give him credit for.

Afterwards I decided to head back to the motel to watch holocaust documentary KZ and Peter Mullan's latest Cargo along with a drink and an early night. Beer beckoned, so I made a foray to the local store in Coalville, which boasts off sales. When I went in the other day I failed in my task to find the beer department but today, I was a woman on a mission. Given that the shop is only around 50ft sq you would think beer location would be an easy task, especially for a veteran like myself, but no. Finally found the alcohol cowering in a walk-in fridge at the far reaches of the store. The light only goes on when you step inside, thus keeping the vicarious pleasures of 3.2% alcohol - the maximum allowed strength of beer in these parts - away from the sightlines of the under-21s. Die in Iraq? Hell, yeah. Drink a Budweiser? Not on your nelly. That stuff could kill ya!

Feeling every bit the dipsomaniac, I headed back to the ranch, stopping briefly to stock up on breakfast for the coming days. Turns out the motel owner is trying to fix up a cookout for The Descent publicists. Apparently, they wanted to take people to "some caves", presumably in a bid to get their movie distributed. The owner says she had to film the caves and send them the tape so they could see what suited them best. I would have thought one cave is much the same as another, but then, what do I know, I drink beer.

Settled down to watch KZ, a documentary about the Mauthausen Concentration Camp in Austria, which takes a different tack from many other Holocaust docs. Rather than containing archival footage, or personal accounts, it looks at how the history of the place impinges on the present, through the eyes of tourists and residents. Irritatingly, at the 56-minute (or one glass of wine) mark, the DVD cut out, so I'll have to pick up another tomorrow when I am supposed to be interviewing the director Rex Bloomstein. I suspect honesty may be the best policy. Hopefully we'll still be able to go ahead.

Pouring a second glass of wine, after checking that no one young, or impressionable, could see me, I settled down to watch Cargo. Mullan, as ever, is excellent in the lead, as the captain of a down-at-heel ship, trafficking birds from Africa to Europe, who finds himself at odds with a stowaway (Daniel Bruhl). Written by long time Ken Loach collaborator Paul Laverty and directed by documentary veteran Clive Gordon, it was interesting, if flawed. While the social message about the West's abuse of the Third World came through loud and clear, the thriller element was less successful. It felt oddly truncated in places, although it is by no means a bad film. I'm speaking to Clive and Paul tomorrow, so will ask whether it was cut up in the editing room for whatever reason.

I'm wondering how people manage to find time to party during Sundance. Presumably they do it at the expense of watching films, which seems a shame.

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