2016 Sundance Film Festival Awards Ceremony

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Hi everyone, and welcome to the live blog for the 2016 Sundance Film Festival Awards Ceremony. For the fourth consecutive year, we’re Eric Hynes, Jeremy Kinser, and Nate von Zumwalt, and we’ll be your eyes and ears for tonight’s festivities. We’re stationed to the right of the stage, perpendicular to the sea of folding chairs that await ticketholders. Once things get underway, we’ll be listening, typing and posting as fast as we can to give you a sense of what’s going on.

Editor's Note: For film fans that couldn't make it to Utah this year, or who did but couldn't get into a hot screening, look for the GoWatchIt button on each page of the Festival’s Digital Film Guide or set alerts for all of the award winners at GoWatchIt's curated Sundance page. A GoWatchIt alert can be set for any feature film in the Festival (look for the orange 'Set Alert' button on the bottom right of each page). That’s it. After setting an alert, GoWatchIt will automatically send an email whenever that Festival film is available in theaters, On Demand, or on Netflix, iTunes, Amazon and other services you select.

Update 7:00 PM MST

Hi everyone, and welcome to the live blog for the 2016 Sundance Film Festival Awards Ceremony. For the fourth consecutive year, we’re Eric Hynes, Jeremy Kinser, and Nate von Zumwalt, and we’ll be your eyes and ears for tonight’s festivities. We’re stationed to the right of the stage, perpendicular to the sea of folding chairs that await ticketholders. Once things get underway, we’ll be listening, typing and posting as fast as we can to give you a sense of what’s going on.

Once again we’re back in the Basin Recreation Fieldhouse at Kimball Junction, which is about a fifteen minute drive from Main Street in downtown Park City. The Fieldhouse is a vast space, with multi-colored lights angling down through a thin layer of party smoke. The stage is decorated with this year’s abstracted sun ray design on cubistic facets of black, grey and white, and with TV monitors flanking either side.

As the Festival comes to a close, our minds go back to the start, way back to Thursday, January 21, when Festival founder Robert Redford, flanked by Festival Director John Cooper and Sundance Institute Executive Director Keri Putnam, discussed the state of all things Sundance for the media. As Nate reported in his coverage of that opening day press conference, there was a lot of talk about the lack of diversity in Hollywood, and the need for correctives to that homogeneity. “Diversity comes out of the word independence. That’s the principle word that we operate from,” Redford said. “If you’re independent minded, you’re going to do things different from the common form, and you’re going to have more diverse products.”

As if on cue, the major story of the Festival became Nate Parker’s The Birth of a Nation, the actor turned auteur’s impassioned and incendiary debut feature chronicling the life and death of Nat Turner, the Virginia slave and preacher who led an improbable collective uprising against white masters. “I felt that on so many levels the story of Nat Turner could not only deal with social implications in respect to racism and white supremacy, but also film and entertainment and break down those barriers,” Parker told Jeremy. The film was met by standing ovations at all of its screenings during the Festival, and was sold for a record-breaking sum to Fox Searchlight. With a swiftness that only seems to happen at Sundance, Parker has suddenly become a vital voice of change, tenacity, and Black American self-representation.

Another story that arose over the past days was the formal diversity of this year’s program. Among the 123 narrative and documentary features in this year’s slate, there seemed to be a critical mass of films that didn’t easily fit into traditional competition categories. Films like Kate Plays Christine, All These Sleepless Nights, Sonita, and Nuts! sought to expand the definition of the documentary, while The Fits, which screened as part of the Next section, brought fabulist storytelling to a real-life cast and location.

This year’s host is Taika Waititi, the actor, director, writer and comic quadruple threat who hails from New Zealand. His credits include the 2013 vampire mockumentary What We Do In The Shadows, and later this year he’ll direct Mark Ruffalo in the action epic Thor: Ragnarok, based on the Marvel comic, due in 2017. Waititi returns to Sundance after having several films screen at the Festival, including his film Boy, and Eagle vs. Shark, in which he starred. Last year Taika served on the World Cinema Dramatic Competition jury.

Hang right here, as this year’s Awards Ceremony is set to begin.

