Founded by Robert Redford, the annual festival in Park City aims to nurture independent filmmakers who might otherwise be eclipsed by output from the major studios — while Hollywood uses it to scout new up-and-coming talent.
This year’s event presented 119 feature films from 32 countries, including 51 first-timers and more than 100 world premieres.
Fruitvale, a film about a notorious US police shooting of an unarmed black man, won top prize on Saturday at the Sundance Film Festival, while movies from Russia and South Korea were among non-US honorees.
The movie by first-time director Ryan Coogler won the US drama Grand Jury award, as well as the US drama audience award at the end of America’s premier independent movie showcase, held in the snowy Utah mountains. In non-US categories, the Grand Jury Prize for a foreign drama went to Jiseul by South Korea’s Muel O, while Cambodian Kalyanee Mam’s A River Changes Course took the Grand Jury Prize for a foreign documentary.
The makers of a film about Russia’s Pussy Riot feminist group, which took a special jury prize, used their acceptance speech to hail the cause and rally support for its three members jailed in Moscow last year.
Fruitvale — named after the San Francisco Bay-area neighborhood where the action takes place — tells the real-life story of Oscar Grant, shot dead by police in the early hours of New Year’s Day 2009.
Video footage of the shooting taken on phone cameras spread online, and the killing triggered protests in Oakland the next day, some of which turned violent.
The film’s co-stars include Octavia Spencer, who won best supporting actress Oscar last year for her role in civil rights drama The Help.
The Grand Jury Prize for a US documentary went to Blood Brother, an American’s work on behalf of an AIDS-afflicted community in India. It also took the audience award for US documentary.
Best US drama director went to Jill Soloway for Afternoon Delight, while Zachary Heinzerling won best documentary director for Cutie and the Boxer. Two Special Jury prizes were given for US dramas: for acting in The Spectacular Now, and sound design in Upstream Color. For US documentaries Special Jury prizes went to Inequality for All and American Promise.
The Special Jury Prize for a foreign drama went to Circles by Serbian filmmaker Srdan Golubovic.
South Korea’s Muel O sent a video message accepting his Grand Jury award, in which he he paid tribute to those affected by the 1948 uprising on the island of Jeju off the country’s southern coast. “This is the story about their pain,” he told the audience.
One of the most highly-anticipated movies was jOBS, starring Ashton Kutcher as the late Apple founder and computer icon Steve Jobs. While the film was well received, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak noted that the “personalities are very wrong,” but added: “The movie should be very popular and I hope it’s entertaining.”
Winners of the main prizes
Grand Jury Prize for a US drama: Fruitvale by Ryan Coogler
Grand Jury Prize for a US documentary: Blood Brother by Steve Hoover
Grand Jury Prize for a foreign drama: Jiseul by Muel O (South Korea)
Grand Jury Prize for a foreign documentary: A River Changes Course by Kalyanee Mam (Cambodia).
Special Jury Prizes for a US drama: The Spectacular Now (acting) and Upstream Color (sound design)
Special Jury Prizes for a US documentary: Inequality for All and American Promise
Special Jury Prize for a foreign drama: Circles by Srdan Golubovic (Serbia)
Special Jury Prize for a foreign documentary: Pussy Riot: a Punk Prayer. (Anglo-Russian)
MEMORIES OF A FRIEND
Director Sebastian Junger returns to Sundance with a film that portrays the courage and humanity of a colleague he lost in a war zone
Sebastian Junger wishes his latest Sundance Film Festival documentary never had to be made. It’s been a bittersweet return for Junger at Sundance, where his war chronicle Restrepo won the top documentary prize three years ago.
Junger’s back with Which Way Is the Front Line from Here? The Life and Time of Tim Hetherington, a portrait of his Restrepo co-director, who was killed covering fighting in Libya in April 2011. The film debuts on April 18 on HBO.
Junger and producer James Brabazon, a long-time colleague with whom Hetherington covered combat in Liberia, were glad to share the film with Sundance audiences but uneasy coming to a festival that’s billed as a celebration of film.
“It’s an odd feeling. James and I are maybe the only filmmakers in the town who are in some ways quite sad our film exists,” Junger said in an interview alongside Brabazon. “But it’s also our opportunity to sort of communicate how extraordinary our good friend Tim Hetherington was.
BEST FRIENDS FOR REAL
Dakota Fanning and Elizabeth Olsen play best friends in Very Good Girls, which premiered this week at the Sundance Film Festival, and the two young actresses are close friends in real life. “We know each other from being Valley kids in LA,” Olsen said, adding that she and Fanning have many friends in common.
“All of our best friends are mutual best friends,” said Fanning. “We have known each other, and obviously got closer making this movie, as you do. So I think a lot of the scenes of us together are half Lilly and Gerry and half Dakota and Lizzie. I think that just adds another layer to the movie, that it’s real friends playing real friends.”