Eric Hynes and Claiborne Smith
Hi everyone, and welcome to the live blog for the 2012 Sundance Film Festival Awards Ceremony. We’re Eric Hynes and Claiborne Smith, and we’ll be your tag-team virtual hosts for tonight’s festivities. For the second year in a row, the Awards Ceremony takes place few miles north of Park City at the Basin Recreation Fieldhouse at Kimball Junction. The football field sized space has been split into two halves: a party lounge with bar tables, stools, and buffet tables; and a ceremonial half with folding chairs facing a stage comprised of giant building blocks decorated in this year’s Festival’s colors of yellow, black and white, and signs heralding this year’s theme, Look Again.
At the Festival’s opening day press conference, Festival Director John Cooper spoke of how Hollywood and indie films are moving father and father apart, stylistically. As more Transformers populate megaplex screens, the range and diversity of stories emerging from indie filmmakers—on full view for the past 10 days of the Festival—becomes richer. The state of independent film is “very healthy, it’s creative, it’s original,” Cooper said. “I think the stories are as diverse as they can be. They’re personal and I think they’re a unique perspective on the world we live in.” He talked about how every year people ask him what the themes of the Festival are, but “the truth is, they’re aren’t any. Independent film is the theme.”
All told, 27 awards will be given out over the next 60 minutes, so prepare yourselves for a flurry of activity on this blog. And start familiarizing yourselves with the filmmakers and titles you’re about to hear. Something tells us that you’ll be talking about them in the months and years to come.
Updated 7:21 P.M.:
The evening kicks off with a “voice of god” introducing Festival director John Cooper (we don’t think it was actually god—just the voice of god).
Cooper looks chagrinned. “We had this whole bit where [Parker Posey] was ready to come out as the queen of indie film to the music from Aida,” Cooper said. Posey was supposed to be the evening’s emcee tonight, but she fell ill. Sad handlers are holding her queen garb, one of whom is even wearing her crown. Cooper wishes her well; so does the audience.
Cooper introduces Sundance Institute executive director Keri Putnam, who encourages everyone to get involved with the Institute beyond these 10 days of the Festival. “We’re active 365 days a year and all over the world discovering and supporting new independent artists—so please visit us online, come see some of our public programs, and really be part of our community.”
Putnam presents the second annual winners of the Sundance Institute/Mahindra Global Filmmaking award, which were announced earlier in the week, to Shonali Bose, Margarita With a Straw (India); Etienne Kallos, Free State (South Africa); Ariel Kleiman, Partisan (Australia); Dominga Sotomayor, Late to Die Young (Chile).
Cooper’s back on stage thanking the Festival staff and 1,850 Festival volunteers, giving special mention to those volunteers who’ve worked more than 100 hours during the Festival: “The 100 Club.” The indie film community took a hit this week—with the death of beloved indie film producer Bingham Ray. Cooper gets a little choked up reading from an appreciation of him written by a friend of his, a poker partner.
Ray was described as “a fierce competitor and raconteur,” someone who started out at the Bleeker Street Cinema. He was “intimately involved with some of the figures he used to protect” and “as with everything else, he had no problem challenging them when he thought they were wrong.” Cooper thanks this year’s filmmakers for sharing “your stories and your souls” with audiences at the 2012 Festival.
Cooper confesses he’s had a dream—a dream of a co-host. He introduces director and actor Katie Aselton, whose thriller Black Rock played in the Midnight section at this year’s Festival. Aselton is helping Cooper host tonight’s awards ceremony. They tell everyone they’re thanking god right now so that all the filmmakers who will be on stage tonight to accept awards can make their thank you’s brief. Brief!
Cooper then introduces renowned biological anthropologist Helen Fisher to present the Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize, which is presented to a director with an outstanding film focusing on science or technology as a theme; it comes with a cash award of $20,000.
Updated 7:32 P.M.:
Cooper and Aselton return to the stage and introduces natty, argyle-sweater wearing Trevor Groth, director of programming for the Sundance Film Festival. He announces the winners of the Shorts Program, presented by Yahoo!, which were presented earlier in the week. Jurors included Shane Smith of TIFF Bell Lightbox, King of the Hill creator Mike Judge, and Pariah director Dee Rees, a big winner at last year’s Festival.
