Observing life: Sundance is the coolest film festival in more ways than one

Last month I had the pleasure of attending, for the first time, the Sundance Film festival in Park City, Utah, as the guest of TV broadcaster the Sundance Channel.

The festival, a favourite among indie cinema fans for almost four decades, came barely a month after the Dubai International Film Festival, and with that event fresh in my mind I couldn’t help but compare the two.

The most immediately striking difference was, unsurprisingly, the weather. I’ve become accustomed to festivals by the sea in bright sunshine. As soon as I stepped out of Salt Lake City Airport into -15°C temperatures, it became clear I needed to get my coat out of my suitcase sooner rather than later.

The temperature affects the cinema experience too – with multiple layers of clothes to remove, you need to give yourself a good 10 minutes before the movie starts, while piles of coats, hats and scarves on chair backs and on the floor make navigating the rows of seats an assault course in the dark.

The festival is the polar opposite of Dubai’s exclusive red carpets, evening gowns and black ties. Think instead white carpets, parkas and moonboots, whether you’re a Hollywood star in town for a premiere or a local who picked up a standby ticket after work.

The casual vibe extends indoors – I have never been served fried chicken in the five-star environs of Madinat Jumeirah by a man called Brad in a lumberjack shirt.

One American film director in my hotel was thrown into a panic, calling all of her friends at the festival in search of an evening dress having unexpectedly been invited to a dinner that required formal attire – she’d have no trouble tracking one down at Diff.

One thing that really surprised me was how spread out the ­festival was. While Main Street made for a compact social hub, only one screening venue, the Egyptian Theatre, is actually on the street – the others are scattered around in the mountains, some of them three shuttle-bus rides away.

The population of Park City is only around 9,000 people. Admittedly this is a deceptive figure – that is the permanent population but in winter the town transforms into one of the biggest ski resorts in the United States, while the festival attracts a further 50,000 visitors.

Still, it amazed me that a town that presumably spends much of the year as a sleepy backwater could stretch out across quite such a great distance. It put into perspective the many times I’ve heard journalists at Diff complain about the arduous shuttle ride all the way from Madinat Jumeirah to Mall of the Emirates for a screening. Park City also gives Dubai’s infamous traffic a run for its money, what with the Sundance crowds, mountain roads and frequent, heavy snow.

It wasn’t all heavy coats and arduous treks through the mountains to catch a screening of the next surprise box-office smash though – I did allow myself one little luxury.

I had noted on the internet that my hotel featured an outdoor heated pool and hot tub, and so I promised myself that at least one morning I would get up ­extra-early and sample this hot-and-cold experience. It was an incredible way to start the day, soaking in a steaming-hot tub surrounded by freezing snow and mountain vistas.

If anyone from Diff is reading, I’ll be demanding that a hot tub is installed at Ski Dubai for my new early-morning routine before I write a single word about this year’s event. A simple shower is just so ... European?


Director: Nag Ashwin

Starring: Prabhas, Saswata Chatterjee, Deepika Padukone, Amitabh Bachchan, Shobhana

Rating: ★★★★


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Touch is derived from rugby league. Teams consist of up to 14 players with a maximum of six on the field at any time.

Teams can make as many substitutions as they want during the 40 minute matches.

Similar to rugby league, the attacking team has six attempts - or touches - before possession changes over.

A touch is any contact between the player with the ball and a defender, and must be with minimum force.

After a touch the player performs a “roll-ball” - similar to the play-the-ball in league - stepping over or rolling the ball between the feet.

At the roll-ball, the defenders have to retreat a minimum of five metres.

A touchdown is scored when an attacking player places the ball on or over the score-line.

Some of Darwish's last words

"They see their tomorrows slipping out of their reach. And though it seems to them that everything outside this reality is heaven, yet they do not want to go to that heaven. They stay, because they are afflicted with hope." - Mahmoud Darwish, to attendees of the Palestine Festival of Literature, 2008

His life in brief: Born in a village near Galilee, he lived in exile for most of his life and started writing poetry after high school. He was arrested several times by Israel for what were deemed to be inciteful poems. Most of his work focused on the love and yearning for his homeland, and he was regarded the Palestinian poet of resistance. Over the course of his life, he published more than 30 poetry collections and books of prose, with his work translated into more than 20 languages. Many of his poems were set to music by Arab composers, most significantly Marcel Khalife. Darwish died on August 9, 2008 after undergoing heart surgery in the United States. He was later buried in Ramallah where a shrine was erected in his honour.

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Kevin Gameiro 21', 51'

Ferran Torres 67'

Atlanta 4

Josip Llicic 3' (P), 43' (P), 71', 82'

Captain Marvel

Director: Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck

Starring: Brie Larson, Samuel L Jackson, Jude Law,  Ben Mendelsohn

4/5 stars


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July 5, 1994: Jeff Bezos founds Cadabra Inc, which would later be renamed to Amazon.com, because his lawyer misheard the name as 'cadaver'. In its earliest days, the bookstore operated out of a rented garage in Bellevue, Washington

July 16, 1995: Amazon formally opens as an online bookseller. Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought becomes the first item sold on Amazon

1997: Amazon goes public at $18 a share, which has grown about 1,000 per cent at present. Its highest closing price was $197.85 on June 27, 2024

1998: Amazon acquires IMDb, its first major acquisition. It also starts selling CDs and DVDs

2000: Amazon Marketplace opens, allowing people to sell items on the website

2002: Amazon forms what would become Amazon Web Services, opening the Amazon.com platform to all developers. The cloud unit would follow in 2006

2003: Amazon turns in an annual profit of $75 million, the first time it ended a year in the black

2005: Amazon Prime is introduced, its first-ever subscription service that offered US customers free two-day shipping for $79 a year

2006: Amazon Unbox is unveiled, the company's video service that would later morph into Amazon Instant Video and, ultimately, Amazon Video

2007: Amazon's first hardware product, the Kindle e-reader, is introduced; the Fire TV and Fire Phone would come in 2014. Grocery service Amazon Fresh is also started

2009: Amazon introduces Amazon Basics, its in-house label for a variety of products

2010: The foundations for Amazon Studios were laid. Its first original streaming content debuted in 2013

2011: The Amazon Appstore for Google's Android is launched. It is still unavailable on Apple's iOS

2014: The Amazon Echo is launched, a speaker that acts as a personal digital assistant powered by Alexa

2017: Amazon acquires Whole Foods for $13.7 billion, its biggest acquisition

2018: Amazon's market cap briefly crosses the $1 trillion mark, making it, at the time, only the third company to achieve that milestone

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