At the same time, the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah has been screening indie films that are looking for distributors and hoping to make it to next year's fight for top honors. The best of the best in U.S. and international dramas, documentaries and shorts generate buzz by nabbing the Jury, Audience, NEXT! and other special awards.
Sundance has become known for its fab parties and Hollywood hobnobbing, but at its heart, the festival is about the films. "Success at Sundance can be measured in terms of attendance, sponsorships, acquisitions, even the weather. Ultimately, it's about the films themselves," said John Cooper, director of the Sundance Film Festival. "Were they well received? Did they resonate with the audience enough to have a life beyond these 10 days? And this year, the answer is a resounding yes."
Over the last two decades, Sundance introduced the world to films like sex, lies, and videotape, Maria Full of Grace, The Cove, An Inconvenient Truth, Precious and Napoleon Dynamite.
This year, 2011 Grand Jury prizes went to Happy, Happy, Hell and Back Again, How to Die in Oregon and Like Crazy, while Audience Favorites were Buck, Circumstance, Kinyawaranda and Senna. Check out the rundown below for the list of winners, along with a brief synopsis. Highlights from this year's awards ceremony, which was hosted by Tim Blake Nelson (O Brother Where Art Thou? and Flypaper), can be seen on the Sundance website.
Here's a rundown on who nabbed the prizes at Sundance in 2011, along with each film's Sundance blurb.
Grand Jury Prize: Documentary: How to Die in Oregon, directed by Peter D. Richardson. In 1994, Oregon became the first state to legalize physician-assisted suicide. How to Die in Oregon gently enters the lives of terminally ill Oregonians to illuminate the power of death with dignity.
Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic: Like Crazy, directed by Drake Doremus; written by Drake Doremus and Ben York Jones. A young American guy and a young British girl meet in college and fall in love. Their love is tested when she is required to leave the country and they must face the challenges of a long-distance relationship.
World Cinema Jury Prize: Documentary: Hell and Back Again, directed by Danfung Dennis. Told through the eyes of one Marine from the start of his 2009 Afghanistan tour to his distressing return and rehabilitation in the U.S., we witness what modern "unconventional" warfare really means to the men who are fighting it. U.S.A.-United Kingdom
World Cinema Jury Prize: Dramatic: The award went to Happy, Happy (Sykt Lykkelig), directed by Anne Sewitsky; written by Ragnhild Tronvoll. A perfect housewife, who just happens to be sex-starved, struggles to keep her emotions in check when an attractive family moves in next door. Norway
Audience Award: Documentary: Buck, directed by Cindy Meehl, for her story about the power of non-violence and master horse trainer Buck Brannaman, who uses principles of respect and trust to tame horses and inspire their human counterparts.
Audience Award: Dramatic: Circumstance, directed and written by Maryam Keshavarz, in which a wealthy Iranian family struggles to contain a teenager's growing sexual rebellion and her brother's dangerous obsession.
World Cinema Audience Award: Documentary: Senna, directed by Asif Kapadia; written by Manish Pandey, about legendary racing driver and Brazilian hero Ayrton Senna, taking us on the ultimate journey of what it means to become the greatest when faced with the constant possibility of death. United Kingdom
World Cinema Audience Award: Dramatic: Kinyarwanda, directed and written by Alrick Brown, which tells the story of Rwandans who crossed the lines of hatred during the 1994 genocide, turning mosques into places of refuge for Muslims and Christians, Hutus and Tutsis. U.S.A.-Rwanda
Best of NEXT!: Audience Award: to.get.her, directed and written by Erica Dunton about five girls who come together for one fateful night where anything goes. They all had secrets, but their friendship was the only thing they knew to be true.
World Cinema Special Jury Prizes: Dramatic for Breakout Performances: Olivia Colman and Peter Mullan for their roles in Tyrannosaur, directed and written by Paddy Considine. For a man plagued by self-destructive violence and rage, a chance of redemption appears in the form of Hannah, a Christian charity shop worker with a devastating secret of her own. United Kingdom
World Cinema Special Jury Prize: Documentary: Position Among the Stars (Stand van de Sterren) directed by Leonard Retel Helmrich, for his expose of the effects of globalization on Indonesia's rapidly changing society as it ripples into the life of a poor Christian woman living in the slums of Jakarta with her Muslim sons and teenage granddaughter. The Netherlands
Special Jury Prize: Documentary: Being Elmo is a puppeteer's journey, directed by Constance Marks, an inspirational film that crosses cultures and generations.
Special Jury Prize: Dramatic: Another Earth directed by Mike Cahill; written by Mike Cahill and Brit Marling. On the eve of the discovery of a duplicate Earth, a horrible tragedy irrevocably alters the lives of two strangers, who begin an unlikely love affair.
Special Jury Prize: Dramatic: Felicity Jones for her role in Like Crazy, directed by Drake Doremus; written by Drake Doremus and Ben York Jones. A young American guy and a young British girl meet in college and fall in love. Their love is tested when she is required to leave the country and they must face the challenges of a long-distance relationship.
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