2009 Sundance Film Festival Strikes Gold at Oscars

Two films taking home golden statues last night first saw their premieres at the '09 Festival. Louis Psihoyos' The Cove took home the Academy Award for Best Documentary as Lee Daniels' Precious nabbed the Best Supporting Actress for Mo'Nique and Best Adapted Screenplay for Geoffrey Fletcher.

The Cove is a harrowing look at a secret cove in Taiji, Japan that is the largest supplier of dolphins to the world. Before winning the Audience Award for U.S. Documentary at last January's Festival, Psihoyos spoke to the Insider about his film's cause as his cast and crew gathered in Park City for the  premiere.

The Cove Crew

Psihoyos said, “I wanted to be active on the subject, to make a change. I think everybody who looks at this film is motivated to make a change.” As an activist filmmaker, and now Oscar-winner, Psihoyos has certainly lived up to his goal of shedding light on an atrocity. The film is now set for distribution in Japan later this year where it may have the biggest impact yet.

The power to shake audiences is no stranger to Precious. Lee Daniels' film began its incredible journey when it had the rare honor of garnering both the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award for U.S. Dramatic at the '09 Festival. Making a heartfelt plea in his Festival acceptance speech Daniels confessed, "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."

Daniels' excitement over transcending barriers was echoed in the sentiment of Mo'Nique's Oscar acceptance speech when she described the leap of faith it took for a stand-up comedian to take the unpopular role of a hideous, abusive mother. Mo'Nique took home her first accolade for this role with a '09 Festival Special Jury Prize for Acting and has become quite popular on the award circuit ever since.


As the Sunday night Oscars became a reunion for these '09 Festival films, the more recent Festival was also present. The Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film went to the 2010 Festival short film Logorama by François Alaux, Hervé de Crécy, and Ludovic Houplain.


And last but not least, the big winner of the evening was another independent film: Kathryn Bigelow's Hurt Locker swept the Oscars winning Best Picture and Best Director. As the first female director to ever win an Academy Award, Bigelow has been a trailblazer at Sundance Institute, too. One of her early films, Blue Steel, screened at the 1990 Sundance Film Festival and she participated as a Creative Advisor for several Sundance Institute Labs.

We think the outcome of last night's Academy Awards bodes well for the future of independent cinema. Congratulations to these artists and all the other Oscar-celebrated films.

Lead photo: