We are back from planet Sundance and slowly recovering from our intergalactic journey. When you are at the festival it feels like everyone is complaining about how tired they are or how they cannot get into the films and parties they want, about feeling overwhelmed by all the options, how they feel the festival isn't truly about "independent film" anymore, the declining swag, the celebrities, etc. In retrospect, it all seems so silly. So yes, the festival has become bigger than the britches it originally set out to inhabit and it has become an industry driven event, but if you can weed through all the stars, schmoozing and marketing, the festival is a unique and incredible happening built upon a foundation of community, experimentation and love of the craft. People often lose sight of this.
So that said, it is time to give a round up of the films that walked away with honors at the festival.
Taking home the American Documentary Jury Prize was Eugene Jarecki for Why We Fight. Eugene, brother of Andrew “Capturing the Friedmans” Jarecki, also brought us the much-lauded The Trials of Henry Kissinger. Gothamist caught Why We Fight out at Sundance and was sort of disappointed by the attention the doc paid to the Iraq war. Perhaps we are just so sick of these Bush-bashing documentaries that this film's Texas two-step into that same realm just set us off. We don't know if this film will turn off audiences as Michael Moore's film did; it is certainly not as heavy-handed and does give time to the other side, but I think Moore has made the “Right” cautious of anything that could potentially be seen as left-wing propaganda. Right now, as far as we know, the film still lacks a distribution deal in the U.S.
The American Dramatic Grand Jury Prize went to Forty Shades of Blue, a film directed by Ira Sachs and developed through the Sundance Screenwriters Lab. Ira hails from New York and is a Sundance veteran; The Delta was in the festival in 1997. Unfortunately, we didn't catch the Memphis-shot Forty Shades during the festival, but we know that Ira labored over the project for more six years.
Grand Jury prizes were also dealt to World Cinema Doc entry Shape of the Moon directed by Leonard Retel Helmrich and World Cinema Dramatic competition film The Hero directed by Zeze Gamboa.
And distributors THINKFilm and Paramount are hoping that the audience awards given to Murderball and Hustle and Flow are an indication of positive word of mouth and box office receipts outside of Sundance's ivory tower.
Other recipients of Sundance honors include Brooklyn native Noah Baumbach, who pocketed the Waldo Salt Screenwriting and Dramatic Directing Awards for his entry The Squid and the Whale; New Jersey born Lou Pucci, who received accolades for his performance in Mike Mill's Thumbsucker and Columbia film grad Patricia Riggen who received a jury prize in short filmmaking for Family Portrait.
For a full list of award winners go to the Sundance website.
Next we’ll give a wrap-up of our favorites from the fest and a small photo essay.
Editor's note: Documentary short Bullets in the Hood, directed by New York natives Terrence Fisher and Daniel Howard, was also honored with a Special Recognition Award.