Update 7:20 PM MST

Things are underway here at the Awards program, with breakdance team Exquisite Zombies getting everyone warmed up.

Host Taika Waititi introduces himself. Wonders how many other entertainers turned down the hosting gig before he was offered the job.

“You made it 10 days with no water, no oxygen and canapes. That’s what you survived on for 10 days. We’re on a mountain. We’re not meant to be here. We’re dying. This is accelerate death. We’ve all come into a metal box to die. And we’re celebrating. I have wounds that won’t heal. I cut my mouth on a corn chip. My asshole just fell off while walking down Main Street. It just fell off and down my pant leg.

“Here’s the thing. It’s awards night. For those of you who think you’re getting an award, you’re not. The best I can offer you is you might get laid later. Not by me because I don’t like smelly unemployed people. Sorry. All that pent--up sexual tension and desire. You’ve meet a lot ofof filmmakers over the week. Do it. I want to hear the sound of puffed up jackets banging together.”

“I’m going to fly on a private jet back to L.A. Except my private jet is called Southwest. I like to put my luggage on my lap and sit next to the toilet.”

“Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the executive director of Sundance Keri Putnam.”

Sundance Institute Executive Director Keri Putnam takes the stage to announce the Sundance Institute Global Filmmaking Awards, given to emerging filmmakers from the World Cinema stage on the basis of their next screenplay. Earlier this week we announced the winners of the Sundance Institute Global Filmmaking Awards.

The winners are:

from Cuba, Armando Capo for August.

from Morocco, Abdellah Taia for The Treasure.

from India, Geetu Mohandas for Insha Allah.

from Italy, Antonio Piazza and Fabio Grassadonia for Sicilian Ghost Story.

Additionally, the Sundance Institute / NHK Award which went to Atsuko Hirayanagi (Japan) for her script Oh Lucy!

On behalf of everyone at Sundance, congratulations. We can’t wait for everyone to see (your films).

Update 7:32 PM MST

Festival Director Cooper takes the stage.

“I have all the good parts. I want to thank the staff of the Sundance Film Festival. And the dedicated and tireless volunteers of 2016.” Now he’s announcing the annual Gayle Stevens Volunteer Award, given to a volunteer who has demonstrated a long-standing passion for and commitment to the work of the Institute. This year the award, which was given at the start of the Festival, went to Nanica Brown who has been a volunteer for the festival for 10 years.

“I hope you can feel the depth of your accomplishment. I urge you to go out of your way to stay connected to the people you’ve met here,” Cooper sys. “This has been a truly memorable experience for me,” he continues, tearing up. He references a quote that Robert Redford likes to cite, from T.S. Eliot: “For us there is only the trying, the rest is not our business.”

Cooper introduces Trevor Groth, the director of programming, to announce the Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize winner:

Trevor: “He had me tearing up.” He mentions that the prizewinner will receive a cash award of $10,000.

Winner of the Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize

Embrace of the Serpent, directed by Ciro Guerra

Groth announces the Short Film Award winners, which were announced earlier this week.

Update 7:44 PM MST

Taika is back on stage to introduce the World Cinema Documentary Jury, comprised of Tine Fischer, Mila Aung Thwin, Asif Kapadia.

“First thing first – we have seen some some amazing films. It’s a big deal to have a film in Sundance so congratulations,” Kapadia says.

“This brutally honest film impressed us because of the tenacity of the filmmakers.”

World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award for Best Debut Feature

When Two Worlds Collide, directed by Mathew Orzel, Heidi Brandenburg

Brandenburg: “I’m really speechless right now. I think we all really are. We weren’t expecting this. Thank you for having us and voting for us and really getting the film. Thank you.”

“This film was beautifully shot, we loved the exploration for the landscape, the grandiosity of the locations and intimacy of shooting with the characters,” Thwain says.

World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award for Best Cinematography

The Land of the Enlightened, directed by Pieter-Jan De Pue

De Pue: “Hi everybody. thank you so much. It’s a really great honor to be here and it’s amazing to have this prize for cinematography. thank you very much.”

“This is an amazing feat of navigating a huge amount of matiera,l” Kapadia says. “By the end of the film we were all fans.”

