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The Sundance Awards

The 25th Sundance Film Festival culminated with a celebration recognizing the films that Festival juries and audiences selected for awards. Festivalgoers packed into the Park City Racquet Club for this special evening highlighting some of the 2009 Festival’s most original voices. Jane Lynch, the ceremony's host, followed in the spirit of this year's storytime theme and opened with a windy mad-lib pieced together by this year's film titles.” In fact, at the risk of sounding Crude let me tell ya, going Toe to Toe with that damn sexy Louise-Michel was The Greatest,” Lynch said at one point during her opening remarks.

16 U.S. films comprised the Dramatic Competition, and the 2009 Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic went to Lee Daniels' Push: Based on the Novel by Sapphire. The film tells the heartbreaking and uplifting story of Precious Jones, a young girl in Harlem struggling to overcome tremendous odds to find her own voice. "This is so important to me. Speaking for every minority in Harlem, in Detroit, in the Bronx, who has been abused, can't read, that's obese, that's been turned their back on," he said. "If I can do this shit, ya'll can do this shit." In a very rare occurrence of the jury and audience agreeing on the top honor, in addition to the Grand Jury Prize, Push also picked up the Audience Award: Dramatic.

For the Documentary Competition top honor, the jury selected Ondi Timoner's We Live in Public from the 16 films in the U.S. Documentary category. Timoner's second Grand Jury Prize (she won in 2004 for Dig!) is the story of the Internet's revolutionary impact on human interaction portrayed through the perspective of Josh Harris, the web maverick notorious for his experimental public art projects. "Sundance is home to me,” Timoner said as she accepted her award. “It's such a nurturing environment."

Sundance Institute Executive Director Ken Brecher welcomed the jurors, filmmakers, and Festivalgoers by noting the air of change at this year's Festival. "When we began this Festival George Bush was the president, and we ended it with Obama," he said.

Festival Director Geoffrey Gilmore remarked how this year's unpredictable lineup signaled the innovations still to come in filmmaking. "We opened the Festival with animation and closed with science fiction and in between showcased some of the best films we've ever seen," he said. "People ask us how independent film has evolved over the past 25 years and the answer is, quite simply, it's better."

Films receiving jury awards were selected from the four categories: U.S. Dramatic and Documentary Competitions and World Dramatic and Documentary Competitions; these films were also eligible for the 2009 Audience Awards. Joseph Gordon-Levitt announced the U.S. Audience Awards presented by Honda. Push won for Dramatic, and the Audience Award: Documentary was presented to Louie Psihoyos' The Cove, which captures the horrors of a secret cove in Japan used to kill dolphins.

The World Cinema Competition categories celebrated a range of films from continents spanning the globe. The World Cinema Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic was awarded to Sebastián Silva's The Maid (La Nana) about a bitter servant who wreaks havoc on her mistress when another servant is brought into the household.

The World Cinema Grand Jury Prize: Documentary went to Rough Aunties, directed by Kim Longinotto. Set in Durban, South Africa, Rough Aunties follows the story of a fearless and unwavering group of women who serve to protect abused, neglected, and forgotten children.

The World Cinema Audience Awards were presented by Benjamin Bratt. Lone Scherfig's An Education received the World Cinema Audience Award: Dramatic. An Education, which Nick Hornby wrote the screenplay for, is a coming-of-age story stationed in an early 60's Oxford on the cusp of cultural revolution. The World Cinema Audience Award: Documentary went to Afghan Star by Havana Marking. This film follows the dramatic story of four contestants risking their lives to sing on an Afghan American Idol-like television program.

The 2009 Sundance Film Festival Juries consisted of: U.S. Dramatic Competition: Virginia Madsen, Scott McGehee, Maud Nadler, Mike White, and Boaz Yakin; U.S. Documentary Competition: Patrick Creadon, Carl Deal, Andrea Meditch, Sam Pollard, and Marina Zenovich; World Dramatic Competition: Colin Brown (U.S.), Christine Jeffs (New Zealand), and Vibeke Windeløv (Denmark); World Documentary Competition: Gillian Armstrong (Australia), Thom Powers (U.S.), and Hubert Sauper (France); Shorts Competition: Gerardo Naranjo, Lou Taylor Pucci, and Sharon Swart; The Alfred P. Sloan Prize: Fran Bagenal, Rodney Brooks, Raymond Gesteland, Jeffrey Nachmanoff, and Alex Rivera.

Following is a list of other awards presented last night:

Directing Award: U.S. Documentary - Natalia Almada, El General

Directing Award: U.S. Dramatic - Cary Joji Fukunaga, Sin Nombre

World Cinema Directing Award: Documentary - Havana Marking, Afghan Star

World Cinema Directing Award: Dramatic - Oliver Hirschbiegel, Five Minutes of Heaven

Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award - Nicholas Jasenovec and Charlyne Yi, Paper Heart

World Cinema Screenwriting Award - Oliver Hirschbiegel, Five Minutes of Heaven

U.S. Documentary Editing Award - Karen Schmeer, Sergio, directed by Greg Barker

World Cinema Documentary Editing Award - Janus Billeskov Jansen and Thomas Papapetros, Burma VJ, directed by Anders Østergaard

Excellence in Cinematography Award: U.S. Documentary - Bob Richman, The September Issue, directed by R.J. Cutler

Excellence in Cinematography Award: U.S. Dramatic - Adriano Goldman, Sin Nombre, directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga

World Cinema Cinematography Award: Documentary - John Maringouin, Big River Man

World Cinema Cinematography Award: Dramatic - John De Borman, An Education, directed by Lone Scherfig

World Cinema Special Jury Prize for Originality - Benoît Delépine and Gustave de Kervern, Louise-Michel

World Cinema Special Jury Prize: Documentary - Ngawang Choephel, Tibet in Song

World Cinema Special Jury Prize for Acting - Catalina Saavedra, The Maid (La Nana)

Special Jury Prize: U.S. Documentary - Jeff Stilson, Good Hair

Special Jury Prize for Spirit of Independence - Lynn Shelton, Humpday

Special Jury Prize for Acting - Mo'Nique, Push: Based on the Novel by Sapphire

Earlier this week, the awards for the Festival shorts were announced. The 2009 Jury Prize in U.S. Short Filmmaking was awarded to Short Term 12, directed by Destin Daniel Cretton. The jury also presented the International Jury Prize in International Short Filmmaking to Lies, directed by Jonas Odell. Honorable Mentions in Short Filmmaking were presented to The Attack of the Robots from Nebula-5, directed by Chema García Ibarra; Protect You + Me, directed by Brady Corbet; Western Spaghetti, directed by PES; Jerrycan, directed by Julius Avery; Love You More, directed by Sam Taylor-Wood, I Live in the Woods, directed by Max Winston, Omelette, directed by Nadejda Koseva; and Treevenge, directed by Jason Eisener.

As announced on Friday, Adam, directed by Max Mayer, is the recipient of this year’s Alfred P. Sloan Prize. The prize, which carries a $20,000 cash award to the filmmaker provided by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, is presented to an outstanding feature film focusing on science or technology as a theme, or depicting a scientist, engineer, or mathematician as a major character.

On Thursday, Sundance Institute and NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation) announced the winners of the 2009 Sundance/NHK International Filmmakers Awards honoring and supporting emerging filmmakers – one each from the United States, Japan, Europe, and Latin America. The winning filmmakers and projects for 2009 are Diego Lerman, Ciencias Morales (Moral Sciences), from Argentina; David Riker, The Girl, from the United States; Qurata Kenji, Speed Girl, from Japan; and Lucile Hadzihalilovic, Evolution, from France.


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