A pair of Latin American stories won the top prizes at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival, which will close tomorrow night here in Park City, UT. Christopher Zalla's "Padre Nuestro," a Spanish-language immigrant drama set in New York City was awarded the Dramatic Grand Jury Prize, and Jason Kohn's "Manda Bala" ("Send a Bullet"), a profile of lives in Brazil, won the Documentary Grand Jury Prize (along with the cinematography prize), capping the 2007 Sundance Film Festival. Also receiving accolades at the packed ceremony inside the Park City Racquet Club tonight were Eva Mulvad and Anja Al Erhayem's "Enemies of Happiness," winners of the Documentary World Cinema Jury Prize and Dror Shaul's "Sweet Mud" which received the Dramatic World Cinema Jury Prize.
[Editor's Note: The complete list of winners is available at the end of this article.]
"I have to single out the 2007 Sundance Film Festival as, I think, one of our landmark years," said Sundance Festival director Geoff Gilmore, welcoming attendees to awards night and admitting that he often tries to assess each year's event as it comes to a close. "Your films have defined what independent film can be and your films have defined what independent film will be," Gilmore told the filmmakers, "Its a very hopeful picture."
iW: Video link - indieWIRE's final video episode from Park City includes clips and interviews from the awards ceremony as well as photos of the winners.
Don Hertzfeldt's "Everything Will Be Ok" won the jury prize for short film, while best international short went to "The Tube with a Hat" by Romanian Radu Jude. "At the risk of sounding cheesy," said "Everything Will Be Ok" director Don Hertzfeldt, "I feel like the real reward of this festival is just being here," he said, before thanking the jury, festival volunteers, and those who make the festival happen.
In the audience categories, Irene Taylor Brodsky's "Hear And Now" won the best documentary award, while "Grace is Gone" by James C. Strouse won the audience nod for best dramatic feature along with the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award. Filmmakers winning Sundance honors for directing were Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine, receiving the documentary directing award for "War/Dance" and Jeffrey Blitz winning the dramatic directing award for "Rocket Science."
Zalla's first feature, "Padre Nuestro," centers on immigrants Juan and Pedro who meet en route to New York where Pedro hopes to meet his successful father. Juan, fleeing a criminal past, steals Pedro's belongings and later introduces himself to Pedro's father as his son, hoping to cash in on the father's supposed wealth. As Zalla explained in a recent interview with indieWIRE, he "wanted the audience to feel like the movie could really go in any direction at any moment."
This is a movie (with) a ticking clock stoyline," said "Padre Nuestro" director Christopher Zalla, accepting his dramatic grand jury prize, "But at the heart, its about finding family and seeking connections." And he added, "This movie that wouldn't have happened without an incredible family that came together to make it." Continuing, he dedicated the award to the City of New York, which he called, "A city of outsiders, where the vast majority of people are immigrants," even if they are simply from other parts of the U.S.
"Manda Bala" focuses on Brazil's infamous corruption, profiling the unfortunate fruits of fraud, including a politician who uses a frog farm to steal billions of dollars as well as a wealthy businessman who spends huge amounts of money bullet proofing his cars, and a plastic surgeon who reconstructs the ears of mutilated kidnapping victims. As Kohn told indieWIRE in a recent interview, "I really thought of 'Manda Bala' as a non-fiction 'RoboCop' depicting a very real broken and violent society."
"I am really, really happy and I am very, very honored," gushed "Manda Bala" director Jason Kohn after receiving the Grand Jury documentary prize. "I can't thank everyone, but thank you all," he smiled, after reading a list of names he'd listed on his BlackBerry.
"Many people have asked me, is this an anti-war film," said "Grace Is Gone" director James C. Strouse, after receiving the dramatic audience award, "And I say its a pro-America film. I tried to tell a story that transcended polemics. I hope that whatever side you find yourself on...that this story can kind of connect and touch your heart in a personal way." He added, "The losses suffered in this war, by the families left behind, transcend political dogma."
In world dramatic winner "Sweet Mud," ("Adama Meshugaat") by Israeli director Dror Shaul, young Dvir Avni tunes into his mother's mental illness. Despite the local motto of equality on this kibbutz in southern Israel in the '70s, Dvir realizes that his mother has, in reality, been abandoned by the community. As Dror Shaul told indieWIRE in a recent interview, "The biggest challenge was making a film about a subject so close to my own private experience."
World doc winner "Enemies of Happiness" (Vores Lykkes Fjender) by Danish filmmaking duo Eva Mulvade and Anja Al Erhayem follows the story of 28 year-old Afghani, Malalai Joya who becomes a symbol of change for women in her country after winning a parliamentary seat in 2005. The film won the Silver Wolf award at the recent IDFA documentary festival in Amsterdam and was acquired this week by Women Make Movies.
