By Eric Kohn | Indiewire December 23, 2011 at 12:24PM
While the famously elusive Terrence Malick wasn't available to comment on the triple-win for "The Tree of Life" in the categories of Best Film, Best Director and Best Cinematography, the film's producer, Bill Pohlad of River Road Entertainment, submitted appreciative remarks. "We're thrilled by the continued recognition of 'The Tree of Life,'" Pohlad said, referencing the film's win in other polls, including those held by the Village Voice, Film Comment and Sight & Sound. "It feels especially nice coming from the independent film community, where this film was born. Thank you, Indiewire."
Sean Durkin, whose directorial debut "Martha Marcy May Marlene" won Best First Feature, also noted the specific context that Indiewire's poll brought to the film's continuing success. "The independent film community, and specifically Indiewire, has been extremely supportive of 'Martha Marcy May Marlene' ever since Sundance," Durkin said. "On behalf of the entire cast and crew, we are incredibly appreciative to be given this honor."
While both "Tree of Life" and "Martha" are in the throes of Oscar campaigns orchestrated by distributor Fox Searchlight, another winner of the poll had no such luck. Steve James' "The Interrupters," a critically-acclaimed look at activists fighting street violence in Chicago, failed to wind up on the Academy's documentary shortlist. However, it received the most mentions for Best Documentary in Indiewire's poll.
"We're thrilled at the news," James said. "We expected an uphill battle because it's such a raw and immersive film about a reality--urban violence--that many us would prefer not to think about, let alone spend two hours experiencing as a film." He attributed the film's ongoing appeal to critics' enthusiasm. "With so many terrific documentaries made this year, the continuing support of critics has been absolutely crucial to the film's success in reaching audiences," he said.
Still, James' film did receive a limited release from Cinema Guild, which provided it with more resources than the film at the top of this year's Best Undistributed Film list. Alex Ross Perry's "The Color Wheel" led that category with 15 votes. "This time last year, I would have said with all honesty that I doubted 'The Color Wheel' would find any audience on all, frankly based on some devastating festival reactions," he said. "I mistakenly believed that the only way to reach influential tastemakers and critics is to debut your film in a certain way, but the past year has proven that people interested in challenging work that deviates from the norm will do it no matter what."
Perry also spoke highly of critical support. "Many critics have proven themselves brave enough to do the unthinkable with my film," he said. "Be one of the first to publicly and vocally support something that does not already have an infrastructure of ‘buzz’ in place."