World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award for Best Editing

We Are X, directed by Stephen Kijak

Kijak: “Alright everybody, give us an X. Two great editors helped me make this film Neither could be here but this is for you guys. Thank you very much.

Thwain presents.

“A visually stunning film. Pushing the art of nonfiction into brave new territories.”

Directing Award: World Cinema Documentary

All These Sleepless Nights, directed by Michal Marczak

The director goes up with his two main subjects/performers, along with several producers and crew members.

Marczak: “Wow. Thank you so much. When you make a movie that’s about feelings and emotions the most crucial thing is to have beautiful moments within the entire crew. For two years we lived together and lived through all the moments and resonated through them passionately. I love you so much and could never have done this with you, Thank you so much.”

Kapadia presents.

“Our final award. this film really engaged us on an emotional level built on an extraordinary character whose journey was inspirational and brave.”

World Cinema Grand Jury Prize: Documentary

Sonita, directed by Rokhsareh Ghaem Maghami

Ghaem Maghami: “Thank you so much. It’s an honor to be here and to have a prize. Thank you!

Update 7:55 PM MST

Taika returns to the stage. “I know what it’s like. Someone wins. Things were going along to plan with your life, and someone with a depressing film gets ahead of you. Winners, congratulations, we hate you.” He introduces the World Cinema Dramatic Jury, comprised of Fernanda Solorzano, Randall Poster, and Apichatpong Weerasethakul.

“We’d like to congratulate all the filmmakers. We marveled at the quality of all the films. We couldn’t be prouder to be in your proximity,” says Poster.

Solorzano presents first. “For performances that blew us away.”

World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award for Acting

Vicky Hernandéz and Manolo Cruz for Between Sea and Land

Cruz via a translator: “We’re very excited to be here. Because we all share the same passion for telling stories. I think I’ve never had a moment as emotional as this one in my life. This is for Vicky Hernandez, the best actress in our country. This guy has a great chance to share with her. Thanks to god that let us share our talents with all you guys.”

Poster presents.

World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award for Screenwriting


Mi Amiga del Parque, written by Inés Bortagaray and Ana Katz

A video thank you from the writers plays onstage.

Bortagaray: “Thanks to the festival and members of the jury. We’d like to dedicate this prize to every woman who is dealing with the process of being a mother or not.”

Solorzano: “For a film that really captured our imaginations. We couldn’t get it out of our minds.”

World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award for Unique Vision and Design

The Lure, directed by Agnieszka Smoczyńska

Smoczyńska: “Thank you very much. It’s a great honor. Thank you to the festival especially Trevor groth who pulled us out of Warsaw and brought us here. This is my first film It wouldn’t be possible without my crew. (Introduces Crew) Thank you very much.”

Poster: “A film we really loved and wanted to recognize.”

Directing Award: World Cinema Dramatic

Belgica, directed by Felix van Groeningen

A video thank you from the director.

van Groeningen: (VIDEO) “Hi everyone at Sundance. I just heard I won the directing award. I’m extremely honored to be able to present my film at Sundance and to get an award is astonishing so thank you very much. The great actors who’ve done everything. Thanks crew.”

Weerasethakul: “This last film, we were blown away by it. We hope that more and more people have the chance to see this film.”

World Cinema Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic

Sand Storm, directed by Elite Zexer

Zexer is doing little hops of excitement, and holding her trophy up above her shoulders.

Zexer: “Oh my god, I‘m so nervous I’m shaking. I feel it’s been such a week of talking and talking and now that I have to say something, I’m speechless. I’m so happy it premiered here. I’m sorry my crew had to go home and not experience this with me. I couldn’t have done this without them. I want to thank my producers who are not my producers but my family.”

Update 8:02 PM MST

Taika returns to the stage. He’s about to present the Next audience award, and introduces a montage of the Next films.

NEXT Audience Award, presented by Adobe

First Girl I Loved, directed by Kerem Sanga

Sanga: “Well, hello everyone. This is a great honor just to be here at Sundance. Let me thank all the programmers at Sundance for inviting the film. And the cast and crew - this is all that’s left (three excited cohorts wave from behind him). The producers, the cast and especially to Dylan. I’m pretty far away from being a 17 year old girl She let me express something I couldn’t have done on my own. Thank you for being you.”