Groth also announces the first annual Shorts Audience Award. Holly Boyer from Yahoo! joins Groth on stage. Audiences across the nation have been voting on the winner of the Shorts Audience Award. And the award goes to … The Debutante Hunters, directed by Maria White. White tells the audience that she and her husband volunteered for the Festival 10 years ago, so to end up winning is something very special for her. “We had thousands of thousands of people see our film that we never expected to see it,” she says.
Coming up next, the winners of the World Cinema Competition Documentary Competition.
Updated 7:47 PM:
John Cooper and Katie Aselton introduce the jurors for the World Cinema Documentary Competition: Clara Kim, curator of the Walker Art Center, filmmaker Jean-Marie Teno, and BBC Storyville founder Nick Fraser. Twelve internationally produced films, from Canada and Denmark to China and Palestine, competed in this section this year. “We saw some incredible films, and have the distinct pleasure of giving 5 prizes for this category,” says Kim. The first prizewinner is about, “A man whose humble and rich existence reminds us of the integrity of life.”
Winner of the World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Prize for its Celebration of the Artistic Spirit:
Searching for Sugar Man, directed by Malik Bendjelloul (Sweden/UK)
“Is this really happening? This was supposed to be six minutes for Swedish TV,” says Bendjelloul. He introduces subject Rodriguez, who stands from his seat and receives rich applause. Read our coverage of Sugar Man’s world premiere.
Teno introduces the next award winner. “Many filmmakers have been taking the camera and making films. Cinematography is very, very important – it rises to the level of artwork. Sometimes you leave a film and for a long time, some images from the film you have just seen flash in your mind. In a state of propaganda and people in this kind of oppressive regime are behaving.”
Winner of the World Cinema Cinematography Award for Documentary Filmmaking:
Putin’s Kiss, cinematography by Lars Skree (Denmaerk)
Director Lise Birk Pedersen accepts for Skree.
Kim presents the next winner, “A seamless journey into independently minded individuals.”
Winner of the World Cinema Documentary Editing Award:
Indie Game: The Movie, edited by Lisanne Pajot and James Swirsky. (Canada)
“Two years ago we hopped into a Toyota without cruise control, and never imagined that we’d be here, ” say the filmmakers.
Winner of the World Cinema Documentary Directing Award:
5 Broken Cameras, directed by Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi (Palestine/Israel/France)
“I can’t believe I’m standing here,” says Burnat. “This film was a gift from the beginning. It was a gift for me to go to this village building where I spent many years.”
Regarding the next prize: “A great film, a tough film, and unforgiving film,” says Fraser. “Apparently intelligent men, acting in what they think is their best interest, turn the rule of law into an oppressive system. The jury loved this film – we hope it goes out into the world and changes people.”
Winner of the World Cinema Grand Jury Prize in Documentary:
The Law in These Parts (Shilton Ha Chok), directed by Ra’anan Alexandrowicz (Israel)
“This is the hardest film I’ve made,” says Alexandrowicz. He thanks the doc program at Sundance Institute. “This is an amazing moment for me as a filmmaker, but it’s a film about a painful and unresolved subject. What you find out in the film, and in other films in this festival, is that upholding law doesn’t always lead to justice. It can even be used as a tool against certain segments of society. We have to oppose them, and if necessary we have to break them.”
Updated 7:57 PM:
Cooper introduces the jury for the World Cinema Dramatic Competition: New York Film Festival director Richard Pena, filmmaker Alexei Popogrebsky, and actress Julia Ormond. Fourteen films from countries such as Japan, Argentina, Turkey, and the Czech Republic competed in this section this year.
Winner of the World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Prize for Artistic Vision:
Can, directed by Rasit Celikezer (Turkey)
“What can I say? This is a story. This is long days; this is a great story, Sundance,” says Celikezer. “Thank you, so much. I dedicated my film to all kids and now I’m dedicating this award to my little daughter and all other kids. Thank you so much.”
