Sunday, 31 January 2010

Sundance Winners Announced

PARK CITY, Utah -- "Winter's Bone," director Debra Granik's spare, suspenseful tale of a teenage girl's coming-of-age in the rural Ozarks, and "Restrepo," Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington's intense, close-up documentary look at a group of American soldiers in Afghanistan, won the top jury prizes for American films at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival's Saturday evening awards ceremony.
Audience awards for American competition entries went to "Happythankyoumoreplease," writer-director Josh Radnor's sitcom-style comedy about young New Yorkers trying to deal with grown-up issues, and the docu "Waiting for Superman," Davis Guggenheim's agitating assessment of the failing of the American public schools system.

In the World Cinema section, the dramatic grand jury prizewinner was "Animal Kingdom," Australian writer-director David Michod's brooding drama about the disintegration of a Melbourne crime family, while "The Red Chapel," Danish helmer Mads Bruegger's prankish peek inside North Korea, copped the top documentary prize.

Audience winners for international features were Peruvian writer-director Javier Fuentes-Leon's "Contracorriente" (Undertow), a ghost story with unusual sexual complications, and "Waste Land," British documaker Lucy Walker's look at Brazilian artist Vik Muniz's photographic project involving the pickers of recycled garbage near Rio.

Directing award for the U.S. dramatic competition went to Eric Mendelsohn for "3 Backyards," a muted, acutely observational study of the dramatic in everyday life. Among U.S. documentaries, Leon Gast took directing honors for "Smash His Camera," about pioneering paparazzo Ron Galella.

World Cinema directing honors were given to Bolivian helmer Juan Carlos Valdivia for "Southern District," a view of the changes taking place in Bolivia as seen through a well-to-do family, and to Switzerland's Christian Frei for his docu "Space Tourists," about wealthy adventurers who buy trips to the international space station.

Honored with the Waldo Salt screenwriting awards were Granik and Anne Rosellini for "Winter's Bone" and Valdivia for "Southern District."

Special jury prizes were bestowed in several categories: to U.S. dramatic entry "Sympathy for Delicious," directed by Mark Ruffalo and written by Christopher Thornton, who also starred as a paralyzed DJ who gets involved in faith healing; to a U.S. documentary for "GasLand," Josh Fox's examination of natural gas' effects on air and water; to the World Cinema docu "Enemies of the People," directed by Rob Lemkin and Thet Sambath, about recent Cambodian history and the struggle for closure; and for breakout performance to Tatiana Maslany as a precocious teenager in the World Cinema entry "Grown Up Movie Star," from Canada.

Excellence in cinematography awards were given in four categories: to Zak Mulligan for director Diane Bell's "Obselidia" (U.S. dramatic); Kirsten Johnson and Laura Poitras for Poitras' "The Oath" (U.S. docu); cinematographer-directors Mariano Cohn and Gaston Duprat for "The Man Next Door" from Argentina (world dramatic) and Kate McCullough and Michael Lavelle for Ken Wardrop's "His and Hers" from Ireland (world docu).

Editing awards were accorded to two documentaries, to Penelope Falk for Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg's "Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work" (U.S.) and Joelle Alexis for Yael Hersonski's "A Film Unfinished" from Germany and Israel (world).

Sixteen films vied for awards in the two competitive U.S. sections, while there were 14 world cinema dramatic features and 12 world documentaries in the running.

The fest launched a category this year, Next, devoted to films made for less than $50,000. The Best of Next award went to the screwball comedy "Homewrecker," directed by brothers Todd and Brad Barnes; they wrote the script with Sophie Goodhart. Unusually, this award was determined by ballots cast by the eight filmmakers participating in the category.

Bell's "Obselidia" was the winner of the annual Alfred P. Sloan prize for a feature film focusing on science or technology as a theme. Award includes $20,000 in cash.

David Hyde Pierce, who starred in the Midnight feature "The Perfect Host," presided over the award ceremonies, where presenters included Louis C.K. and Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

Serving on the juries were: Russell Banks, Jason Kliot, Karyn Kusama, Parker Posey and Robert Yeoman (U.S. dramatic); Greg Barker, Dayna Goldfine, Nancy Miller, Morgan Spurlock and Ondi Timoner (U.S. documentary); Alison Maclean, Lisa Schwarzbaum and Sigurjon "Joni" Sighvatsson (World Cinema dramatic); Jennifer Baichwal, Jeffrey Brown and Asako Fujioka (World Cinema documentary); Sterlin Harjo, Brent Hoff and Christine Vachon (shorts); and Peter Galison, Darcy Kelley, Joe Palca, Paul Sereno and Marianna Palka (Alfred P. Sloan).

Previously announced jury prizewinners for short filmmaking were Jeremy Konner's "Drunk History: Douglass and Lincoln" (U.S.) and Mark Albiston and Louis Sutherland's "The Six Dollar Fifty Man" from New Zealand (world). Honorable mentions went to: Cynthia Wade's "Born Sweet" (U.S./Cambodia), Jim Owen's "Can We Talk?" (U.K.), James Blagden's "Dock Ellis and the LSD No-No" (U.S.), Alex Montoya's "How I Met Your Father" (Spain), Amy Grappell's "Quadrangle" (U.S.), Eric Lynne's "Rob and Valentyna in Scotland" (U.S./UK) and Ariel Kleiman's "Young Love" (Australia).

The Sundance/NHK Intl. Filmmakers Awards are given annually to emerging filmmakers and projects in the U.S., Japan, Europe and Latin America. Winners this year were: Amat Escalante, "Heli," from Mexico; Andrei Zvyagintsev, "Elena," from Russia; Daisuke Yamaoka, "The Wonderful Lives of Asahigaoka" (written with Yugo Eto) from Japan, and Benh Zeitlin, "Beasts of the Southern Wild" (written with Lucy Alibar) from the U.S.

Source: Todd McCarthy for Variety