Taika introduces Rose McGowan, citing her long and varied resume.

She’s wearing all black, with amazing grey moon boots and a shaved head. She presents.

Audience Award: World Cinema Documentary

Sonita, directed by Rokhsareh Ghaem Maghami

Ghaem Maghami: “The award was when I started working with Sonita everyday. She awarded me with emotion. She was the daughter I never had. It’s great to be at Sundance. We are so happy. Thank you so much.”

McGowan is back to present the next award.

Audience Award: World Cinema Dramatic

Between Land and Sea, directed by Carlos del Castillo

They’re going crazy. Holding the trophy above their heads. Shouting and smiling. The audience gets into it with them.

del Castillo: “Thank you Sundance. I speak English poquito. Gracias.”

del Castillo via translator: “He says thanks to all of us. I think we all agree that we’re making this for the audience. He said something like this prize is so amazing and so important because this is what we’re trying to do – tell stories to people like you. Thank you very much. Thank you people. Thank you God.”

Update 8:10 PM MST

Taika returns to the stage and cues up a montage of U.S. competition films. Things are cooking up in here, as just about every film seems to have an enthusiastic and loud contingent present. Taika introduces filmmaker and actor Matt Ross (28 Hotel Rooms, Captain Fantastic).

“The people have spoken, and this is what they have to say.” Ross presents.

Audience Award: U.S. Documentary

Jim: The James Foley Story, directed by Brian Oakes

Oakes is followed onstage by six associates, including John and Diane Foley.

Oakes: “Thank you very much for the audience award. I’ll say I knew Jim my entire life. He was the kind of guy who when he walked in the room, the party started. So this is the perfect award for him.”

Audience Award: U.S. Dramatic

The Birth of a Nation, directed by Nate Parker

Parker comes out in a sharp black suit, followed by four production associates.

Parker: “Thank you lord. Thank you Sundance. Thank you Michelle Satter, Trevor Groth, Cooper. Audience. This means so much to me. Something being called an issue film succeeds when it touches people. I’ve seen that people are open to change. I share this with you audience members who remembered to tear that thing. Thank you so much.”

Update 8:18 PM MST

Taika returns to the stage to introduce the U.S. Documentary jury, comprised of Jill Lepore, Simon Kilmurry, and Shola Lynch.

“It was an incredible year for U.S. documentary. The field was wide and deep. These 16 films were inspiring funny, beautiful, and heartfelt.”

“For a startlingly original and visually delightful film,” Lepore presents.

U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Editing


NUTS!, edited by Penny Lane and Thom Stylinski

Lane’s got three collaborators with her, and she’s out of breath.

Lane: “Oh my god, I don’t know if they noticed but it’s a cartoon about goat testicles. It was really hard to make this film. It didn’t get a lot of support. The people who did support it, I want to thank them. Thanks crew. I wish Thom was here with me. He’s been working on the film for five year. This is crazy. OK, thanks.”

Kimurry: “It’s been such an honor to be on this jury. For a film that Highlights a critical issue through intimate and passionate storytelling.”

U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Social Impact Filmmaking

Trapped, directed by Dawn Porter

A huge team comes out with Porter, and there are a lot of hugs and iPhotos going on.

Porter: “Look at all of you. This film is about abortion clinics in the deep South. We worked really hard on this. [Received] an emergency grant when i said I met a doctor who was keeping a clinic alive in Mississippi. This film was for all the people who are risking their lives and health and keeping abortion clinics open. This will go so far to tell their stories so thank you so much.”

Lynch: “I want to reiterate that it was an amazing experience. Maker to makers. you all didn't’ make this easy. For a film that cleverly wrestles with the meaning of story and truth.”

U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Writing

Kate Plays Christine, directed by Robert Greene

Greene comes out with his daughter Ella, and calls out his son Wilkie and wife Deanna. He also calls out DP Sean Price Williams and actress Kate Lyn Sheil, who aren’t in attendance.

Greene: “This is Ella, I didn’t bring her up as a prop. This is what this is all about. A documentary award for writing. That’s pretty rad. It doesn’t even make sense. I started making docs because I hate writing screenplays. Thanks everybody for taking a chance on the film. Everyone who made this possible. Anyone who sat through our movie and rooted for it, thanks so much. Get some water.”

