"True Love," a bittersweet comedy-drama about a young couple preparing for their wedding, and "For All Mankind," a stunning documentary about the first manned spaceflights to the moon, took the grand prizes Saturday night at the United States Film Festival.
Grand prizes are awarded each year in the dramatic and documentary independent film competitions and include cash awards, which were doubled this year - $5,000 went to each winner."True Love" is a slice-of-life look at an Italian community in the Bronx that some compared to "Moonstruck," though it has a decidedly harder edge. It was co-written and directed by Nancy Savoca.
"For All Mankind" is a rousing, patriotic, yet simple and straightforward look at America's space program, with incredible footage shot by the Apollo crews, narrated by the astronauts themselves. Producer-director Al Reinert took what he said the government had made "boring" material and turned it into a most compelling film.
In addition, two more awards in each category were given out, a sort of "people's choice" Audience Award that came from ballots cast at film festival screenings by audience members, and the Filmmakers Trophy, a peer award voted by each of the competing filmmakers themselves.
"For All Mankind" also won the documentary Audience Award, and the dramatic Audience Award went to the provocative "sex, lies and videotape," about an unhappily married couple and the changes they go through when the husband's old high school buddy invades their lives. The Filmmakers Trophies went to the comedy-drama "Powwow Highway" and the documentary "John Huston."
A special award was also given by the documentary jury to the Soviet film "Solovki Rule," directed by Marina Goldovskaya, who accompanied her film to the festival. It was shown as a special out-of-competition "premiere," but so affected the jury that it was honored as "a work of aesthetic rigor, political integrity and raw emotional power."
"Solovki Rule" examines gulag political camps during 1923-1939 and the pre-war Stalin regime. The jury said the film is "a stirring tribute to the memory of the victims and to the courage, humor and indomitable humanity of the survivors." The film will open in the spring in the Soviet Union and is expected to be picked up for American distribution shortly thereafter.
Awards were handed out Saturday evening at a ceremony emceed by director Paul Mazursky ("Down and Out in Beverly Hills," "Moon Over Parador"). Jurors for the dramatic films were actress Jodie Foster ("The Accused"), playwright /screenwriter Beth Henley ("Crimes of the Heart"), director Monte Hellman ("Two-Lane Blacktop"), producer Debra Hill ("Halloween"), director David Burton Morris ("Patti Rocks") and producer Peggy Rajski ("Eight Men Out"). Documentary jurors were Film Forum director Karen Cooper, filmmaker Elliot Caplan (filmmaker-in-residence at Cunningham Dance Foundation), producer Nick Hart-Williams ("True Stories"), director Dennis O'Rourke ("Half Life") and director Jean-Pierre Gorin ("Routine Pleasures").
Except for one last day of screenings in Park City (see the schedule in the Arts section), the festival is over, for all intents and purposes.
Festival workers are boxing up press kits, sweeping up Mrs. Fields cookie crumbs (all that's left of what has seemingly been the steady diet in the press room this past week) and packing their bags before heading for warmer climes. Needless to say, those taking well-earned vacations are hoping no in-flight movies are scheduled along the way.
Then they'll return and start thinking about the 1990 United States Film Festival.
Festival '89 was another success for the Sundance Institute and the Utah Film Development office, this year being more low-key in tone, and, as promised by Robert Redford himself, with more emphasis on the independent filmmakers whose movies were in competition.
There were good films and bad films, of course, but there was certainly something for everyone, including several programs aimed at families. That seemed to pay off, as quite a few children were noticeable among audience members - much more so than in previous years.
The monetary goals of the festival were easily met, with registrations up 30 percent from last year. Festival managing director Cinda Holt said most of those were during the 10-day festival's first five days. Overall audiences filled about 30,000 seats, roughly the same as last year.