Winner of the World Cinema Cinematography Award, Dramatic:
My Brother the Devil, cinematography by David Raedeker (UK)
“I went on a journey with this film, and it was a rollercoaster,” says Raedeker.
Winner of the World Cinema Screenwriting Award, Dramatic:
Young & Wild, written by Marialy Rivas, Camila Gutierrez, Pedro Peirano (Chile)
“Do you want to cry? Me too. We grew up in a country during the dictatorship,” says Rivas. “Since I was seven I wanted to be a filmmaker to escape that violent reality. Every film is an act of love.”
Winner of the World Cinema Directing Award, Dramatic:
Teddy Bear, directed by Mads Matthiesen (Denmark)
“That’s great, man. Great surprise. Just want to thank Sundance. It’s a pleasure coming here. Everything around this Festival, the audiences, is great,” says Matthiesen. Claiborne Smith talked to Matthiesen for Sundance.org.
For a film that Ormond calls, “an extraordinary hymn”:
Winner of the World Cinema Grand Jury Prize, Dramatic:
Violeta Went to Heaven (Violeta se Fue a Los Cielos), directed by Andres Wood (Chile/Argentina/Brazil/Spain)
Wood can’t be in attendance, but sends an acceptance speech remotely, which Ormond delivers. “We are delighted and surprised we wish we were there tonight to celebrate with you. We want to think the people of the festival, jury and audience. We accept it on behalf of the Chilean community.”
Coming up next, the Audience Awards.
Updated 8:11 PM:
Cooper introduces Tim Heidecker, known to viewers of Adult Swim, where his subversive shows like “Tom Goes to the Mayor” and “Tim and Eric, Awesome Show, Great Job,” have aired. Heidecker presents the Best of NEXT Audience Award (the 2012 Festival is the fourth year for the NEXT showcase, which features films by often new filmmakers of bold, pure storytelling).
“I was hoping we could do something right now,” says Heidecker. “Would everybody mind standing up for one second, please? Okay, you can sit down. Thank you very much. Do we have any walk outs? I usually get some walk outs.” He prompts the NEXT films to scroll across the screen, but the video appears to malfunction. “Those were all terrible films,” he jokes. “Well, who the hell cares.”
Winner of the Best of NEXT Audience Award:
Sleepwalk with Me, directed by comedian and writer Mike Birbiglia
The first thing Birbiglia does is mention Craig Zobel’s Compliance, another NEXT film, which he says is his favorite film in the Festival. “Without guys like Miguel Arteta telling me I could direct when I couldn’t,” he says, “I wouldn’t be here.” Read Birbiglia’s comments from the Sleepwalk with Me premiere.
Aselton introduces veteran actor and political activist Edward James Olmos, appearing in the 2012 Festival film Filly Brown, who in turn introduces, seemingly off-the-cuff, filmmaker Robert M. Young. “He’s truly the father of independent film in America. He’s a giant amongst those of us who are independent filmmakers in this country This man helped create Sundance Institute, and we want to thank you on behalf of the entire industry,” says Olmos.
“I don’t think I deserve to be up here,” Young says. “I was at the first Sundance—I know a number of you here and I’m honored just to be recognized. I’m 87, still going, still making films.” Olmos continues, introducing the Audience Awards.
Winner of the World Cinema Audience Award for Documentary Film:
Searching for Sugar Man, directed by Malik Bendjelloul (Sweden)
Bendjelloul brings up Rodriguez, who’s dressed in trademark black, from dark mane to shiny leather pants. “I’m so excited I can’t catch my breath. He’s the whole hero of my life,” Rodriguez says about Bendjelloul. Read our coverage of Sugar Man’s world premiere.
Winner of the World Cinema Audience Award for Dramatic Film:
Valley of Saints, directed by Musa Syeed (India/U.S.A.).
This is the second win for Valley of Saints – earlier this week, the film received a $10,000 award from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation for the innovative way the film depicts the scientist at the heart of the film. Producer Nicholas Bruckman accepts. “My only job was to make our awards here,” he says, “and I only just made it.”
