Once a year, filmmakers from across the globe travel to Park City, Utah to take part in a celebration of film known as the Sundance Film Festival. This festival celebrates an aspect of film that many of us moviegoers tend to forget while watching someone get hacked apart by a chainsaw or whatever else we find in the movies we watch; that aspect is art. Far too often we tend to forget the reason so many filmmakers do what they do – to make a statement about whatever they so choose in a way that utilizes visual effects, sound and music, acting, and generally a compilation of nearly every other kind of art.
Further, the festival gives the filmmakers we may have otherwise overlooked a chance to shine. If is wasn’t for film festivals like Sundance, the world may have never been exposed to films like “Like Crazy” or “Paranormal Activity.” This was the reason Robert Redford started Sundance so many years ago – to give young filmmakers a chance to shine and showcase their work.
As this year was my first ever attending the festival, I had little idea of what to expect. I came into it knowing about as much about the festival as is in the first two paragraphs. So now, having been to Park City for the festival, I can share with you my experience and hopefully clarify the goings on of the Sundance Film Festival.
Park City, for the many of you who probably have never been, is a small city in Utah that’s tucked away on the side of a mountain at the mouth of Parley’s Canyon. Aside from the festival, Park City has much to offer for tourists such as its world renowned ski resorts, an outlet mall, and, of course, it’s main street where a lot of the happenings of the festival take place. If you happen to find yourself in Park City for the festival, I recommend you start there, as many celebrities do. As you can see on the right, THIS is what happens when people find out Katherine Heigl is inside a sushi bar on main street.
Aside from main street, there’s also the opportunity to catch some of the films as they premier, which is when many of the cast and crew attend them. If you cannot get into the premier of the film itself, you can hang outside the gates and experience the red carpet event from the sidelines. There are also dozens of premier parties you can attend if you are lucky enough to know the right people. I was given the opportunity to attend such an event known as the “Mystery Chili Party” for the premier of “We are What We Are.” The event, like many others, was held at a bar on main street. Inside, there was an open bar, a great DJ, a huka lounge, and other such activities. To my surprise, however, the party seemed to be lacking one thing: chili. I suppose it could have been a pun having to do with the film, and its characters being cannibals (mystery chili, get it?) but there also seemed to lack any paraphernalia having to do with the film at all, forcing me to question whether I was even at the right place! Well, long story short, I was at the right place and the “chili” aspect of the party seemed to be a tad overstated, considering that there wasn’t any.
Then, of course, there’s the films themselves. There are dozens of films to see that are all being showcased during the ten day festival, so there’s definitely something for everyone. Although you likely won’t find the stunning graphics that have come to be expected in large-budget Hollywood films, the acting and the scripts generally make up for it. As the films have to go through an intense screening process to make it to the festival, you can be assured that they each have a reason and deserve to be at the festival. For those of you who may have little faith in the independent film world, don’t forget that the winners or most popular films of the festival often receive wide releases across the world, so there’s a fair chance you’ll be seeing this year’s winner on the big screens sometime this summer.
At the end of the festival, an award ceremony is held for each year’s top picks in the individual categories. This year’s ceremony was hosted by the talented Joseph Gordon-Levitt! The award winners are as follow:
U.S. Grand Jury Prize – Documentary: “Blood Brother” directed by Steve Hoover.
U.S. Grand Jury Prize – Dramatic: “Fruitvale” directed by Ryan Coogler and starring Michael B. Jordan, Octavia Spencer, Melonie Diaz, Ahna O’Reilly, Kevin Durand, and Chad Michael Murray.
World Cinema Grand Jury Prize – Documentary: “A River Changes Course” directed by Kalyanee Mam.
World Cinema Grand Jury Prize – Dramatic: “Jiseul” directed by Muel O and starring Min-chul SUNG, Jung-won YANG, Young-soon OH, Soon-dong PARK, Suk-bum MOON, and Kyung-sub JANG.
