The two most highly anticipated events of the Sundance Film Festival both occurred Saturday. Awards were handed out to the best of the fest, measured both by audiences and jurors - and Jackie Chan came to town.
And if you think it's frivolous to suggest that the arrival of the martial-arts comedy superstar is on a par with the independent competition prizes, you weren't there to see Chan receive what no other celebrity at a Sundance festival has ever received - a rousing standing ovation before his film was shown!Among the many awards handed out to independent filmmakers by Sundance, the top honors voted by audience members have gradually taken the spotlight away from prizes awarded by juries. One of the reasons is that they can be better anticipated, and this year it was no surprise that "Care of the Spitfire Grill" won the Audience Award in the dramatic category.
A gentle character study of a troubled young woman released from prison who tries to rebuild her life in a small town, it had been the talked-up front-runner since the festival's first weekend.
Meanwhile, "Welcome to the Dollhouse" was chosen by the dramatic competition jury for its Grand Jury Prize. The film is a heartbreakingly humorous story of a picked-on young girl enduring her first year of junior high school in New Jersey.
On the documentary side, "Troublesome Creek: A Midwestern" took both the Audience Award and the documentary competition Grand Jury Prize. A real-life save-the-farm story, "Troublesome Creek" follows a family over the course of a year and a half as they try to meet a $200,000 debt the bank has called in. The film gains additional power with the knowledge that the film's narrator (and co-director/writer/
producer and editor), Jeanne Jordan, is the daughter of the distressed farming couple.
Though Sundance offers no official award for acting, Lili Taylor received Special Jury Recognition for her performance in "I Shot Andy Warhol," the controversial true story of radical, violent feminist Valerie Solanas. Taylor also received praise for her roles in two other Sundance presentations this year, the premiere film "Cold Fever" and the dramatic competition film "Girls Town."
Taylor also figured in another Special Jury Recognition award, this one citing "Girls Town" (which she is credited with co-writing) for its "collaboration." And a third Special Jury Recognition citation was awarded to the documentary "When We Were Kings," for "artistic merit."
Cinematography Awards were given to Andrew Young for "Cutting Loose" in the dramatic category and to Bob Sweeney for the documentary "Color of a Brisk and Leaping Day."
The Filmmakers Trophies, voted on by the competition filmmakers themselves, were awarded to the drama "Girls Town" and the documentary "Cutting Loose."
Others included the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award to cousins Stanley Tucci and Joseph Tro-pi-ano for "Big Night"; Latin American Special Recognition Award to the Cuban film "Madagascar"; Honorable Mention in Latin American Cinema, "Guan-ta-na-mera," also from Cuba, and "Wild Horses," from Argentina; Shorts Special Recognition Award, "A Small Domain"; Honorable Mentions in Short Filmmaking, "Pig" and "Dry Mount"; and the Freedom of Expression Award, "The Celluloid Closet."
Of course, all of these are low-budget, independent productions, the primary emphasis of the Sundance Film Festival. But a more commercial effort took over early Saturday morning - 12:30 a.m. to be precise - as the overflow crowd in the Egyptian Theater prepared for Jackie Chan's "Rumble in the Bronx."
There was an undeniable electricity in the air as Sundance program director Geoffrey Gilmore, who is normally quite unflappable, excitedly introduced Chan - who was inexplicably clad in a white jacket. (He was apparently not informed that Sundance movers and shakers wear all-black clothing, leather being optional.)
Forget Robert Redford and Al Pacino. As audience members leaped to their feet, applauding and screaming, this was Chan's moment, and he humbly acknowledged it. Then he held out a wallet, which he said had been left in the women's rest room, and asked if the owner was in the audience. An embarrassed young woman ran down to the stage to retrieve it, and got a kiss from Chan in the bargain.
The party atmosphere continued during the film, and fans were quite disappointed that Chan wasn't there afterward for a question-and-answer session. Then again, it was after 2 a.m.
Movie distribution deals for the independents were being struck right and left during the festival's final days, including a record (for a Sundance-based negotiation) $10 million by Castle Rock for "Care of the Spitfire Grill."
Advertising gimmicks also became more prevalent as the festival wound down. People all over town were wearing "Jackie Chan" baseball caps and holding spring water bottles with Gap labels.
But whether anyone was wearing the freebie from Absolut vodka is a private matter - long johns with the phrase "Absolut Welcome" on the back.