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'Whiplash' wins big at Sundance Awards Ceremony

Published: Sunday, Jan. 26 2014 6:03 p.m. MST

Robert Redford, founder and president of Sundance Institute, and Keri Putnam, Sundance Institute executive director, talk to the media at the opening press conference of the 2014 Sundance Film Festival at the Egyptian Theatre in Park City on Thursday, Jan. 16, 2014.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

PARK CITY — "Whiplash" and the documentary "Rich Hill" claimed the top prizes at the Sundance Film Festival Awards Ceremony Saturday night.

Buzz surrounding "Whiplash" permeated the 2014 festival, earning the film an audience award in addition to its Grand Jury prize. The film, directed by the 29-year-old Damien Chazelle, stars Miles Teller as an ambitious jazz drummer studying under a ruthless and demanding instructor, played by J.K. Simmons.

"It was just impossible to finance because no one wants to make a movie about a jazz drummer," Chazelle said. "This is an incredible honor and it's such a nice way to complete this journey."

In international cinema, "To Kill a Man" and "Return to Homs" claimed the World Cinema Grand Jury Prizes for a dramatic film and documentary film, respectively.

Husband-and-wife duo Nick Offerman, of NBC's "Parks and Recreation," and Megan Mullally, of "Will and Grace," hosted the event, which was held at the Basin Recreation Fieldhouse in Park City.

Commenting on the festival's 30th anniversary, Mullally said Sundance is "looking pretty foxy for its age," and honored festival founder Robert Redford for creating an event that "brings together some of the most talented and innovative artists in the world."

In addition to the grand jury awards, films were recognized for writing, directing, and cinematography. Awards were distributed on the penultimate day of this year's festival, which showcased 118 feature-length films from 37 countries during its 10-day run in Park City, Salt Lake City, Ogden and at the Sundance Resort.

"I want you to look at the people around you and be very proud of yourselves. You're here," Offerman told the festival filmmakers. "It’s an astonishing accomplishment. Keep up the good work, please and thank you."

Festival Director John Cooper similarly congratulated the filmmakers for their work. He said that success is not measured by awards won and lost or whether a film is purchased for distribution. Instead, Cooper said, success is measured by the response of an audience.

"On that success front you killed it this year," Cooper said. "I am inspired by your courage and in awe of your passion."

Audience awards for international films were given to the documentary "The Green Prince" and the narrative feature "Difret." "Alive Inside: A Story of Music & Memory" received the audience awards for a U.S. documentary film.

This year's Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award went to "The Skeleton Twins," a comedy starring "Saturday Night Live" alums Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader.

A full list of this year's award winners can be found on the Sundance Film Festival website.

The 10-day festival drew thousands of visitors to the Beehive State and Park City. During the Salt Lake Gala screening of "Mitt" early in the festival, Gov. Gary Herbert said the Festival contributed $375 million in economic impact for the state over the past five years.

Barb Hyatt attended the festival for her seventh time this year and listed "Whiplash" and "Wish I Was Here" among the standouts from the week. The Baltimore, Maryland resident has a home in Park City that brings her to Utah for the winters, but she said it's her love of film that leads her back to Sundance.

"I love bringing my friends out here and entertaining them with the whole festival experience," Hyatt said.

Film fans who weren't able to make the trip to Park City for the 10-day festival will be able to see many Sundance films in theaters in the coming months. Actor-director Zach Braff's "Wish I Was Here" was purchased by Focus Features for a reported $2.7 million, crowd-pleaser "Whiplash" was picked up by Sony Pictures Classics for roughly $2.5 million and "The One I Love," starring Elisabeth Moss and Mark Duplass was acquired by RADiUS-TWC.

Other films that have secured distribution include Joe Swanberg's "Happy Christmas," starring Anna Kendrick and Lena Dunham, "Laggies" starring Keira Knightley and Sam Rockwell and "I Origins," starring Michael Pitt and Brit Marling.

The documentary "Mitt," directed by Greg Whiteley, was acquired by Netflix prior to the start of the festival and was made available for streaming online Friday. Many of the short films featured during the festival are also available on youtube.

The Sundance Film Festival officially ends on Sunday, but free screenings of the award winners will be held for local audiences on Monday, Jan. 27. Tickets are required for those screenings but a waitlist option is available.

Keri Putnam, executive director of the Sundance Institute, encouraged guests at Saturday's awards ceremony to continue discussing and sharing their reactions to the films they had seen after the festival ends.

"This has been an amazing 10 days," Putnam said, before congratulating the filmmakers in attendance. "This festival really is about you and celebrating your voices and your creativity."

Email: benwood@deseretnews.com

Twitter: bjaminwood

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