Sundance 2012: ‘Beasts,’ drug war doc win grand jury prizes


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The Sundance Film Festival wrapped up Saturday night in Park City, Utah, with ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild,’ directed by Benh Zeitlin, taking the grand jury prize in the U.S. dramatic competition.
‘The House I Live In,’ a look at the war against drugs and the American penal system directed by Eugene Jarecki, was awarded the grand jury prize for U.S. documentary.

‘Beasts’ had been the clear favorite in the dramatic category throughout the festival. The film is an expressionistic, uplifting fable of a little girl (Quvenzhane Wallis) and her father (Dwight Henry) struggling to survive on the Southern Delta in the face of poverty and flooding.


As the cast and crew took to the stage to accept the prize, Zeitlin declared, ‘I hope this film is just like a flag that goes up’ in inspiration to other filmmakers.

‘Violeta Went to Heaven,’ directed by Andres Wood, a film about singer Violeta Parra, won the World Cinematic Dramatic Jury prize. The jury prize for World Cinema Documentary went to Ra’anan Alexandrowicz for ‘The Law in These Parts,’ about the legal system in Israel and the Palestinian territories.

The audience prizes went to Ben Lewin’s ‘The Surrogate’ in the U.S. dramatic category and Kirby Dick’s ‘The Invisible War,’ about rape in the military, for U.S. documentary. ‘Valley of Saints’ won with audiences in the world cinema dramatic category and ‘Searching for Sugar Man’ won in the world cinema documentary contest. ‘Sleepwalk With Me,’ written, directed by and starring Mike Birbiglia, won the Best of NEXT audience award.

PHOTOS: The scene at Sundance 2012

Other winners in the U.S. dramatic category were Ava DuVernay for directing ‘Middle of Nowhere’ and Ben Richardson with ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’ for cinematography. The Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award went to Derek Connolly for ‘Safety Not Guaranteed.’

A special jury prize went to producers Jonathan Schwartz and Andrea Sperling who had both ‘Smashed’ and ‘Nobody Walks’ in the competiton. A special jury prize also went to the ensemble cast of ‘The Surrogate,’ which includes John Hawkes, Helen Hunt and William H. Macy.


In the U.S. documentary category, Lauren Greenfield won for directing ‘The Queen of Versailles,’ Enat Sidi won for editing on ‘Detropia,’ and Jeff Orlowski with ‘Chasing Ice’ for cinematography.

There were two special jury prizes, for ‘Love Free Or Die’ and ‘Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry.’

The awards ceremony was to be have been hosted by long-time Sundance favorite Parker Posey, but at the opening of the show John Cooper, director of the festival, announced that Posey had taken ill and was unable to attend. ‘This is real,’ he said to the crowd who assumed it was some kind of comedy bit.

Rather, he brought up actress and filmmaker Katie Aselton, at the festival with her film ‘Black Rock,’ to serve as co-host.

The evening also included a tribute to Bingham Ray, the veteran film executive, stalwart festival presence and leading champion of independent film who died this week after suffering a stroke at the festival.

Cooper took pause and choked up as he read a statement which noted Ray’s was ‘a career that almost perfectly paralleled the rise of independent film in America.’


Full list of winners:

Grand Jury Prize, Documentary: The House I Live In (Director: Eugene Jarecki)

Grand Jury Prize, Dramatic: Beasts of the Southern Wild (Director: Benh Zeitlin, Screenwriters: Benh Zeitlin, Lucy Alibar)

World Cinema Jury Prize, Documentary: The Law in These Parts (Israel) (Director: Ra’anan Alexandrowicz)

World Cinema Jury Prize, Dramatic: Violeta Went to Heaven (Violeta se Fue a Los Cielos) / Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Spain (Director: Andrés Wood, Screenwriters: Eliseo Altunaga, Rodrigo Bazaes, Guillermo Calderón, Andrés Wood)

Audience Award, U.S. Documentary: The Invisible War (Director: Kirby Dick)

Audience Award, U.S. Dramatic: The Surrogate / (Director and screenwriter: Ben Lewin)

World Cinema Audience Award, Documentary: Searching for Sugar Man / Sweden, United Kingdom (Director: Malik Bendjelloul)

World Cinema Audience Award, Dramatic Valley of Saints / India, U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Musa Syeed)

The Best of NEXT Audience Award, Sleepwalk With Me / U.S.A. (Director: Mike Birbiglia, Screenwriters: Mike Birbiglia, Ira Glass, Joe Birbiglia, Seth Barrish)

U.S. Directing Award, Documentary: The Queen of Versailles / U.S.A. (Director: Lauren Greenfield)

U.S. Directing Award, Dramatic: Middle Of Nowhere / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Ava DuVernay)

World Cinema Directing Award, Documentary: 5 Broken Cameras / Palestine, Israel, France (Directors: Emad Burnat, Guy Davidi)

World Cinema Directing Award, Dramatic: Teddy Bear / Denmark (Director: Mads Matthiesen, Screenwriters: Mads Matthiesen, Martin Pieter Zandvliet)

The Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award: Safety Not Guaranteed / U.S.A. (Director: Colin Trevorrow, Screenwriter: Derek Connolly)