Updated 8:19 PM:
Clips from the U.S. Documentary and Dramatic Competition films are shown. Mike Birbiglia, fresh off his recent win for Sleepwalk with Me, presents the U.S. Competition Audience Awards, sponsored by Acura. “Because the first thing you do when you make an independent film is choose your luxury sedan,” Birbiglia says. “Once you do that, you’re pretty much done.”
Winner of the U.S. Documentary Competition Audience Award, presented by Acura:
The Invisible War, directed by Kirby Dick.
“I never thought I’d win an audience award,” Dick says. He dedicates the award to the many soldiers who have been raped within the American military. “This award really is to them (the victims), so this epidemic stops.”
“You are heard, you are appreciated, you are not forgotten, and you are no longer invisible,” says producer Amy Ziering.
Winner of the U.S. Dramatic Competition Audience Award, presented by Acura:
The Surrogate, directed by Ben Lewin.
Standing ovation for Lewin, whose film routinely received standing ovations during the Festival. “A word of advice to independent filmmakers,” says Lewin. “Don’t sleep with the leading lady. Sleep with the producer.” He’s accompanied by his wife, producer Judi Levine. “Love is a journey,” he adds. “That’s it.”
“I think I learned very early that it’s good to sleep with the director,” adds Levine. Read Claiborne Smith’s profile of The Surrogate’s John Hawkes. Coming up next, the winners of the U.S. Documentary and Dramatic competitions.
Updated 8:35 PM:
Aselton come back on stage – it’s time for the awards for the U.S. Documentary and Dramatic competition awards. They introduce Heather Croall, the director of the Sheffield Doc/Fest, one of the best documentary festivals in the world. Two special jury prizes – a rarity.
Winner of the U.S. Documentary Special Jury Prize for Grace Under Pressure:
Love Free or Die, directed by Macky Alston
The film is about what happened after the Episcopal Church in New Hampshire came under fire for electing an openly gay man as its bishop.
Alston’s on stage – 15 years ago, I was here with another film. I remember the first time I didn’t get into Sundance. I remember the bathtub. I remember the raging tantrum – my husband taking my photo in the audience can attest to that. And then the day came when we heard we got into Sundance with this film and I was a bigger mess than before.”
Winner of the U.S. Documentary Special Jury Prize for Spirit of Defiance:
Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, directed by Alison Klayman
“I think I’m too nervous to say too much,” Klayman says, but she thanks Ai Weiwei and her family and crew. She asks the audience to flip the bird – she takes a photo and plans to send it to Ai Weiwei.
Cliff Martinez, former member of the Red Hot Chili Peppers and film composer for many of Steven Soderbergh’s movies, including sex, lies, and videotape and Contagion, presents the “life’s blood of independent cinema,” the Special Jury Prize: Dramatic for independent film producing. The award goes to Smashed producers Andrea Sperling and Jonathan Schwartz. Sperling isn’t in attendance but Schwartz thanks her – “all the credit in my life goes to my wife Jennifer,” he says. He thanks Ry Russo-Young and James Ponsoldt, who we worked with this past year in producing their films. The Special Jury Prize: Dramatic for ensemble acting goes to the cast of The Surrogate. Producer Judi Levine is back on stage – “I have to tell you this was an extraordinary experience. The cast brought everything they could to their characters” – she heaps praise on Helen Hunt, John Hawkes, and William H. Macy. Aselton introduces Tia Lessin, who produced and directed the groundbreaking Trouble the Water, about the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina—that documentary won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2008 Festival and was nominated for an Academy Award.
Winner of the Excellence in Cinematography Award for U.S. Documentary Filmmaking:Chasing Ice, Jeff Orlowski
Orlowski thanks Sundance and his father, who taught him how to do photography, and James Balog, the subject of the film, who taught him “how to be an artist.” Cinematographer Amy Vincent (Hustle & Flow) comes on stage to present the…
Winner of Excellence in Cinematography Award – Dramatic to:
Beasts of the Southern Wild, Ben Richardson
Richardson seems surprised. “Above all, I want to say thank you to Behn Zeitlin. I wish my dad could see this” and to his mom, “who never in my whole life doubted I could do the things I wanted to do.”
