"Friedmans" and "Splendor" Win Jury Prizes at Sundance; "Station Agent" and "My Flesh and Blood" Win Two Awards Each
by Eugene Hernandez
Andrew Jarecki's documentary "Capturing the Friedmans" and Shari Springer Berman & Robert Pulcini's dramatic film "American Splendor," won the Grand Jury Prizes at the 2003 Sundance Film Festival. The awards were presented on Saturday night in Park City, UT on the final weekend of the Sundance Institute's annual film festival.
The audience awards went to Jonathan Karsh's documentary "My Flesh and Blood" and Tom McCarthy's "The Station Agent." Karsh also won the documentary directing award and McCarthy won the Waldo Salt screenwriting prize for his "Station Agent" script. Niki Caro's "Whale Rider," won the World Cinema audience prize.
Jarecki's "Friedmans," his first feature, offers a devasting look at a family torn apart by the criminal charges brought against a father and son. Told through interviews, home movies and video footage shot by the family during the explosive disintegration of their bonds, the film captures their painful search for the truth. The film, which provoked debates and discussion among viewers, remains without distribution as of yet. It was produced by Andrew Jarecki and Marc Smerling.
Springer Berman and Pulcini's "Splendor" was a rousing hit with audiences thoughout the week. The HBO production, produced by Ted Hope stars Paul Giamatti in the role of mopey everyman comic book creator Harvey Pekar. Incorporating doc footage, animation and interviews with Pekar and the real people in his life, the dramatic film illustrates the life of a truly unique individual and his loved ones. Hope Davis co-stars as Pekar's wife while James Urbaniak portrays Pekar's friend, Robert Crumb. HBO is considering a theatrical release ahead of the movie's debut on the cable network.
Ovations also greeted the audience award winners during the festival, with extended standing ovations for "The Station Agent" and "Whale Rider" in particular. In "Agent," actor Peter Dinklage shines as Finbar McBride, a quiet model train shop employee suffering through the social stigma of dwarfism. Moving to a dilapidated train depot in rural New Jersey to escape, McBride finds a new, more satisfying life after connecting with two new friends who are played by Patricia Clarkson and Bobby Cannavale. The movie was acquired this week by Miramax.
"Whale Rider," which will be released by Newmarket Films in June, is the coming-of-age story of a young girl, portrayed beautifully by Keisha Castle-Hughes, living in New Zealand within a Maori community that is struggling to find leadership as it wrestles with its traditions. It also won the audience award at the 2002 Toronto International Film Festival. Meanwhile the documentary "My Flesh and Blood" looks at a group of eleven special needs children and Susan Tom, the adoptive mother who cares for them. Karsh is a three-time Emmy Award-winning journalist who came across the Tom's story while on assignment for Evening Magazine in Northern California.
Dramatic jurors Steve Buscemi, Emanuel Levy, David O'Russell, and Tilda Swinton singled out the work of Patricia Clarkson, giving her a special jury prize for outstanding performance for her work in "The Station Agent," "Pieces of April," and "All the Real Girls." They presented the same prize to Charles Busch for his work in "Die Mommie Die." Additionally, the dramatic jury honored David Gordon Green's "All The Real Girls" and A. Dean Bell's "What Alice Found" with Special Jury Prizes for Emotional Truth.
The dramatic directing prize was awarded to Catherine Hardwicke for her dramatic film, "Thirteen," while the excellence in cinematography prize went to Dana Kupper, Gordon Quinn and Peter Gilbert for the documentary "Stevie" and Derek Cianfrance for the dramatic film, "Quattro Noza."
The festival's Freedom of Expression Award, presented to a documentary that "informs and educates the public on issues of social or political concern," was awarded to "What I Want My Words to Do To You" by Judith Katz, Madeleine Gavin and Gary Sunshine. Produced by Katz, the film explores a writing workshop for inmates, led by playwright Eve Ensler. Special doc jury prizes were awarded by jurors Nanette Burstein, Susan Froemke, Avon Kirkland, Lesli Klainberg, and Doug Pray, to Stanley Nelson's "The Murder of Emmett Till" and Blue Hadaegh and Grover Babcock's "A Certain Kind of Death."