The World Cinema Screenwriting Award: Young & Wild / Chile (Director: Marialy Rivas, Screenwriters: Marialy Rivas, Camila Gutiérrez, Pedro Peirano, Sebastián Sepúlveda)

The U.S. Documentary Editing Award: DETROPIA /U.S.A. (Directors: Heidi Ewing, Rachel Grady)

The World Cinema Documentary Editing Award: Indie Game: The Movie / Canada (Directors: Lisanne Pajot, James Swirsky)

The Excellence in Cinematography Award, U.S. Documentary: Chasing Ice / U.S.A. (Director: Jeff Orlowski)

The Excellence in Cinematography Award, U.S. Dramatic: Beasts of the Southern Wild / U.S.A. (Director: Benh Zeitlin, Screenwriters: Benh Zeitlin, Lucy Alibar)

The World Cinema Cinematography Award, Documentary: Putin’s Kiss / Denmark (Director: Lise Birk Pedersen)

The World Cinema Cinematography Award, Dramatic: My Brother the Devil / United Kingdom (Director and screenwriter: Sally El Hosaini)

A U.S. Documentary Special Jury Prize for an Agent of Change: Love Free or Die / U.S.A. (Director: Macky Alston)

A U.S. Documentary Special Jury Prize for Spirit of Defiance: Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry / U.S.A., China (Director: Alison Klayman)

A U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Prize for Excellence in Independent Film Producing: Andrea Sperling and Jonathan Schwartz for Smashed and Nobody Walks

A U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Prize for Ensemble Acting: The Surrogate / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Ben Lewin)

A World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Prize for Artistic Vision: Can / Turkey (Director and screenwriter: Rasit Celikezer)

A World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Prize for its Celebration of the Artistic Spirit: Searching for Sugar Man

The inaugural Short Film Audience Award, based on online voting for nine short films that premiered at the Festival and are currently featured on Yahoo! Screen, was presented to: The Debutante Hunters (Director: Maria White)

The following awards were presented at separate ceremonies at the Festival:

The Jury Prize in Short Filmmaking was awarded to: FISHING WITHOUT NETS / U.S.A. (Director: Cutter Hodierne, Screenwriters: Cutter Hodierne, John Hibey). The Jury Prize in Short Film, U.S. Fiction was presented to: The Black Balloon / U.S.A. (Directors: Benny Safdie, Josh Safdie). The Jury Prize in Short Film, International Fiction was presented to: The Return (Kthimi) / Kosovo (Director: Blerta Zeqiri, Screenwriter: Shefqet Gjocaj). The Jury Prize in Short Film, Non-Fiction was presented to: The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom / U.S.A. (Director: Lucy Walker). The Jury Prize in Animated Short Film was presented to: A Morning Stroll / United Kingdom (Director: Grant Orchard). A Special Jury Award for Comedic Storytelling was presented to: The Arm / U.S.A. (Directors and screenwriters: Brie Larson, Sarah Ramos, Jessie Ennis). A Special Jury Award for Animation Direction was presented to: Robots of Brixton / United Kingdom (Director: Kibwe Tavares).

The winning directors and projects of the Sundance Institute | Mahindra Global Filmmaking Award, in recognition and support of emerging independent filmmakers from around the world, are: Etienne Kallos / Vrystaat (Free State) (South Africa); Ariel Kleiman / Partisan (Australia); Dominga Sotomayor / Tarde Para Morir Joven (Late To Die Young) (Chile); and Shonali Bose / Margarita. With a Straw (India).

The Sundance/NHK International Filmmaker Award, honoring and supporting emerging filmmakers, was presented to Jens Assur, director of the upcoming film Close Far Away.

The inaugural Hilton Worldwide LightStay Sustainability Award for a completed feature film was presented to The Island President, directed by Jon Shenk. The in-process feature film award was presented to Solar Mamas, directed by Jehane Noujaim and Mona Eldaief. Each project received $25,000.

The inaugural Sundance Institute Indian Paintbrush Producer’s Award and $10,000 grant was presented to Dan Janvey and Josh Penn for Beasts of the Southern Wild.

The Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prizes, presented to outstanding feature films focusing on science or technology as a theme, or depicting a scientist, engineer, or mathematician as a major character, were presented to Robot & Frank, directed by Jake Schreier and written by Christopher Ford, and Valley of Saints, directed and written by Musa Syeed. The two films will split the $20,000 cash award by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.


The 2012 Sundance Film Festival Jurors were: U.S. Documentary Competition: Fenton Bailey, Heather Croall, Charles Ferguson, Tia Lessin, Kim Roberts; U.S. Dramatic Competition: Justin Lin, Anthony Mackie, Cliff Martinez, Lynn Shelton, Amy Vincent; World Cinema Documentary Competition: Nick Fraser, Clara Kim, Jean-Marie Teno; World Cinema Dramatic Competition: Julia Ormond, Richard Pena, Alexei Popogrebsky; Alfred P. Sloan Award: Tracy Day, Helen Fisher, Dr. Robert J. Full, Gwyn Lurie, Alex Rivera; Short Film Competition: Mike Judge, Dee Rees, Shane Smith.


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-- Mark Olsen in Park City, Utah