Award-winning documentary editor Kim Roberts presents the…
U.S. Documentary Editing Award to:
Detropia, edited by Enat Sidi
Roberts explains that the award is given to Sidi “for trusting in the power of verite … and in the cadence of poetry.” Filmmaker Heidi Ewing is onstage with her. “I feel very privileged that I get to make films with my friends,” Sidi says. Actor Anthony Mackie comes on stage to give the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award.
“Sometimes you see a movie without a script and it lets you know how important a screenwriter is,” Mackie says. “Sometimes you see a movie that exemplifies the idea of creative thought.” The winner is Derek Connolly, the screenwriter behind Safety Not Guaranteed. Connolly looks way too young to be getting an award of this stature. “I’m going to keep this brief or my head is going to explode all over the first row,” Connolly says. He thanks the producers and crew.
Cooper and Aselton introduce director Fenton Bailey, who’s made many appearances at the Festival over the years, from Party Monster to Becoming Chaz.
Winner of the U.S. Directing Award for Documentary Film:
Lauren Greenfield, director of The Queen of Versailles
“I want to especially thank Jackie Segal and her family for bravely sticking with the story when it changed in unexpected ways,” Greenfield says.
Humpday and Your Sister’s Sister director Lynn Shelton is now on stage to announce..
Winner of the U.S. Directing Award for Dramatic Film: Middle of Nowhere, director Ava DuVernay
Shelton explains that the Award goes to DuVernay for providing “a glimpse into the world of those left behind.” DuVernay say she’s “stunned” and “very happy” – she thanks her producers, the crew, her fellow filmmakers, and a cast “led by this brave, generous soul,” Emayatzy Corinealdi – she stresses that it’s important for the film to be seen beyond Park City and for “filmmakers of color to see one another’s films and have them seen.”
It’s now time for the Grand Jury Prize in the Documentary category – writer and documentary maker Charles Ferguson’s No End in Sight: The American Occupation of Iraq premiered at the 2007 Festival and won a Special Jury Prize that year. Ferguson says the jury wanted to give more awards than they were allowed to – many of the films are about the same thing, “what the hell is happening to the United States.” But one film stood out, he says. “The film made us feel and think about this problem in a new way.”
Winner of the Grand Jury Prize for Documentary:
The House I Live In, directed by Eugene Jarecki
The film is about America’s criminal justice system, and why so many Americans are incarcerated. Jarecki says, “We began a journey many many years ago when someone I love in the audience very much … she inspired me to be very concerend about social justice and it set me and my team on a journey to find out what’s happening to families like Manny’s” … “it’s a terrible, tragic little secret” we have in America, he says. The criminal justice system is “tragically immoral,” Jarecki says and we need reform – putting people in jail for nonviolent crime must end, he says. “I thank those men and women who shared their stories with us.”
Updated 8:51 PM:
The last award of the night:
Fast & Furious director Justin Lin is now on stage to present:
The Winner of the Grand Jury Prize – Dramatic
Beasts of the Southern Wild, directed by Benh Zeitlin
“With powerful and raw performances … this film represents what independent film is all about,” Lin explains. Zeitlin brings some of the film’s cast and crew on stage with him. “I got nothing to say,” says the film’s star, Quvenzhane Wallis. “That’s why I told you to talk to the mic.” “We should have a ton of people up here,” Zeitlin says. “We had more freedom to make this film than any first-time director has had in America. I hope this movie is a flag that goes up to tell producers to allow filmmakers to be as wild as they could be to direct a film.” He thanks his family in Louisiana and seems happily overwhelmed. A big group hug is happening on stage.
Cooper and Aselton are back on stage. “I’ve always wanted to be Parker Posey,” Aselton says and the night ends. Thanks to everyone out there for following us throughout the Ceremony – see you next year!