While other, more controversial films at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival were grabbing a lot of the headlines, a documentary about Brazilian corruption and violence, and an Iraq war drama were grabbing several awards.
"Grace Is Gone," which stars John Cusack as a husband and father dealing with the death of his wife in Iraq, won the festival's audience award for most popular dramatic feature. The Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award was given to the film's writer/director, James C. Strouse.
And "Manda Bala (Send a Bullet)," which follows three different Brazilian men, received a grand jury prize in the documentary competition, as well as an excellence in cinematography award (given to Heloisa Passos).
Jury prizes went to "Padre Nuestro" (dramatic competition), "Enemies of Happiness" (world cinema documentary competition) and "Sweet Mud" (world cinema dramatic competition).
The other audience award winners included "Hear and Now" (documentary competition), "In the Shadow of the Moon" (world cinema documentary competition) and "Once" (world cinema dramatic competition).
Festival director Geoffrey Gilmore, who emceed the awards program, noted that many of the winners dealt with timely and complex issues. He said they "exemplify the artistic power of film to illuminate and explore issues that are prevalent in our global society."
Gilmore also praised this year's Sundance selections for opening up "the possibilities of what independent film can be and will be in the future."
A special jury prize was awarded to the Iraq war documentary "No End in Sight," which the documentary jury said "clearly illuminates the misguided policy decisions" of the Bush administration.
Other special jury prizes went to actresses Jess Weixler ("Teeth") and Tamara Podemski ("Four Sheets to the Wind") for their performances, "Hot House" in the world cinema documentary competition and "The Legacy (L'Heritage)" in the world cinema dramatic competition. "The Pool" director Chris Smith received a special jury prize for his "singularity of vision."
Sundance's other directing award recipients were Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine (the documentary "War/Dance") and Jeffrey Blitz (the dramatic feature "Rocket Science"). Film editors Hibah Sherif Frisina, Charlton McMillian and Michael Schweitzer were honored for their work on the documentary "Nanking," while Benoit Debie won an excellence in cinematography award for the dramatic feature "Joshua."
And "Dark Matter," a drama that was filmed almost entirely in Utah, was given the festival's Alfred P. Sloan Prize, given to one film each year that tackles "compelling ideas and issues in science and technology." (That award also includes a $20,000 prize.)
Highlights from the Sundance awards event, which was held at the Park City Racquet Club, were broadcast albeit tape-delayed Saturday night on the Sundance Channel.
Audience awards were voted on by those attending the 10-day festival, and jury awards were determined by five separate panels that included actress-turned-director Sarah Polley (whose drama "Away From Her" was a featured selection at Sundance), film critic Elvis Mitchell, and filmmakers Catherine Hardwicke ("The Nativity Story") and Jared Hess ("Napoleon Dynamite").
Salt Lake resident Hess, who was on the shorts jury, described the deliberations process as "particularly tough."
Special programs of some of the award-winning films are scheduled throughout today in Park City. And "Best of Festival" programs will offer free screenings of award-winning films on Monday, again in Park City, as well as Salt Lake City and the Sundance resort. Ogden will host similar screenings Jan. 30.
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