The grand jury prize for short filmmaking went to Stefan Nadelman's "Terminal Bar," a history of a legendary New York City drinking establishment. Jurors Therese DePrez, Scott Foundas and Ruby Lerner awarded special honorable mentions to Vance Malone's "Ocularist," James Brett's "Earthquake," David Russo's "Pan With Us," Sandy McLeod and Gina Reticker's "Asylum," Francesca Talenti's "The Planets," Aristomenis Tsirbas' "The Freak," Vince Di Meglio's "Fits & Starts," and Serguei Bassine's "From the 104th Floor." Winners of the Sundance Online Film Festival Viewers Awards were "Broken Saints" directed by Brooke Burgess (animation), and "One" directed by Stewart Hendler (short subject).
A new award for 2003, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Feature Film Prize, singled out outstanding independent films on science and technology, while also showcasing the work of "emerging filmmakers tackling compelling topics in science." The $20,000 cash prize will be shared by "Dopamine" director and co-writer Mark Decena and co-writer Tim Breitbach.
The 2003 Sundance Film Festival concludes its annual event on Sunday with screenings of many of the award-winning films.
SUNDANCE 2003: COMPLETE LIST OF WINNERS
Grand Jury Prize: "Capturing the Friedmans," directed by Andrew Jarecki, produced by Andrew Jarecki and Marc Smerling
Audience Award: "My Flesh and Blood," directed by Jonathan Karsh, produced by Jennifer Chaiken
Directing Award: Jonathan Karsh, "My Flesh and Blood"
Cinematography Award: Dana Kupper, Gordon Quinn and Peter Gilbert, "Stevie"
Freedom of Expression Award: "What I Want My Words To Do To You," directed by Judith Katz, Madeleine Gavin, and Gary Sunshine. Produced by Judith Katz.
Special Jury Prizes: "The Murder of Emmett Till," directed by Stanley Nelson and "A Certain Kind of Death," directed by Blue Hadaegh and Grover Babcock.
Grand Jury Prize: "American Splendor," directed by Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini, produced by Ted Hope
Audience Award: "The Station Agent," directed by Tom McCarthy, produced by Mary Jane Skalski, Robert May and Kathryn Tucker
World Cinema Audience Prize: "Whale Rider"
Directing Award: Catherine Hardwicke, "Thirteen"
Cinematography Award: Derek Cianfrance, "Quattro Noza"
Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award: Tom McCarthy, "The Station Agent"
Special Jury Prizes for Outstanding Performance: Patricia Clarkson for "The Station Agent," Pieces of April, and "All The Real Girls"; Charles Busch for "Die Mommie Die"
Special Jury Prizes for for Emotional Truth: "All the Real Girls," directed by David Gordon Green; "What Alice Found," directed by A. Dean Bell
Jury Prize: "Terminal Bar," directed by Stefan Nadelman
Honorable Mentions: "Ocularist" directed by Vance Malone; "Earthquake" directed by James Brett; "Pan With Us" directed by David Russo; "Asylum," directed by Sandy McLeod and Gina Reticker; "The Planets" directed by Francesca Talenti; "The Freak" directed by Aristomenis Tsirbas; "Fits & Starts" directed by Vince Di Meglio and "From the 104th Floor" directed by Serguei Bassine.
Sundance Online Film Festival Viewers Award: "Broken Saints," directed by Brooke Burgess (animation) and "One," directed by Stewart Hendler (short subject)
ALFRED P. SLOAN FEATURE FILM PRIZE
"Dopamine," directed by Mark Decena, written by Mark Decena and Tim Breitbach
SUNDANCE/NHK INTERNATIONAL FILMMAKERS AWARD
Yesim Ustaoglu, "Waiting for the Clouds" (Europe)
Juan Pable Rebella and Pablo Stoll, "Whisky" (Latin America)
Michael King, "The Motel" (United States)
Mai Tominaga, "100% Pure Wool" (Japan)