Entertainment News Wednesday February 1st, 2006  
Sundance Film Fest Wrap-Up
Posted:   Monday January 30th, 2006 12:46pm
Source:   Dark Horizons
Author:   Garth Franklin
Hey there I'm in New York right now on my annual break - hanging with friends and catching up on films. Dark Horizons' Los Angeles junket man Paul Fischer has been busy up in the colder climes of Park City, Utah to attend this year's Sundance Film Festival and deliver his final report from the last few days of action.

Sundance Film Festival 2006 Report - by 'Paul Fischer'

- Days 3-7 -

Today was a day of interviews. First bumped into William H. Macy at a deli on Main St. He's in town, briefly, for Thank You for Smoking in which he co-stars as an anti-smoking politician in the acerbic satire. Bill confirmed he's about to make his directorial debut with a film he hopes to begin shooting in August. He has confirmed Halle Berry in the lead and possibly his wife Felicity Huffman. We both agreed it was about time he directed a feature.

Then it was off to chat to his 'Smoking' co-star Aaron Eckhardt who has finally put The Core and Paycheck behind him to concentrate on films he believes in. He's great in Smoking as a lobbyist for the smoking lobby and is currently practising his cooking for the Hollywood remake of Mostly Martha opposite Catherine Zeta Jones. "We will be shooting in New York Scott Hicks directing so I think it will be an intelligent take on the romantic genre." Aaron says he hopes to go straight from Martha right into another movie but won't confirm the project.

Next caught up with Guy Pearce in town for yet another festival screening of the acclaimed Aussie film The Proposition. Pearce had finished wrapping his new film about Andy Warhol. He confirmed he "a ton of research. In fact was there anything I didn't read about the guy. " Guy also has high marks for co-star Sienna Miller. "She's amazing." The actor plans on taking a break before deciding on his next film, but did confirmed it is likely to be Death Defying Acts for fellow Aussie Gillian Armstrong, to be shot in London. The film was to star recent Golden Globe winner Rachel Weisz who puled out after getting pregnant. The film will be recast in the next few months.

Next up was Josh Hartnett and the always luminous Lucy Liu talking about Lucky Number Slevin. Liu said she was still working with Universal on the long awaited Charlie Chan project, conceding that "it's not resembling the movie we began with. We are still trying to get the script right." Surprisingly despite a busy schedule she said she would not rule out another Charlie's Angels script. "i'd love to work with those guys again as it was so much. But obviously that's up to the powers that be." As for Hartnett he's excited about The Black Dahlia and says he loved working with De Palma "and playing a fedora wearing forties character."

The Proposition
While The Proposition, the intense Australian Western drama, has been and gone in its native Australia, the film was still getting a lot of buzz for the film's U.S premiere at Sundance. This vivid, powerful film is set in the outback of 1880s Australia, with yet another gunfight between the police and a gang of outlaws leaving carnage in its wake. Charlie Burns (Guy Pearce) and his brother Mikey (Richard Wilson) are captured by Captain Stanley (Ray Winstone). Their psychopathic brother, Arthur (Danny Huston), is hiding somewhere in the bush; all three are wanted for a brutal crime. Stanley makes Charlie a devastating proposition in an attempt to bring an end to the cycle of bloody violence. Unlik the classic American western, The Proposition blurs good and evil and does not present us with stereotypical stock figures. From an exquisitely taut and sharp script by Nick Cave, and the beautifully realised direction of John Hilcoat, The Proposition is truly a mesmerising and captivating work, a masterpiece of filmmaking that captures the pure essence of the harsh Australian landscape, brutal io its desolate beauty. Featuring wonderful performances by Pearce, Huston and a fabulous Ray Winstone, this film is bound to attain critical raves and respectable box office when First Look Releasing releases The Proposition in select US cities in May.

The Hawk is Dying
The films at Sundance one savours are those that creep up on you with few pre-expectations and mostly these are competition films. The Hawk is Dying is such a film. Based on the Harry Crew novel, the magnificent Paul Giamatti stars as a Gainesville Florida auto upholsterer who attempts to subvert his mundane life by training a wild, red-tailed hawk, and in doing so, try and bring added meaning into the life of his mentally handicapped nephew. This is a haunting, lyrical work, beautifully directed by Julian Goldberger and featuring a spectacular performance by Giamatti.

Half Nelson
Half Nelson was also a film to savour, featuring a richly layered performance by Ryan Gosling as an English teacher addicted to cocaine, trying to remain afloat through his relationship with his 13-year old African-American student. Hauntingly eloquent and honest, here is another Sundance film to watch out for.

Sundance is defined, as always, by its diversity, and that is what this Indie film festival is al about. Finally, there are the awards.

The winners of the 2006 Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prizes, World Cinema Jury Prizes, and Audience Awards were announced at the closing award ceremony in Park City, Utah. For the first time in the Festival's history, both the Grand Jury Prizes and Audience Awards for Documentary and Dramatic Competitions were presented to the same two films.

The Grand Jury Prize: Documentary was given to GOD GREW TIRED OF US, directed by Christopher Quinn. In the late 1980's, 27,000 Sudanese lost boys marched barefoot over thousands of miles of barren desert, seeking safe haven from the brutal civil war in their homeland. The film chronicles the experiences of three of these boys who seek refuge in the U.S. as they work to adjust to a strange new world.

The Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic was presented to QUINCEANERA, written and directed by Wash Westmoreland and Richard Glatzer. Disaffected Latino teenagers come of age in a gentrifying community in the Echo Park district of Los Angeles. Westmoreland and Glatzer have molded their mostly unknown ensemble into a tender portrait of a changing world and in doing so, have illuminated modern realities of family and hope.

The World Cinema Jury Prize: Documentary was given to IN THE PIT (Mexico), written and directed by Juan Carlos Rulfo. According to Mexican legend, whenever a bridge is built the devil asks for one soul, in exchange for keeping the bridge standing. This film chronicles the daily lives of the workers building a second deck to Mexico City's Periferico freeway their hopes, dreams and struggle for survival.

The World Cinema Jury Prize: Dramatic was presented to 13 TZAMETI (France), written and directed by Gla Babluani. When the protagonist decides to follow instructions intended for someone else, he finds himself at the brink of human decency, a place whose only inhabitants are the underbelly of society. In his feature debut, Babluani expertly combines story and style.

The Audience Award: Documentary was presented to GOD GREW TIRED OF US, a film directed by Christopher Quinn.

The Audience Award: Dramatic winner is QUINCEANERA, written and directed by Wash Westmoreland and Richard Glatzer. The Audience Awards are sponsored by Volkswagen of America, and are given to a documentary and a dramatic film screening in competition, as voted by Film Festival audiences.

The World Cinema Audience Award: Documentary was presented to DE NADIE (Mexico), directed by Tin Dirdamal. Maria, a Central American immigrant who is forced to leave her family in search of a better life embarks on the dangerous 1300-mile journey through Mexico to the U.S. Without taking a political stance, the film provides a deeper understanding of the United States' border crisis and intolerance in Mexican society.

The World Cinema Audience Award: Dramatic was presented to NO. 2 (New Zealand), written and directed by Toa Fraser. Nanna Maria's family has forgotten how to party. She's going to change all that, and make them come alive with the heat and passion of the South Pacific.

Thus ends another Sundance and it's back to the City of Angels and the more mainstream world of Hollywood. Till next January.
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