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by Eugene Hernandez
January 25, 2009 1:28 AM
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"Push" Wins Three at Sundance; "Public" Top Doc

U.S. Dramatic Grand Jury Prize winner "Push"'s director Lee Daniels on stage at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival awards ceremony. Photo by Brian Brooks.

Amidst continuous brief refrains from U2's "The Sweetest Thing," awards were presented at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival tonight in Park City. Lee Daniels' "Push: Based on a novel by Sapphire" was the big winner tonight winning three major awards. It received the Dramatic Grand Jury Prize, the Audience Award and a special acting prize for Mo'Nique. The film remained without distribution as the prizes were presented tonight, with seller Cinetic Media hoping to stir buyers today as the festival neared its conclusion. Ondi Timoner's "We Live in Public," also seeking a distribution deal, won the U.S. Documentary Grand Jury Prize.

"This is so important to me," said Daniels, accepting the audience award prize, "Because this is speaking for every minority that's in Harlem, that's in Detroit, that's in Watts, that's being abused, that can't read, that's obese and that we turn our back on. And this is for every gay little boy and girl that's being tortured. If I can do this shit ya'll can do this shit. Thank you very much."

"I'd like to dedicate this award to my mother and father," said Ondi Timoner, winner of this year's U.S. Documentary Grand Jury Prize this year for "We Live In Public" (and also the winner in 2004 for her film "Dig!"). "[They] always taught me to go for it -- anything I believe in -- and they have done everything they can to help me realize my dreams."

"I feel sick, I'm sweaty and I smell bad," quipped Charlyne Yi, accepting the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award for "Paper Heart" alongside co-writer Nicholas Jasenovec. "This is a weird prize to give this film because there were about five written pages," Jasenovec added. Picking up the speech, Yi added, addressing her remarks to the other filmmakers in the audience, "Who knows what will happen to our films, but at least they were seen!"

Lone Scherfig's "An Education" won the World Cinema Audience Award, after a successful week at the Festival in which the film was acquired by Sony Pictures Classics. "I am very proud to receive this award from that jury," director Lone Scherfig said, after returning to the festival this morning to present a final screening and then accept her prize tonight. After thanking Geoff Gilmore and the festival audiences, she also singled out new U.S. President Barack Obama. "That was a big event for me to be in this country on this day," she added, and then thanked Sony, "so that more people than the people of Park City get to see our film."

U.S. Doc Grand Jury Prize winner "We Love In Public"'s Jason Calacanis, Ondi Timoner and Josh Harris at the 2009 Sundance FIlm Festival awards ceremony. Photo by Brian Brooks.

"Its not just about me, this award," World Cinema dramatic directing prize winner Oliver Hirschbiegel, director of "Five Minutes of Heaven," said tonight, "I really tried to serve the story, and I jumped immediately on it. It is a low, low, low budget, it is about something that matters and it tries to show a way to show how it might be possible to break this absurd spiral of violence that is going on all over the world now." Continuing he added that he hopes the film finds a home, noting, "This award will help it so much."

Sundance Institute executive director Ken Brecher welcomed attendees to the festival's awards ceremony, reflecting in particular on a major event that dominated buzz at the center of this week's event. "When we began this festival, George Bush was the President of the United States and we ended it with Barack Obama," Brecher said, eliciting cheers from the crowd. He then held up a special festival badge recognizing President Obama as the honorary head of this year's jury.

"The independent arena has changed a great deal over the past 25 years," Sundance Film Festival Director Geoff Gilmore said as he took the stage. "And when I got asked how," he continued, "Its better and it continues to change and we will have to change with it."

"The future isn't clear," GIlmore asserted. "It really is uncertain. The independent arena will change and needs to change in order to prosper and I have to say this, it has to change because there are too many good films that have to be seen by people everywhere and we have to work out a way for that to happen."

The complete list of winners:

Grand Jury Prize, U.S. Dramatic:
"Push: Based on a novel by Sapphire," Lee Daniels.

Grand Jury Prize, U.S. Documentary:
"We Live In Public," directed by Ondi Timoner

World Cinema Jury Prize, Dramatic:
"The Maid," directed by Sebastian Silva

World Cinema Jury Prize, Documentary:
"Rough Aunties," directed by Kim Longinotto

Audience Award, Dramatic:
"Push: Based on the novel by Sapphire," directed by Lee Daniels.

Audience Award, Documentary:
"The Cove," directed by Louise Psihoyos

World Cinema Audience Award, Dramatic:
"An Education," directed by Lone Scherfig-

World Cinema Audience Award, Documentary:
"Afghan Star," directed by Havana Marking

Excellence in Directing, U.S. Dramatic:
Cary Joji Fukunaga, "Sin Nombre"

Excellence in Directing, U.S. Documentary:
-Natalia Almada, "El General"

Excellence in Directing, World Dramatic:
Oliver Hirschbiegel, "Five Minutes of Heaven"

Excellence in Directing, World Documentary:
Havana Marking, "Afghan Star"

Excellence in Cinematography, U.S. Dramatic:
Adriano Goldman, "Sin Nombre"

Excellence in Cinematography, U.S. Documentary:
Bob Richman, "The September Issue"

Excellence in Cinematography, World Dramatic:
John De Borman, "An Education"

Excellence in Cinematography, World Documentary:
John Maringouin, "Big River Man"

Excellence in Editing, U.S. Documentary:
-Karen Schmeer, "Sergio"

Excellence in Editing, World Documentary:
Janus Billeskov, "Big River Man"

Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award:
Nicholas Jasenovec and Charlyne Yi for "Paper Heart"

World Cinema Screenwriting Award:
Guy Hibbert, "Five Minutes of Heaven"

Special Jury Prize for "Spirit of Independence":
"Humpday," directed by Lynn Shelton

Special Jury Prize For Acting
Mo'Nique, in "Push: Based in a novel by Sapphire"

Special Jury Prize For U.S. Documentary:
"Good Hair," directed by Jeff Stilson

World Cinema Special Jury Prize, Dramatic:
Catalina Saavedra for her performance in "The Maid"

World Cinema Special Jury Prize, Dramatic:
"Louise-Michel," directed by Benoit Delepine and Gustave de Kervern, for its "originality"

World Cinema Special Jury Prize, Documentary:
"Tibet in Song," directed by Ngawang Choephel

The Alfred P. Sloan Prize For a Feature Film:
"Adam," directed by Max Mayer.

Sundance/NHK International Filmmakers Awards
Diego Lerman, “Ciencias Morales” (Moral Sciences)
David Riker, “The Girl”
Qurata Kenji, “Speed Girl”
Lucile Hadzihalilovic, “Evolution”

Jury Prize in International Short Filmmaking:
Lies,” directed by Jonas Odell.

Jury Prize in Short Filmmaking:
"Short Term 12,” directed by Destin Daniel Cretton.

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1 Comment

  • mpowell | January 26, 2009 1:11 AMReply

    Nice typo in the photo caption for Ondi Timoner's film