An article on today's Huffington Post about the trial for the contract killing of Russian Journalist Anna Politkovskaya reminded me that I had not finished out my Sundance summary.
Monday was the last full day we spent at Sundance. We saw Peter Travis' Endgame starring William Hurt, first thing that morning. Peter Travis recently directed Vantage Point, and I didn't realize until I checked him on Imdb later, had directed one of my favorite British mini-series, "The Jury". Endgame tells the story of the last days of Apartheid in South Africa. Johnny Lee Miller plays a PR executive of a gold company who organizes secret talks in England between Mbeki and Willie Esterhusye, a philosophy professor played by William Hurt. It was a fascinating movie, and very well done. I wish there had been a little more insight into each man, maybe with a script by Peter Morgan who wrote The Queen and Frost/Nixon. The film will be shown on BBC4 next month, and I noted in the credits it was also produced by Masterpiece, so it may come to us on PBS soon. It's more suited to TV than the big screen.
We saw Adam next, and I've written about how great that film was in a separate post. As soon as Adam finished, my husband ran out to get in line for Brief Conversations with Hideous Men which was playing in the same Eccles Theater. We did not get as great seats, as you'll see from the pictures.
Brief Conversations with Hideous Men is based on a book of short stories by David Foster Wallace, who committed suicide last year. It's the directorial debut of John Krasinski (The Office) who also stars in the film, because an unnamed lead actor dropped out at the last minute. The device to show all the short stories is that a woman (Julianne Nicholson) is doing interviews for research at a university. John Krasinski obviously called in lots of favors as he got several good character actors to participate like Dominic Cooper, Joey Slotnick, Frankie Faison, Bobby Canavale, Will Arnett, Timothy Hutton and Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie. Not every interview works equally well, but most have quite the interesting twist to them. In the Q&A, John Krasinski told us that doing the airport scene from the book in college was what decided him to pursue acting as a career. The problem with the film is that it feels very academic, like something you'd see at a college. I'm not saying the actors didn't show talent, but the whole left me rather cold, and didn't flow as a story, but just a more disjointed set of short story vignettes. One reviewer said it belonged as an off-Broadway play instead of a movie. It wasn't my favorite film, and I had been looking forward to it because of Krasinski. The theater was packed with other fans, but I don't expect to see this movie at your local multi-plex anytime soon. It did have some laughs. You can see three clips from the film, here.
Since we couldn't score tickets to Adventureland, we made reservations for a nice dinner out on Main Street. Checking in at the hostess desk, I realized the John Cleese was sitting at the table near the front window. The way I was seated, I looked his direction all night. Then when I asked where the ladies' room was, I was told that it was in the basement. "There's a private party down there, but just walk all the way to the back." I walked right by Billy Bob Thorton who was sitting at the end of his table. That's Sundance!
The last movie we saw was 211: Anna. It's a documentary about the Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya who was murdered in a contract killing. The 211 in the title is because she was the 211th journalist to be killed in Russia. Her reporting on Chechnya and the truth about the way the Russian government handled the terrorist situations at the school in Beslan and the Moscow theater crisis. She was an amazingly brave woman. She had been the victim of intentional poisoning on one of her trips to Chechnya, and nothing would stop her reporting the truth. It got her killed. There was lots of archive footage of Anna, including an interview after the poisoning. She was asked if she would go back to Chechnya, and she just said "Of course!"
What was astonishing to me, was the average Russian citizens who were interviewed for the film who just shrugged at another journalist being murdered for reporting that painted Putin in a bad light. It was a sort of "what do you expect?" kind of attitude. The article from the Guardian today reported that the men accused of her murder had been acquitted. You don't appreciate what we have in our country with the free press until you see something like this.
I couldn't find a clip from 211: Anna, but found a clip from another film that shows Anna speaking about her fears in the first part:
We were walking home to our hotel after 1:00 in the morning after the documentary. In the parking lot of the hotel, we were passed by a tall man. After he passed us, my husband and I looked at each other, "That was Liam Neeson!" We went into the lobby and saw some of our friends, and told them who we just saw. A man with them we hadn't noticed said, "Let me guess, it was Liam Neeson." Our friends had been having beers with Liam and his co-star James Nesbitt after seeing Five Minutes of Heaven. What an end to a Sundance day!
You can see the rest of my pictures from Sundance here on Flickr.