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‘Fruitvale’ Wins Big, ‘American Promise,’ Bradford Young, ‘Gideon’s Army’ Collect Sundance 2013 Awards

'Fruitvale' Wins Big, 'American Promise,' Bradford Young, 'Gideon's Army' Collect Sundance 2013 Awards

Another Sundance Film Festival comes to a close, with the usual Awards ceremony celebrating this year’s winners.

Ahead of the official press release from the festival announcing all of this year’s award winners, which will likely come later tonight, here are those winners who are of most interest to this blog, given its focus on African Diaspora cinema:

– Congratulations to director Ryan Coogler, his cast and crew, for picking up, not one, but TWO major awards – the 2013 Audience Award in the US Dramatic category, as well as the grand-daddy of them all, the Grand Jury PrizeBeasts of the Southern Wild took home the latter award last year. Coogler graciously accepted the award, joined by some members of his production team. I think I speak for most when I say that I would’ve been very surprised if the film didn’t walk away with at least one trophy, given all the buzz around it since its premiere. The Weinstein Company acquired Coogler’s directorial debut, although no word yet on when exactly it’ll be released. Michael B. Jordan stars in the film based on the murder of 22-year old Oscar Grant (played by Jordan). Octavia SpencerTristan Wilds and Melonie Diaz co-star. The film is produced by Forest Whitaker. Read our review HERE.

American Promise, from directors Joe Brewster and Michèle Stephensonwon the US Documentary Special Jury Award. The intimate feature doc follows their son and his best friend, from kindergarten at a private prep school, all the way through high school graduation, the goal being to focus on America’s troubled education system, and its under-served/under-represented young black boys. The completed film is scheduled to air on PBS’ prestigious POV program this year, so it should be accessible to most of us. Our review is coming.

– For the second time in the last 3 Sundance festivals, super-duper DP, Bradford Young, wins the Excellence In Cinematography award in US Dramatic competition for lensing 2 features debuting at the festival this year, Mother Of George and Ain’t Them Bodies Saints. He won the same award in 2011 for his work on Pariah. It’s been a great last 3 Sundances for Young, with at least 5 films shot by him that making their world premieres at the Sundance Film Festival – most of them winning awards in other categories as well. Good work sir! I expect we’ll be talking about Mr Young this time next year. Our review of Mother Of George HERE.

Dawn Porter’s feature documentary Gideon’s Army won the award for Editing in the US Documentary competition. The fascinating film, which takes its name from the 1963 landmark Supreme Court decision – Gideon v. Wainwright – which guaranteed all defendants facing imprisonment the right to a lawyer, tells the story of a group of the idealistic public defenders working in the Deep South. The HBO presentation will be broadcast on the cable TV network later this year.  Read our review HERE.

One big surprise for me is that Blue Caprice, despite all the strong, positive reactions to it, didn’t pick up a single award! It is also still without a distributor, but let’s hope that changes sooner than later. The controversial subject matter, and we could say its somewhat controversial star in Isaiah Washington, just might be keeping potential distributors at a distance. Read our review of that film HERE.

Here are the rest of our Sundace reviews, written by Zeba Blay (with at least 2 more on the way):

– Sundance 2013 Review: ‘Milkshake’

– Sundance 2013 Review: George Tillman Jr’s ‘The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete’

– Sundance 2013 Review: Shaka King’s ‘Newlyweeds’

– Sundance 2013 Review: John Akomfrah’s ‘The Stuart Hall Project’

Another strong showing for black cinema this year at the nation’s top film festival! 24 diasporic films (shorts, features, docs) that all screened at this year’s event – a handful of them walking away with distribution deals.

Congrats to all the winners and we’ll see you next year!

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From another web site: Coogler said he felt personally connected to the story because he's from Oakland and was born the same year as the subject of his film. "So I'm the same age, same demographic. So when I saw the footage, initially I was heartbroken, frustrated, and the biggest thing was that Oscar looked like us, you know what I mean?" he said. "He looked like any one of my friends — could have been me, could have been them, and these situations happen again and again."

After reading those words, I am left to wonder what real impact a movie of this nature has on the social climate in America? Well… Fox Searchlight founder and Sundance juror Tom Rothman said "Fruitvale" was recognized for "its skillful realization, its devastating emotional impact and its moral and social urgency — and for anyone out there who thinks for one second that movies don't matter and can't make a difference in the world.

Well, now I'm left to wonder what is the exact impact and difference? And how that impact differs from the messages we received in the movie Precious? I am reminded of Sergio's interview with the author behind the movie, Romona Lofton, better known by her pen name Sapphire. She spoke of the rewards and impact the film "Precious" inspired. The victims in that film, their pain and suffering, are reminiscent of thousands of African American's lives. All the victims in that film ( i.e., the mother (Mo'nique), Precious, the children, the girls in Precious' class, the youth in the neighborhood), all had stories many can echo.

So again, what's the difference between the messages in "Fruitvale" and "Precious"? I ask that question because many in our community have not "received" Precious with open arms. Why? I wonder if it has anything to do with the colors of the protagonists and the "alleged" or perceived antagonists? Are the messages easier for the black community to accept when the victim and/or the "perp" are white?

Congratulations to those behind the film "Fruitvale".


Mark my words right now Fruitvale is going to be a best picture Oscar nominee,  Michael B. Jordan a best actor nominee and Octavia Spencer back competing for a second Oscar. Weinstein company don't play around if they have a well reviewed crowd pleaser. They know the Academy better than they know their wives.

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