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Sundance Film Festival 2010 Wrap-Up

With the 2010 Sundance Film Festival at a close, I have to reflect back and realize that it was quite the experience. Having never covered anything as substantial as this and taking the risk to jump far out of my comfort zone, it was quite the opportunity and I am glad that I chose to cover it with a few baby steps rather jumping headfirst into the waters.

All in my first day at the festival I managed a great Q&A with director Cordell Barker discussing his animated entry, Runaway. I was lucky enough to gain entrance to The Gen Arts Lounge, as this was a great way to get out of the cold for a while and get my hands on a groovy little engraved mojito mint muddler.

Later that night I attended an invitation-only party, The 7 Fresh Faces in Film, sponsored by The Gen Arts Lounge and hosted by Malin Akerman (Watchmen and Couples Retreat) who was also featured in two Sundance entries herself (Happythankyoumoreplease and The Romantics). This party was to honor and recognize new up and comers who were all featured in Sundance films this year — Shawn Ashmore (Frozen), Amy Ferguson (Douchebag), Shiloh Fernandez (Skateland), Zoe Lister-Jones (Armless), Zoe Kazan (happythankyoumoreplease), Jennifer Lawrence (Winter’s Bone), and Kevin Zegers (Frozen) — in the Sky Lodge located on Main Street.

While I was only able to catch 11 films this year, I did manage to make a list of which of those films were better than the others. Some have misread into these two articles and I am not trying to pass judgment that these are in fact the best and worst of Sundance this year. I simply took what I saw and compared them all against each other.

Unfortunately, I was not able to see any films throughout the week but finally managed to catch my final film, Winter’s Bone, after waitlisting at the Rose Wagner Theater in downtown Salt Lake City. After bearing witness to this amazingly tense and terrific thriller set in the Ozarks, I would have to say that if I was to make a new list of my favorites, this would definitely wrangle its way into the top five and push the dismal Southern District rightly off the list completely.

Winter’s Bone is full of amazing performances. Jennifer Lawrence plays well beyond her years in the lead as Ree Dolly, a girl put through the family wringer while trying to locate her father, who’s abandoned the family and put up their entire estate to cover a bail issue. John Hawkes also stars as her menacingly frightening uncle, Teardrop (Hawkes is also featured in the season premiere of the final season of Lost). If these two don’t deserve awards come next year’s Oscar season then I don’t know who does. However, co-writer/director Debra Granik also deserves the hype as she brings a very different outlook to backwoods hillbillies than was seen during the festival in Tucker & Dale vs Evil.

I also managed to receive some screeners of additional animated short films from the National Film Board of Canada along with Cordell Barker’s Runaway. L'ondée (Rains), from David Coquard-Dassault, is a great little nugget about life in the city as it seems to get washed away before the sun comes back out and everyone is finally able to escape from refuge. Vive la rose, by Bruce Alcock, is an interesting piece that works as a sort of music video to an 18th century folk song about unrequited love and being dumped by your boyfriend. While this sounds rather silly, the short film turns things rather melancholy and even hopeful.

I did catch a screening of The S From Hell before Tucker & Dale vs Evil. Director Rodney Ascher unleashes a nine-minute tour de force of hilarity with a mockumentary about the origins and possible meanings behind the original Screen Gems logo of yesteryear. While the studio has updated and ultimately changed its logo, it is a great little gem of its own and everyone should seek it out wherever possible.

Finally, with the festival over and done with, there has to be a mention of this year’s winners. Here is a complete listing of the winners in every category:

  • Grand Jury Prize: Documentary – Sebastien Junger and Tim Hetherington, Restrepo
  • Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic – Debra Granik, Winter’s Bone
  • World Cinema Jury Prize: Documentary – Mads Brügger, The Red Chapel
  • World Cinema Jury Prize: Dramatic – David Michôd, Animal Kingdom
  • Audience Award: U.S. Documentary – Davis Guggenheim, WAITING FOR SUPERMAN
  • Audience Award: U.S. Dramatic – Josh Radnor, happythankyoumoreplease
  • World Cinema Audience Award: Documentary – Lucy Walker, Waste Land
  • World Cinema Audience Award: Dramatic – Javier Fuentes-León, Contracorriente
  • Best of NEXT – Todd Barnes and Brad Barnes, Homewrecker
  • U.S. Directing Award: Documentary – Leon Gast, Smash His Camera
  • U.S. Directing Award: Dramatic – Eric Mendelsohn, 3 Backyards
  • World Cinema Directing Award: Documentary – Christian Frei, Space Tourists
  • World Cinema Directing Award: Dramatic – Juan Carlos Valdivia, Southern District
  • Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award – Debra Granik and Anne Rosellini, Winter’s Bone
  • World Cinema Screenwriting Award – Juan Carlos Valdivia, Southern District
  • U.S. Documentary Editing Award – Penelope Falk, Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work
  • World Cinema Documentary Editing Award – Joëlle Alexis, A Film Unfinished
  • Excellence in Cinematography Award: U.S. Documentary – Kirsten Johnson, Laura Poitras, The Oath
  • Excellence in Cinematography Award: U.S. Dramatic – Zak Mulligan, Obselidia
  • World Cinema Cinematography Award: Documentary – Kate McCullough and Michael Lavelle, His & Hers
  • World Cinema Cinematography Award: Dramatic – Mariano Cohn and Gastón Duprat, The Man Next Door
  • Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize – Diane Bell, Obselidia
  • U.S. Documentary Special Jury Prize – Josh Fox, Gasland
  • U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Prize – Mark Ruffalo, Sympathy For Delicious
  • World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Prize – Rob Lemkin and Thet Sambath, Enemies of the People
  • World Dramatic Special Jury Prize for Breakout Performance – Tatiana Maslany in Grown Up Movie Star
  • Jury Prize in U.S. Short Filmmaking – Drunk History
  • International Jury Prize in Short Filmmaking – The Six Dollar Fifty Man
  • Honorable Mention in Short Filmmaking – Born Sweet, Can We Talk?, Dock Ellis & the LSD No-No, Quadrangle, Rob and Valentyna in Scotland, Young Love

This was a great year for the festivities and I think it really succeeded at Robert Redford's goal for this year: to bring the focus back to the filmmaking. Next year, I hope to see more films to bring an even more balanced look at things as a whole. Whether braving the white-knuckle ride up and down Parley’s Canyon or making my way through the onslaught of onlookers and celebrity stalkers pounding the pavement of Main Street, it was a crazy ride and I would do it again in a heartbeat.

About Cinenerd

A Utah based writer, born and raised in Salt Lake City, UT for better and worse. Cinenerd has had an obsession with film his entire life, finally able to write about them since 2009, and the only thing he loves more are his wife and their two wiener dogs (Beatrix Kiddo and Pixar Animation). He is accredited with the Sundance Film Festival.