The Sundance Film Festival, held in Park City, Utah (January 15-25), announced the winners of the 2004 Independent Film Competition and Audience Awards. Top honors were presented to two films, the documentary “Dig!” directed and produced by Ondi Timoner, and drama “Primer” directed, written and produced by first-time filmmaker Shane Carruth.Carruth’s “Primer” is a dramatic film about four men who accidentally discover a time mechanism while working with technical devices, which in turn alters their lives forever. The film was given the Sundance Grand Jury Prize for best film drama. Accepting the award on-stage for the film, a stunned Carruth thanked his cast that had actually doubled as the crew for the low-budget movie, which only cost $7,000 to produce.
This was Carruth’s first feature film award and ensures a bright future for the rookie filmmaker. The film also was given the annual Alfred P. Sloan Award, which includes a $20,000 prize and is given to filmmakers tackling compelling topics in science. No deals or release dates for the film have been reported.
Tiomoner’s documentary “Dig!” was awarded the Grand Jury Prize for best documentary. The film chronicles the rivalry of two rock bands during a seven-year period. Over the course of the film, the two bands intersect and head in different directions. Throughout the 10 day festival, the film started slowly but became a must-see for festival-goers.
The documentary had taken seven years to create. The film landed a distribution deal with Palm Pictures and the Sundance Channel. The film is scheduled to be released to theaters this fall.
The Audience Awards are given each year to a documentary and dramatic film as voted by Film Festival audiences.
The Documentary Audience Award was presented to “Born Into Brothel,” an HBO documentary that explores prostitution in Calcutta’s Red Light District. The film was produced by Ross Kauffman and Zana Briski. The Dramatic Audience Award was presented to “Maria Full of Grace,” the story of a teenager from Columbia who agrees to act as a drug mule to raise money for her family. This film was written by Josh Martson and produced by Paul Mezey, and is an HBO film project.
The World Cinema Dramatic Audience Award was given to Canadian director Jean-Francois Pouliot’s “Seducing Doctor Lewis.” The World Cinema Documentary Audience Award was presented to Mark Achbar and Jennifer Abott’s “The Corporation,” a documentary film that exposes the bizarre operating principles of corporations in pursuit of global power.
The Directing Award recognizes excellence in directing for dramatic and documentary features. The Documentary Directing Award was presented to Morgan Spurlock’s “Super Size Me,” in which Spurlock spent 30 days eating only food from McDonald’s and chronicled the impact it had on his body. The dramatic Directing Award went to Debrah Granik’s “Down to the Bone,” a film about a working-class mother’s battle with drug addiction.
This year’s Excellence in Cinematography Award, which honors exceptional photography in a dramatic and documentary film, was given to Ferne Pearlstein for “Imnelda.” The film documents the life of the former first lady of the Philippines. Also presented the award was Nancy Schreiber’s “November,” starring Courtney Cox who plays a woman coming to grips with the murder of her boyfriend.
The Freedom of Expression Award is given to a documentary film that informs and educates the public on issues of social or political concern. The award is voted on by a select number of jurors. The jurors selected “Repatriation,” directed by Kim Dong-won. The documentary chronicles the repatriation of two North Korean men who had spent a portion of their life imprisoned in South Korea.
The Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award is given each year for outstanding achievement in writing. The 2004 prize was presented to Larry Gross for “We Don’t Live Here Anymore,” a take on martial discord, a mixed foursome of infidelity, complicity, and denial between two couples.
A Documentary Jury awarded Special Jury Prizes to Director Rodney Evans for the film “Brother to Brother.” A drama that looks back on the Harlem Renaissance from the perspective of an elderly, black writer who meets a gay teenager in a New York homeless shelter. Also presented with the award was Vera Famiga for her performance in “Down to the Bone.”
Getting one’s independent film featured in the annual Sundance Film Festival is the goal of many aspiring filmmakers. Thousands of films are submitted each year and only a few are selected. This year, the programming staff viewed nearly 5,000 submissions to select approximately 125 feature-length documentary and dramatic films, and 80 shorts for presentation at this year’s festival.
The independent feature film corporation is the most anticipated segment of the festival. Other categories of film include American Showcase, American Spectrum, World Cinema: dramatic, World Cinema: Documentary, Frontier, Native Forum, Shorts, Shorts with Features, Animation Spotlight, the Sundance Collection, and Park City After Midnight.
The Fourth Annual Sundance Online Film Festival featured 30 short films and interactive projects, and hours of new footage highlighting the activities and history of the Sundance Film Festival and Sundance Institute. To get more information on each of the categories and awards given, go to http://festival.sundance.org.