"Rocket Science" is Blitz' first dramatic feature following his 2002 box office hit "Spellbound," a documentary that received an Oscar nomination and Spirit Award nomination in 2003 as well as prizes at fests, including SXSW, Santa Barbara, Woodstock and Sarasota. Documentary director winners Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine's "War/Dance" is the husband and wife team's directorial debut.
Doc audience winner "Hear And Now" is the personal story of director Irene Taylor Brodsky's deaf parents and their decision, after living together for 65 years in silence, to undergo cochlear implant surgery, which could give them the ability to hear. Meanwhile, dramatic audience recipient "Grace Is Gone," by James C. Strouse, is the story of a father who takes his daughters on a road trip to an amusement park and finds the courage to tell them during the journey that their mother has been killed in Iraq.
Also taking home audience prizes in the world cinema categories were British director David Sington's doc on the Apollo Space Program, "In the Shadow of the Moon" as well as John Carney's "Once," which took the dramatic nod for his film centered on a busker and immigrant who write music together over a week of passion.
In other prizes, Hibah Sherif Frisina, Charlton McMillian and Michael Schweitzer shared the best editing prize for their work in "Nanking." "Teeth" star Jess Weixler received a special jury prize for acting, while Tamara Podemski also received a jury nod for her performance in "Four Sheets to the Wind." Additionally, the jury gave "The Pool" director Chris Smith a special nod for "Singularity of Vision." Shimon Dotan received special mention for his World Cinema doc "Hot House," while Gela Babluani and Temur Babluani received a special jury nod for their World Dramatic feature "The Legacy."
Complete list of Sundance 2007 Award Winners:
Grand Jury Prize: Documentary
"Manda Bala" ("Send a Bullet"); directed by Jason Kohn
Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic
"Padre Nuestro"; directed by Christopher Zalla
World Cinema Jury Prize: Documentary
"Enemies of Happiness" ("Vores Lykkes Fjender"); directed by Eva Mulvad and Anja Al Erhayem
World Cinema Jury Prize: Dramatic
"Sweet Mud" ("Adama Meshugaat"); directed by Dror Shaul
Audience Award: Documentary
"Hear and Now"; directed by Irene Taylor Brodsky
Audience Award: Dramatic
"Grace is Gone"; directed by James C. Strouse
World Cinema Audience Award: Documentary
"In the Shadow of the Moon"; directed by David Sington
World Cinema Audience Award: Dramatic
"Once"; directed by John Carney
Directing Award: Documentary
Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine for "War/Dance"
Directing Award: Dramatic
Jeffrey Blitz for "Rocket Science"
Excellence in Cinematography Award: Documentary
Heloisa Passos for "Manda Bala" ("Send a Bullet")
Excellence in Cinematography Award: Dramatic
Benoit Debie for "Joshua"
Documentary Editing Award
Hibah Sherif Frisina, Charlton McMillian, Michael Schweitzer for "Nanking"
Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award
James C. Strouse for "Grace is Gone"
Documentary Jury: Special Jury Prize
"No End in Sight"; directed by Charles Furguson
Special Jury Prizes for Acting
Jess Weixler in "Teeth"
Tamara Podemski in "Four Sheets to the Wind"
Special Jury Prize for Singularity of Vision
Chris Smith for "The Pool"
World Cinema Competition Jury: Special Jury Prize
"Hot House"; directed by Shimon Dotan
World Cinema Dramatic Competition Jury: Special Jury Prize
"The Legacy" ("L'Heritahe"); directed by Gela Babluani and Temur Babluani
Jury Prize in Short Filmmaking
"Everything Will Be OK"; directed by Don Hertzfeldt
Jury Prize in International Short Filmmaking
"The Tube With a Hat"; directed by Radu Jude
Shorts Jury Honorable Mentions in Short Filmmaking
"Death to the Tinman"; directed by Ray Tintori
"The Fighting Cholitas"; directed by Mariam Jobrani
"Men Understand Each Other Better" ("Mardha Hamdigar Ra Behtar Mifahmand"); directed by Marjan Alizadeh
"Motodrom"; directed by Joerg Wagner
"Spitfire 944"; directed by William Lorton
"t.o.m."; directed by Tom Brown and Daniel Gray
Shorts Jury: Special Jury Prize
"Freeheld"; directed by Cynthia Wade
Alfred P. Sloan Prize
"Dark Matter"; directed by Chen Shi-Zhen
Sundance/NHK International Filmmakers Award
Lucia Cedron for "Agnus Dei"
Caran Hartsfield for "Bury Me Standing"
Tomoko Kana for "Two By The River"
Dagur Kari for "The Good Heart"
Get the latest coverage of Park City '07 in indieWIRE's special section here at indieWIRE.com