Lynch: “To a film that artfully avoids cliches by taking us into an overlooked world.”

U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Vérité Filmmaking

The Bad Kids, directed by Lou Pepe and Keith Fulton

Pepe: “I’m the only bad kid here tonight which means I have to drink for the rest of them. Thanks to Sundance for programing the film. There are way too many supporters of this movie to list. My partner Keith, who I wish was here. We’ve talked for over 20 years about collaborating on a pure verite film This is one where we relied on the beauty and optimism and humanity... This is for the bad kids as well.

Update 8:34 PM MST

Taika is back on stage. “I’d like to say we’re nearly finished, but we’re not. No, we are. Who has recycled their underwear for tonight? You’re liars. These are Wednesday socks. Which were Sunday socks.”

Taika introduces the U.S. Dramatic jury, comprised of Jon Hamm (“He big-timed us,” says Taika, since Hamm is no longer here), Avy Kaufman, and Lena Dunham.

“This has been a thrilling week for us. I said later we’re going to get drunk later and throw Avy up in there air. She’s excited,” Dunham says, wearing a long and glittery blue coat.

But Dunham is confused about the order of the awards. “This is a fucking shitshow.” she says. “This is literally the worst night of my life. I haven’t taken Klonopin since yesterday.”

“[This film] embodies the spirit of independence that Sundance represents.”

Dunham presents.

U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award

As You Are, directed by Miles Joris-Peyrafitte

Joris-Peyrafitte: “This is very sick. Obviously thank you to all of these people and all members of the cast who made this people and people who believed in me making a film when I was 22. This started out as a short film so please keep watching shorts and making shorts and believing in people who do.”

“How cute are those boys? If I was just 10 years younger,” Dunham says.

Kaufman: “Given to an actor whose quiet and intimate performance is deeply moving.”

U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Breakthrough Performance

Joe Seo for Spa Night

Director Andrew Ahn comes out in a coat, jeans, and boots.

Ahn: “Oh man, I’m not dressed up. You saw Nate Parker, right? He’s dressed up. I’m also not Joe Seo. He’s back in L.A. He was the most amazing actor. He gave so much of himself to this part. I knew it was going to be so hard to portray this duality of being a gay Korean-American. Joe, you should have been here, but thank you, thank you.”

Hamm presents via a video.

“In my capacity of juror member, I and the rest of the jury have decided to give out two special jury designations to two very different performances, very different performers, two completely different genders,” he says.

U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Individual Performance

Craig Robinson for Morris from America

Robinson comes out and leads the audience in a call and response.

Robinson: “Alright. Alright. When I say Sun, you say Dance. When I say Park, you say City. Thank you Sundance for the opportunity, for existing thank you to the jury for this prodigious honor. Just to be invited here is an honor. I think you for your tireless efforts, for putting out fires left and right in Germany, no less. Thank you Chad Hartigan for trusting me with this role. Shout out to Markees Christmas. First role, crushed it. Thank you mom and dad. I’ve got to go call my parents to see if they figured out the live stream God bless you.”

Hamm is back on the video board to announce the second acting award:

Melanie Lynskey for The Intervention

Lynskey: “Oh my goodness, Lena just told me I smell good which is my favorite compliment. I’m very nervous. Thank you for inviting me here. You put on the greatest fest. Thank you to our beautiful cast. Everyone is so talented. Thank you to Jason who had to reassure me every night. Thank you to our crew, especially our PAs who made no money while running around in Savannah. Thank you to my best friend Clea Duvall. She made this amazing movie. She wrote me the funniest, greatest part. I’m grateful to everybody.”

Dunham: “We’re thrilled to honor an intimate and original script that had us smiling like goons. The writer shone a light on the outsider, using the ancient art of humor.”

Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award: U.S. Dramatic

Morris from America, written by Chad Hartigan

Hartigan comes out in a grey t-shirt and grey ski cap.

