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Sundance: Ben Gibbard, Jeff Daniels, and the 'Sin Nombre' kids in the snow

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Morning kicked off quiet, with a calm and pleasant visit from the cast of John Krasinski’s directorial debut (!!!), an adaptation of David Foster Wallace’s Brief Interviews with Hideous Men. We’ll stick a camera in Krasinski’s face tomorrow — stay tuned! — so we caught up with Death Cab for Cutie frontman Ben Gibbard instead, who acts in the film and also happens to be here in support of his special lady friend, Zooey Deschanel. Gibbard raved about her 500 Days of Summer, of course, and managed to do it without seeming overly biased; meanwhile, sleepy castmate Lou Taylor Pucci had nothing but great things to say about Krasinski’s ability to create a loose, fun vibe on set. The movie premieres at 3:15 today, and this DFW-loving journalist absolutely cannot wait.

We also have video forthcoming from the terrific Paul Giamatti, here in support of Cold Souls; he was followed into the EW Loft by almost all of the principals from Arlen Faber, once again including Pucci (no wonder he’s sleepy). In Faber, Jeff Daniels gets his crabby author on to play a guy who wrote a best-selling book on spirituality, but in the subsequent 20 years has retreated from society and is, as writer/director John Hindman put it, “the least spiritual person ever to walk the face of the earth.” Actress Olivia Thirlby called their shoot “the most pleasant I’ve ever worked on. It was the uber-independent,” and despite the absence of Lauren Graham (who plays Daniels’ love interest), the cast generated the appropriate amount of warm, bookish intelligence. When asked what makes Daniels so good at these writerly roles (think The Squid and the Whale), Hindman called him a “Renaissance man.” The actor immediately demurred. “Small r, maybe,” he said. “Wanna take it down?”

Chiwetel Ejiofor arrived to discuss his premiere of Endgame, which he calls a “political thriller” based on The Fall of Apartheid, by Robert Harvey. Chewy plays Thabo Mbeki, the leader of the African National Congress (a militant group aimed at ending the oppression), who ultimately helped broker a truce for reconciliation. “Nothing is an immovable fact,” said Ejiofor of the film’s message. “In the late ’80s, apartheid was a fact. Everybody assumed that it was something everybody would have to live with forever. And the swiftness with which it was deconstructed is still amazing to me. The same can be said for the Berlin Wall. What this film reminds me of is that none of the situations we’re faced with today are these intractable problems that have no end. There is an end, and it takes dedicated people to secure that end, and it doesn’t have to be an end that is violent. It can be negotiated. That is always possible.”

But the emotional heart of the morning walked in with the cast of Sin Nombre, currently getting raves around town. Writer/director Cary Fukunaga described the story as “this young kid in a street gang who saves the life of a Honduran girl, trying to cross Mexico on top of freight trains to get to the United States.” In short, “It’s an ugly, beautiful thing.” The four Central American cast members present — Edgar Flores, Paulina Caitan, Tenoch Huerta, and Diana Garcia — may have been battling a bit of a language barrier, but they still managed to communicate what it means to watch a film so close to their hearts premiere at this festival. Caitan especially appeared to be very affected by the material, for reasons she preferred, shyly, not to explain.

“For me, it was really important to tell the story of my country and my people,” summarized Garcia. “I thought the story could change people’s perspective of immigrants or gangs.” The cast confessed that they all cried, as Huerta put it, “like baby girls” at their first screening.

The jury’s still out on whether that intense experience could top another big first here for the kids: playing in the snow.

Chiwetel Ejiofor arrived to discuss his premiere of Endgame, which he calls a “political thriller” based on The Fall of Apartheid, by Robert Harvey. Chewy plays Thabo Mbeki, the leader of the African National Congress (a militant group aimed at ending the oppression), who ultimately helped broker a truce for reconciliation. “Nothing is an immovable fact,” said Ejiofor of the film’s message. “In the late ’80s, apartheid was a fact. Everybody assumed that it was something everybody would have to live with forever. And the swiftness with which it was deconstructed is still amazing to me. The same can be said for the Berlin Wall. What this film reminds me of is that none of the situations we’re faced with today are these intractable problems that have no end. There is an end, and it takes dedicated people to secure that end, and it doesn’t have to be an end that is violent. It can be negotiated. That is always possible.”

But the emotional heart of the morning walked in with the cast of Sin Nombre, currently getting raves around town. Writer/director Cary Fukunaga described the story as “this young kid in a street gang who saves the life of a Honduran girl, trying to cross Mexico on top of freight trains to get to the United States.” In short, “It’s an ugly, beautiful thing.” The four Central American cast members present — Edgar Flores, Paulina Caitan, Tenoch Huerta, and Diana Garcia — may have been battling a bit of a language barrier, but they still managed to communicate what it means to watch a film so close to their hearts premiere at this festival. Caitan especially appeared to be very affected by the material, for reasons she preferred, shyly, not to explain.

“For me, it was really important to tell the story of my country and my people,” summarized Garcia. “I thought the story could change people’s perspective of immigrants or gangs.” The cast confessed that they all cried, as Huerta put it, “like baby girls” at their first screening.

The jury’s still out on whether that intense experience could top another big first here for the kids: playing in the snow.