Audience Award – U.S. Documentary presented by Acura: “Blood Brother” directed by Steve Hoover.
Audience Award – U.S. Dramatic presented by Acura: “Fruitvale” directed by Ryan Coogler and starring Michael B. Jordan, Octavia Spencer, Melonie Diaz, Ahna O’Reilly, Kevin Durand, and Chad Michael Murray.
Audience Award – World Cinema Documentary: “The Square (Al Midan)” directed by Jehane Noujaim.
Audience Award – World Cinema Dramatic: “Metro Manila” directed by Sean Ellis and starring Jake Macapagal, John Arcilla and Althea Vega.
Audience Award – Best of NEXT: “This is Martin Bonner” directed by Chad Hartigan and starring Paul Eenhoorn, Richmond Arquette, Sam Buchanan, Robert Longstreet and Demetrius Grosse.
Directing Award – U.S. Documentary: “Cutie and the Boxer” directed by Zachary Heinzerling.
Directing Award – U.S. Dramatic: “Afternoon Delight” directed by Jill Soloway and starring Kathryn Hahn, Juno Temple, Josh Radnor and Jane Lynch.
Directing Award – World Cinema Documentary: “The Machine Which Makes Everything Disappear” directed by Tinatin Gurchiani.
Directing Award – World Cinema Dramatic- “Crystal Fairy” directed by Sebastián Silva and starring Michael Cera, Gaby Hoffmann, Juan Andrés Silva, José Miguel Silva and Agustín Silva.
Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award – U.S. Dramatic: “In a World…” directed by Lake Bell and starring Lake Bell, Demetri Martin, Rob Corddry, Michaela Watkins, Ken Marino and Fred Melamed.
Screenwriting Award – World Cinema Dramatic: “Wajima (An Afghan Love Story)” directed and written by Barmak Akram and starring Wajma Bahar, Mustafa Habibi, Haji Gul and Breshna Bahar.
Editing Award – U.S. Documentary: “Gideon’s Army” directed by Dawn Porter.
Editing Award – World Cinema Documentary: “The Summit” directed by Nick Ryan.
Cinematography Award – U.S. Documentary: “Dirty Wars” directed by Richard Rowley.
Cinematography Award – U.S. Dramatic: Bradford Young for “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints” directed by David Lowery and starring Rooney Mara, Casey Affleck, Ben Foster, Nate Parker and Keith Carradine, and “Mother of George” directed by Andrew Dosunmu and starring Isaach De Bankolé, Danai Gurira, Tony Okungbowa, Yaya Alafia and Bukky Ajayi.
Cinematography Award – World Cinema Documentary: “Who is Dayani Cristal?” directed by Marc Silver.
Cinematography Award – World Cinema Dramatic: “Lasting” directed by Jacek Borcuch and starring Jakub Gierszal, Magdalena Berus and Angela Molina.
U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Achievement in Filmmaking: “Inequality for All” directed by Jacob Kornbluth.
U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Achievement in Filmmaking: “American Promise: directed by Joe Brewster and Michèle Stephenson.
U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Acting: Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley in “The Spectacular Now” directed by James Ponsoldt and starring Miles Teller, Shailene Woodley, Brie Larson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Kyle Chandler.
U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Sound Design: Shane Carruth, Johnny Marshall and Pete Horner for “Upstream Color” directed by Shane Carruth and starring Amy Seimetz, Shane Carruth, Andrew Sensenig and Thiago Martins.
World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award: “Circles” directed by Srdan Golubovic and starring Aleksandar Bercek, Leon Lucev, Nebojsa Glogovac, Hristina Popovic, Nikola Rakocevic and Vuk Kostic.
World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award for Punk Spirit: “Pussy Riot – A Punk Prayer” directed by Mike Lerner and Maxim Pozdorovkin.
Short Film Audience Award: “Catnip: Egress to Oblivion?” directed by Jason Willis.