Hartigan: “Whoa, I was just back there celebrating with Craig, thinking that is that. This is incredible I’d like to thank our producers. Wait a minute, this is for writing I did that by myself. I really would like t thank my producers and everyone who helped make this movie. I wrote this movie and I wasn’t very familiar with Germany and sat down with an empty page and willed it into an existence. It’s really, really amazing. I’m just going to say thank you and go back to celebrating with Craig. Thank you very much.”

Update 8:41 PM MST

Taika returns to the stage. “So close. Two pages,” he says, referring to what’s left of the ceremony. He introduces Amy Ziering, producer of The Hunting Ground and The Invisible War.

Ziering: “I didn’t get the memo about where the printer is in the Marriott. Sundance deserves a lot of credit for giving documentaries stature. Flr all of you younger than me here, documentary were the poor relations. Well we didn’t get an Acura, but next year. Deep appreciation for Sundance for helping change the world.”

For fashioning a compelling, exquisitely wrought, visually powerful and searingly moving film,”

Ziering presents.

Directing Award: U.S. Documentary

Life, Animated, directed by Roger Ross Williams

Williams comes out with producer Judy Goldman, editor David Teague and two other collaborators.

Williams: “Alright, I’m overwhelmed. You know in the age of #OscarSoWhite and lack of diversity in Hollywood, I want to thank the Institute for thinking of artists like me. You never directing a vacuum so I want to thank my producer, my editor...everyone who worked on this film. Owen Suskind is an amazing individual. He taught me that people with autism have so much to teach the world. Thank you so much.”

Taika returns to the stage to introduce Mark Adams, the artistic director of the Edinburgh International Film Festival.

Adams: “Can i just say briefly thanks to Sundance for letting an English guy come over and be on this jury.”

“To a remarkable film of creativity, humor and deft insight. Rich and often breathtaking sense of design. Never less than provocative,” says Adams.

Directing Award: U.S. Dramatic

Swiss Army Man, directed by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert

The Daniels come out breathless and overwhelmed.

Scheinert: “This is exciting. It’s been a crazy week. There’s a couple hundred people who took a risk on this movie.

Kwan: “I don’t even know where to begin. It’s been a rollercoaster of a week because of the way our movie has been perceived. This is best way to end the roller coaster. We have to thank the Sundance Institute for believing in the film and telling us there was something of merit in our story. Thank you to the entire crew.To other directors, don’t let anyone telll you what kind of stories to tell. Thank you Sundance, you are the best.”

Update 8:47 PM MST

Taika introduces Louis Psihoyos, director of The Cove and Racing Extinction.

“The Prize goes to a fast-paced verite film that unfolds like a Shakespearian tragedy.” Pishoyos presents.

U.S. Grand Jury Prize: Documentary

Weiner, directed by Elyse Steinberg and Josh Kriegman

A huge entourage of collaborators join the directors onstage. Lotta kinetic energy and heavy breathing among them.

Steinberg: “We didn’t know this would happen and it’s incredible. Being around all you filmmakers is heartwarming. To all the supporters out there...and Sundance institute. There have been so many people who supported this film.”

Kriegman: “Wow, this is such an honor. We’re so happy to be here at Sundance. We can’t believe this. It’s incredible We want to thank you, editor and producers.. This was an amazing team. We are so lucky to be a part of this community. Thank you so much.”

Taika introduces Franklin Leonard, a film executive and the founder of The Black List.

Leonard: “You and i met 13 years ago here,” he tells Taika. “In the words of Alan Rickman, the more we are governed by idiots and have no control over our destinations the more we have to tell stories about who we are, why we are, and what might be possible.”

Now for the award winner: “It challenged each of us to carry a riotous disposition towards injustice and the systems that allow for it. In doing so it is both timeless and right on time.”

U.S. Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic

The Birth of a Nation, directed by Nate Parker

Parker: “Wow, man. Thank you Sundance. Sundance is like a great summer camp experience with magical camp counselors. This has been the greatest moment of my career, working with Michelle and Trevor and Coop, who believed in me. Making a film is a very difficult thing. Often you’re left on your own. Thank you Sundance for creating a platform for us to grow in spite of what Hollywood is doing sometimes.”

Taika: “And that concludes the 2016 Sundance Film Festival awards ceremony. Congrats to all of you for being here. Now it’s time to drink and party."


Lead photo: