PARK CITY Films starring Tom Hanks, Amy Adams, Colin Farrell and Bruce Willis and others garnered most of the headlines at Sundance Film Festival '08 but those weren't the films garnering most of the festival's awards.
Instead, top honors went to "smaller" films like the Swedish coming-of-age drama "King of Ping Pong (Ping Pongkingen)"; "Man on Wire," a documentary feature about a French tightrope artist; "Ballast," a drama dealing with suicide; and the science-fiction thriller "Sleep Dealer."
The four films received two awards apiece.
"King of Ping Pong" took home the Grand Jury Prize for Best Dramatic Feature (world cinema) and the World Cinematography Award (dramatic competition) to Askild Vik Edvardsen.
"Man on Wire" won the Grand Jury Prize for Best Documentary Feature (world cinema), as well as the Audience Award (world cinema documentary), given to the most popular film in that category.
"Ballast" filmmaker Lance Hammer was honored as best director (dramatic competition). Director of photography Lol Crawley was given an excellence in cinematography award as well.
And "Sleep Dealer" was the recipient of this year's Alfred P. Sloan Prize, given to a film focusing on science or technology as a theme. Alex Rivera and David Riker were presented the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award.
Grand jury prizes for best documentary and best dramatic feature went to, respectively, the Hurricane Katrina tale "Trouble the Water" and the illegal immigrant drama "Frozen River."
Audience Award winners for most popular documentary, dramatic feature and world cinema dramatic feature were the environmentally conscious, nonfiction piece "Fields of Fuel," the dark drug-culture comedy "The Wackness" and the Jordanian mistaken-identity comedy "Captain Abu Raed."
Festival director Geoffrey Gilmore hailed the directors, who included 11 first-time filmmakers, saying they "have taken on the world through a personal lens, and audiences have responded."
Few if any of the big winners featured stars in their casts (save for "The Wackness," which stars Ben Kingsley and Mary-Kate Olsen). But the awards were not completely celebrity-free.
A special jury prize went to the ensemble cast Sam Rockwell, Anjelica Huston, Kelly Macdonald and Brad Henke of the dark comedy "Choke."
Also, actor William H. Macy hosted the awards event, and the festival's jury awards were determined by filmmaker Quentin Tarantino, actors Diego Luna and Alan Alda, actresses Marcia Gay Harden, Sandra Oh and Melonie Diaz and others. Audience awards were voted on by those who attended the 10-day festival.
According to Oscar-nominated "Juno" director Jason Reitman, who headed the short-films jury, "These were some of the easiest deliberations in the history of the Sundance Film Festival."
In fact, the voting process "went so well that we wrapped up before we were supposed to," he said. Reitman even returned to Hollywood early leaving it up to actress Diaz to give out those awards.Highlights from the Sundance awards event, which was held at the Park City Racquet Club, will be broadcast Monday on the Sundance Channel.