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by Peter Knegt
January 28, 2011 9:14 AM
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Sundance 2011 | Who Is Going To Win The Fest's Top Prizes?

The Sundance Film Festival is heading into its final hours and there's much talk around Park City about what films could factor into tomorrow night's awards ceremony. The U.S. Dramatic prize in particular has recently given a trio of films - Courtney Hunt's "Frozen River," Lee Daniels' "Precious" and Debra Granik's "Winter's Bone" - a significant launching pad for a very successful theatrical release. All three ended up with major Oscar nominations (including a best actress nod hat trick in Melissa Leo, Gabourey Sidibe and Jennifer Lawrence) and respectable to fantastic box office.

So what's going to win this year? indieWIRE's poll of critics and bloggers have given the highest grade averages (either "B+" or "A-") to Vera Farmiga's "Higher Ground," Drake Doremus's "Like Crazy," Sean Durkin's "Martha Marcy May Marlene," Dee Rees' "Pariah," Jeff Nichols' "Take Shelter," and Azazel Jacobs' "Terri." It's really quite hard to say which among them might speak especially strongly to a jury made up of actress America Ferrara, film critic Todd McCarthy, cinematographer Tim Orr and directors Kimberly Peirce and Jason Reitman. Though each have received a generally strong critical reaction, each did have their fair share of detractors.

indieWIRE asked around about what films folks thought might be having a good night tomorrow.

"I'm guessing that the dramatic jury will favor 'Pariah,' 'Take Shelter' and 'Martha Marcy May Marlene,'" indieWIRE's film critic Eric Kohn said. "It depends on whether they want to go for a commercial crowdpleaser ('Pariah') or something more cinematically challenging (the other two)."

The Salt Lake City Tribune's Sean Means put his money on "Marcy May" for the top prize, and suggested Dee Rees would take home the directing prize for "Pariah."

Another film to factor into the equation is Mike Cahill's "Another Earth," which found a particularly alienating response but some people really love it.

Dee Rees' "Pariah." Photo courtesy of Sundance Film Festival.

"I have a hunch that 'Another Earth' is going to win something in the dramatic category," The Toronto Star's Peter Howell said. "It's such a strong first feature by Mike Cahill and his star and co-screenwriter Brit Marling is one of the acting finds of the fest."

There's quite a few prizes to go around beyond the top one - the audience award, directing, cinematography, screenwriting, and special jury prizes - so expect the majority of those films to find notice one way or another (check out indieWIRE's coverage of last year's ceremony here).

Beyond U.S. Dramatic, there's also much discussion about what might win the very strong U.S. Documentary section.

"The U.S. doc competition favorite is obviously 'Page One: A Year Inside the New York Times,'" Eric Kohn said, "but it could be edged out by a movie with more emotional content, such as 'We Were Here' or 'How to Die in Oregon."

All three of those films got top marks from indieWIRE's poll of critics and bloggers, as did "Crime After Crime," and "BEING ELMO: A Puppeteer’s Journey." The Salt Lake City Tribune's Sean Means suggested the jury - made up of Jeffrey Blitz ("Rocket Science"), "The Simpsons" creator Matt Groening, director Laura Poitras ("My Country, My Country"), editor Sloane Kevin ("Taxi to the Dark Side") and Jess Search, chief executive of the Channel 4 BRITDOC Foundation - would go with "How To Die in Oregon."

As for the rest of the categories, "Bellflower" and "sound of my voice" are strong possibilities in the NEXT section; "The Blackpower Mixtape 1967-1975," "Senna," "The Bengali Detective," "Shut Up Little Man! An Audio Misadventure" and "Project Nim" are good bets in the exceptional World Doc section; and "Tyrannosaur," "Kinyarwanda" and "The Guard" have buzz in the World Dramatic section.

For more on all these films, including interviews, reviews and criticWIRE grades, check out indieWIRE's complete guide to the fest. And don't forget to check back with us tomorrow night for full coverage live from the Sundance awards ceremony.

11 Comments

  • Sheron Izatt Drake | January 30, 2011 4:58 AMReply

    Kinyarwanda was one of the most powerful films I have ever seen! I left the venue wanting to be a better person. I was expecting to be inundated with violence and pain. I felt those things in this film, but it wasn't the message at all. It was about hope, faith, endurance of the human spirit, love, tolerance, acceptance, repentance and forgiveness. Beautifully done. Masterfully written and directed. One movie that has an impact no other film I have ever seen has been able to do.

  • Mary donaldson | January 29, 2011 10:53 AMReply

    MD Says shut Up Little Man was her fave Cheers

  • Ryan W | January 29, 2011 7:08 AMReply

    Kinyarwanda is an absolutely fantastic film. Definitely out of place at Sundance, where the themes usually revolve around the dark side of life. This movie does address that (through the Rwandan civil war) and then moves beyond the pain and suffering to reconcilliation and hope for a better tomorrow, which is what seperates it from the rest of the pack this year. Hopefully, that distinction is deemed worthy of an award.

  • moghli | January 29, 2011 5:53 AMReply

    Shut up little man best film of the festival, and the best looking crew

  • cabbo | January 29, 2011 2:18 AMReply

    Kinyarwanda was amazing as it was inspirational in preventing these kind of atrocities from ever occurring again. The movie will make you saddened by the past, moved by the present and hopeful for the future. This is a film that should not only be shown to educate and move oneself but to also motivate and inspire. Hands down the best film there in the category!

  • babs | January 29, 2011 1:50 AMReply

    Kinyarwanda!!!!! The Best !!!!

  • Lamar Mackson | January 29, 2011 1:41 AMReply

    Kinyarwanda is cllearly the BEST IN CLASS! My vote is for Kinyarwanda

  • Liz | January 28, 2011 11:08 AMReply

    I am surprised "Circumstance" isn't on there as well. "Another Earth" should win something it was a great movie. Yes, it was really different, but it was pretty clear to me that Mike Cahill and Brit Marling should be watched (the soundtrack was stupendous for "Another Earth" as with "Pariah"). Didn't get a chance to see "Like Crazy" had tickets for "Martha Marcy May Marlene" but gave them up to waitlist for "Perfect Sense" premiere. Not one of my best moments. "Pariah" was amazing, it should win something. But I am really surprised that "Circumstance" isn't for contention it seems.

  • Glenn Thomas | January 28, 2011 11:01 AMReply

    I wanna see KINYARWANDA!!! I heard there was not a dry eye after viewing and the seats stayed filled throughout the Q&A!

  • MMcalister | January 28, 2011 10:24 AMReply

    Saw Kinyarwanda opening night at The Egyptian. For me, seeing the reception it received as well as how no one left the audience and waited for the Q&A, my bet is on Kinyarwanda.

  • Steve K | January 28, 2011 10:03 AMReply

    Surprised not to see Circumstance mentioned. Definitely the best movie I saw at Sundance (though I didn't see everything, I did also see Like Crazy and Martha Marcy May Marlene). On the Sundance site, the movie is currently tied for best rating with Take Shelter. Both have a 4.1. Not sure how the jury will rate it, but based on that, I would think it would have a shot at the audience award.