Sundance 2007: Day Six

Outstanding Brit flick Son of Rambow takes the breath away, Nick Broomfield discusses Ghosts, and Crossing The Line crosses the critics well.

by Amber Wilkinson

The adorable Son Of Rambow - waging war on professional filmmaking.

The adorable Son Of Rambow - waging war on professional filmmaking.

The pictures with British interest are going from strength to strength here at Sundance. In addition to the superb performance by Brenda Blethyn in Clubland and Kate Dickie's award-winning turn in Red Road, we can add Son Of Rambow to the list of Very Good Things To Come Out Of The UK.

So fresh from the cutting room that even its young stars haven't seen it yet, it premiered on Monday night, but Eye For Film was lucky enough to snag tickets for the 8.30am Tuesday screening. Director Garth Jennings - one half of Hammer And Tongs, the team that brought us The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy last year - revealed that only 10 people had seen the film prior to the premiere, but that certainly didn't stop a bidding war breaking out.

It has sold to Paramount Vantage for a reported $8 million - a record which even tops last year's Little Miss Sunshine.

Those buyers know what they are doing, since the film is an excellent tale of childhood friendship and imagination, which is sure to have a widespread appeal. Similar in tone to 2005's Millions, it tells the tale of a boy from a sheltered background who has an ephiphanic moment after watching Rambo First Blood and embarks on an adventure with his new found baddest-boy-in-school pal that he is unlikely to forget, as they try to make a film to submit for Screen Test*.

Answering questions at the end of the screening, Garth Jennings offered badges for any that were asked. Eye For Film felt it only right to oblige, so asked him whether he was in fact one of those mythical beasts who had entered the competition. "No, I thought about it, but I never really finished things properly. The guy in the clip we picked for the film went on to be one of the main guys in Pixar."

When asked about getting the rights for the use of the Rambo clips used in the film, Garth said it was fun, although he had to get Sylvester Stallone's permission.

"It's great writing a letter 'Dear Mr Stallone'. I was delighted to see his signature is very unimpressive. Really just a squiggle."

The Q&A was also notable for a fun bit of 'business' after his phone went off. "It's my composer," he said, before adding that there are so many out at Sundance that the composer is sleeping in his cupboard. Maybe it will give him inspiration for a bedroom suite ("You're fired!" - Ed).

After the Q&A Eye For Film headed straight for a press screening of Low And Behold, a narrative feature set in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. It was preceded by a pretty poor short - Aftermath On Meadowlark Lane - about two brothers, one circumcised and one not, enough said.

Low And Behold was a tidy little movie, pictured left, with cracking central performances by Eddie Rouse (Undertow, George Washington), Barlow Jacobs and Robert Longstreet. Like many films this year - Longford, Ghosts, et al - it blurs the line between fact and fiction, layering a narrative onto true events.

There was just time to grab a bite to eat before heading out to interview Ghosts director Nick Broomfield and star of his film Ai Qin Lin. I could sense he was busy from the get go so kept it brief, although it was interesting to hear his take on the blending of fiction and fact. He said he intended this film to provoke a debate about the state of illegal immigration in Britain - and was at pains to point out that it has already raised questions in the house. He said he "wanted to make a narrative film next" and then the subject came along. It's another narrative next... but I'll tell you more about that when I write up the interview.

In the 'don't you love the irony' stakes, Brenda Blethyn was sat on the sofa next to me giving an interview to someone else. You have to laugh round these parts or you might just cry.

In the spirit of the Sundance badges which are rightly urging us to "Focus On Film" we headed back to the screening rooms for documentary Banished - about the forced eviction of black Americans from many US counties at the turn of the 20th century which has a lasting legacy today. I'm found of saying that it is almost impossible to make a bad documentary, if the subject is interesting, there is almost always something of merit.

Banished, however, takes what should be an interesting subject and kills it stone dead. There are three separate stories but no clear overview linking them together and the editing feels hurried. This should have been a sparky debate piece but instead it becomes a dry polemic.

Thank goodness then for Crossing The Line - which is enough to restore anyone's faith in documentaries. It tells the story of James Dresnok, the US army defector who crossed over into North Korea and remains there with his family to this day. Painstakingly researched and illustrated, this is what documentaries should be all about. Director Daniel Jordan has created a fascinating little gem.

With four films watched it was time to feed so we headed for the brew pub up in town. Amazingly, despite the cold it hasn't snowed in days, so the streets are clear and full of party-goers. Some of us, however, have diaries to write and schedules to plot, so we head for the hills. Check back tomorrow to see me go at it Hammer and Tongs. Which reminds me... I never did get a badge!

Favourite sign of the day: One advertising 'Free Dirt'. Marvellous.

*For those too not-British or not-over-30 to remember, this was a programmed from the heady days of the late 70s and early 80s which was part quiz and part film show, encouraging kids to "send in their films", for which a prize was awarded each year. Naturally, everyone always thought they would send in a film ... yet you never ever meet anyone who has - including director Jennings (see above)

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