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Sundance Institute Announces 2014 Short Film Award Winners

Sundance Institute Announces 2014 Short Film Award Winners

Jury prizes and and honorable mentions were presented to short films at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, The Sundance Institute announced. Of 8,161 submissions, 66 were chosen to part of this year’s Short Film program, presented by YouTube. 

The short films jury was comprised of writer-producer-voice actor Vernon Chatman (“Wonder Showzen”), actor Joshua Leonard (“The Blair Witch Project” and “Higher Ground”) and Ania Trzebiatowska, artistic director of the Off Plus Camera International Festival of Independent Cinema.

Short Film Award Winners (Descriptions provided by Sundance Institute):

Short Film Grand Jury Prize: “Of God and Dogs”/Syrian Arab Republic (Director: Abounaddara Collective) — A young, free Syrian soldier confesses to killing a man he knew was innocent. He promises to take vengeance on the God who led him to commit the murder. 

Short Film Jury Award: U.S. Fiction: “Gregory Go Boom”/U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Janicza Bravo) — A paraplegic man leaves home to be on his own.

Short Film Jury Award: International Fiction: “The Cut”/Canada (Director and screenwriter: Geneviève Dulude-Decelles) — The Cut tells the story of a father and a daughter, whose relationship fluctuates between proximity and detachment, at the moment of a haircut.

Short Film Jury Award: Non-fiction: “I Think This Is the Closest to How the Footage Looked”/Israel (Directors: Yuval Hameiri, Michal Vaknin) — A man with poor means recreates a lost memory of the last day with his mom. Objects come to life in a desperate struggle to produce a single moment that is gone. 

Short Film Jury Award: Animation: “Yearbook”/U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Bernardo Britto) — A man is hired to compile the definitive history of human existence before the planet blows up.

Short Film Special Jury Award for Unique Vision: “Rat Pack Rat”/U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Todd Rohal) — A Sammy Davis Jr. impersonator, hired to visit a loyal Rat Pack fan, finds himself performing the last rites at the boy’s bedside.

Short Film Special Jury Award for Non-fiction: “Love. Love. Love.”/Russia (Director: Sandhya Daisy Sundaram) — Every year, through the endless winters, her love takes new shapes and forms. 

Short Film Special Jury Award for Direction and Ensemble Acting: “Burger”/United Kingdom, Norway (Director and screenwriter: Magnus Mork)

The recipients of these awards will also be honored at Sundance’s feature film Awards Ceremony on Jan. 25. The ceremony will be hosted by Nick Offerman and Megan Mullally. 

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Mia Renaud

The lead character in Gregory Go Boom, played by Michael Cera, is a far cry from his typical lovable loser. This guy is all loser and no love, a one-dimensional sap who seems designed solely to be the object of our pity and contempt. His disability is this character's central defining trait, the one dominant characteristic that colors everything we are meant to feel about him — a single false note that the film hits over and over again in this tedious dirge of mockery, contempt and self-loathing. With the exception of one inexplicable scene, he is a victim from start to gruesome finish. In the scene to which I am referring we learn that this lonely kid is such a virulent racist that he rejects the one genuine overture of friendship in the entire film.


The film's finale is a moment designed purely to shock rather than provide any emotional resolution — a scene in which the lead character douses himself with gasoline and sets himself on fire. This film is billed as a comedy albeit a black comedy. Are we really meant to laugh when this poor kid commits suicide? This inflammatory imagery gets a pass (even a celebration) when if you put any other minority in that position — imagine a black, female, gay, Muslim, or Jewish character in the same role — the story would not be touted as crowd-pleasing but, rather, condemned as the pernicious thing it is.

Mia Renaud

This film has been given a very public platform by Sundance and the media (Indiewire described it as a "captivating portrait of a wheelchair-bound thwarted Romeo.") That description ignores the fact that it is a highly offensive stereotype of disability whose central premise is that the life of this wheelchair-bound young man is so pathetic and worthless that suicide is the best ending for his coming-of-age story. If Sundance is going to shine its powerful spotlight on such a film, my one hope is that the attention will spark an informed, respectful, and forward-thinking debate about how disabled characters are depicted on film and, the broader, inextricable issue of how they are perceived by society.

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