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Jean-Louis Blondeau, Polaris
On Aug. 7, 1974, Philippe Petit traversed the span between World Trade Center Towers I and II eight times in one hour.

The term "Sundance Film Festival award winner" might not carry the weight of, say, "Academy Award winner."

And it's no guarantee of future success.

Screenwriter/director James C. Strouse's Iraq War drama "Grace is Gone" took home two Sundance prizes in 2007 — an Audience Award for most popular dramatic feature and the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award.

Unfortunately, the movie, which starred John Cusack, foundered in its subsequence theatrical release.

But a festival award is still a medal of honor for filmmakers. Professional skateboarder Stacey Peralta won a Documentary Directing award for his skateboarding documentary "Dogtown and Z-Boys" in 2001.

Peralta and his producers then used that good festival "buzz" to secure distribution and the film enjoyed a pretty decent theatrical run.

In earlier interviews, Peralta credited the festival for "really jump-starting my filmmaking career."

Brigham Young University product Neil LaBute won his own directing award from the festival for "In the Company of Men" in 1996.

"We had a terrific ride with the film that went on from there," LaBute said.

Festival director Geoff Gilmore said he is proud of such success stories. "It's always been the goal of the festival to help further our filmmakers' careers."

Gilmore is usually one of the emcees for the annual Sundance Film Festival Awards ceremony. This year's event will be Saturday night at the Park City Racquet Club.

However, the ceremony is not open to the public — only to filmmakers, festival officials and select press members and VIPs.

This year five juries will vote on awards for the festival's competition documentaries, features and short films. Jurors include actors Virginia Madsen ("Sideways") and Lou Taylor Pucci ("Thumbsucker"), and filmmakers Gillian Armstrong ("Little Women"), Christine Jeffs ("Sunshine Cleaning"), Mike White ("Year of the Dog") and Boaz Yakin ("Remember the Titans").

In addition to its Jury Awards, Sundance panels sometimes give Special Jury Prizes and acting prizes — previous winners include Steve Zahn ("Happy, Texas," 1999), Patricia Clarkson (for three films in 2003) and Amy Adams ("Junebug," 2005).

The festival will conclude Sunday with regular screenings in both Park City and Salt Lake City, as well as select award winners in Park City.

Memorable winners

Here are a few recent Sundance award winners you might remember:

2001: "Memento" (Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award).

2002: America Ferrera, "Real Women Have Curves" (Special Jury Prize, Acting)

2003: "Whale Rider" (World Cinema Audience Award)

2004: Morgan Spurlock, "Super Size Me" (Documentary Directing Award)

2005: "Hustle & Flow" (American Dramatic Audience Award, American Excellence in Cinematography Award)

2006: Robert Downey Jr., Shia LaBeouf, Rosario Dawson, Chazz Palminteri, Dianne Wiest and Channing Tatum, "A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints" (Special Jury Prize, Ensemble Acting).

2007: "Once" (World Cinema Dramatic Award).

2008: "Man on Wire" (World Cinema Documentary Award).What: Sundance Film Festival '09

If you go ...

Where: Various venues in Park City, Salt Lake City, Ogden and the Sundance resort (Provo Canyon)

When: Though Jan. 25

How much: $15 wait-list tickets

Phone: 435-776-7878

Web: www.sundance.org/festivalMemorable winners

E-mail: [email protected]