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PARK CITY ’07 DAILY DISPATCH | Slamdance Awards Prizes, “Bible” and Gays, Darfur Doc, Hammer, and Mo

PARK CITY '07 DAILY DISPATCH | Slamdance Awards Prizes, "Bible" and Gays, Darfur Doc, Hammer, and Mo

Dylan Verrechia‘s “Tijuana Makes Me Happy” won the grand jury award for best narrative feature and Adam Hootnick‘s “Unsettled” won the grand jury award for best documentary feature at Slamdance 2007 as the festival awarded its prizes on Friday night in Park City. Audiences at the 13th annual event, which boasted an attendance of more than 20,000, presented the audience award for best narrative feature to Jeremy Saulnier‘s “Murder Party,” while the audience prize for best documentary went to Brooke Sebold, Benita Sills & Todd Sills‘ “Red Without Blue.”

Among the short film winners were: Robin Fuller‘s “The Ballad of Mary Slade” (grand jury award, best animated short); Alice Nelson‘s “A Map with Gaps” ( grand jury award, best documentary short); Cesar Velasco Broca‘s “Avant Petalos Grillados” (grand jury award, best experimental short); and Charles Williams‘ “The Cow Thief” (grand jury award, best narrative short).

The festival’s audience award for best Anarchy Film went to Danny Bourque‘s “Commode Creations: The Artwork of Barney Smith,” and the Spirit of Slamdance award went to JoEllen Martinson and William Scott Rees‘ “The Mallorys Go Black Market.” The festival also presented a special award, Kodak Vision Award for Best Cinematography to Nikolaus Summerer for his work as D.P. on “Under the Sun.” And writers awwards went to Nancy Kissam for “Drool” (best feature length screenplay), Ken Pisani for “4 Corners” (best short screenplay), Marcus Clay Carmouche & Seamus Kevin Fahey for “Ghost Towns” (best teleplay), Bobby Darby & Nathan Brookes‘ for “Slaughter” (best horror), and Adamy Balsam for “Blood-Sucking Leeches and Flesh-Eating Maggots” (creative excellence award).

Michael Lerman surveyed Slamdance ’07 in a recent indieWIRE Critics Notebook from the festival.

iW Video link: indieWIRE talks with Slamdance’s Peter Baxter and Dan Mirvish in a recent episode from Park City.

“Devil” on Darfur

In the ’90s, widespread murder that resulted in the death of over a half-million people in Rwanda shocked the world, which mostly remained aloof to the killings during the height of the slaughter. Eventual global remorse for turning a blind eye to the greatest genocide in the last half of the 20th century later culminated in President Clinton apologizing for not doing more and many around the world vowing — once again — “never again.” Less than ten years later, genocide is once again raging in the Darfur region of Sudan and again with only scant attention paid to the killings that have occurred so far with only tepid response from world governments.

In directors Annie Sundberg and Ricki Stern‘s Sundance Spectrum doc, “The World Came on Horseback,” however, the story of one American Marine captain’s mission to expose the tragedy in Darfur presents very sobering insight into the systematic murder occurring in the East African country, but also gives hope in one human’s determination to selflessly tackle a seemingly insurmountable crisis of denial.

Over the course of 18 months, Captain Brian Steidle journeyed to Sudan after leaving the Marines as an unarmed military observer working for the African Union and he witnessed a conflict that has taken the lives of more than 400,000 people and displaced 2.5 million. Arab militias, with the tacit if not overt approval of the government in the capital of Khartoum, have entered Darfur to eradicate the mostly black Christian and Animist population who lead a mostly subsistent existence on a land that also contains oil, 60% of which is exported to China, according to Steidle who spoke at a Q&A following a screening of the film this on Friday in Park City.

“The hatred issue is something I don’t understand myself,” said Steidle when asked why the government doesn’t just take the oil without killing the impoverished inhabitants of Darfur. “But the other side of it is the Arabs in the north are competing for land in the south [of the country, and] the Arab government has aligned itself with the Arab militias against the black south.”

“The Devil Came on Horseback” subject Brian Steidle with the film’s co-directors Annie Sundberg and Ricki Stern along with Gretchen Wallace, producer (far right) and producer Jane Wells (far left). Photo by Brian Brooks/indieWIRE

The increasing violence, if not abated from outside, could result in an even worse human tragedy if the current state of world denial persists, according to Steidle. “Aid groups are [currently] leaving Darfur. If the World Food Program leaves, then 250,000 people will die in the first month [of their departure].” Added co-director Ricki Stern, “2007 is projected to be the worst year yet.” [Brian Brooks]

“Bible” Doc Talks Gays

Daniel Karslake‘s doc competition film “For the Bible Tells Me So” takes on the seemingly endless conflict between the religious right and gays in America through the experiences of several families with religious backgrounds who have a child that eventually comes out. Two of the families’ stories rose to national prominence, including the Gephardts — specifically Chrissy Gephardt, daughter of former House of Representatives Democratic leader Dick Gephardt — and Gene Robinson, who caused a media frenzy after being appointed the first openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church.

Along with details recounting these very personal individual stories, the film tackles the Biblical passages that, on the surface, condemn homosexuality using high-profile interviews with prominent theologians including South Africa’s Archbishop Desmond Tutu who claim the passages often cited are taken out of context, failing to account for the cultural influences of Biblical times. While Leviticus 18:22 is most often cited as God’s condemnation of homosexuality, the theologians interviewed in “For the Bible Tells Me So” use the example of other passages both before and after that passage to contextualize society’s rules and mores of the time. Leviticus 19:19, for example, also appears to condemn the practice of mingling different types of seeds in the same field or combining different threads in the same garment.

“I fell in love with all these families,” commented Karslake about the people profiled in his film during a Q&A in Park City earlier this week. The discussion took place in front of an audience that greeted him post-screening with a raucous standing ovation. “[They are] Christians in the right sense of the word…”

Karslake, like most first-time feature filmmakers shared his own personal awe at getting his film completed with a familiar story of financing difficulties etc. as well challenges finding his subjects. “Getting Gene Robinson was an absolute miracle. I got him during the height of all his death threats, and I was able to get through security and he said yes… It was an absolute miracle. [Brian Brooks]

Hammer Time

Bono, Steven Spielberg, and Tara Reid were among the unlikely celebrities in Park City this past week. Oh yeah and what about MC Hammer, who was also making the scene at the Sundance Film Festival this year. The rapper hung out at the Cinetic Media bash and joined Q & A sessions for Justin Lin‘s “Finishing The Game,” in which he has a featured role.

Lin first met Hammer at NAB in Vegas a number of years ago and while finishing his 2002 feature “Better Luck Tomorrow” found himself up against a wall in need of financing. Unsure where to turn, Lin desperately decided to make the call to Hammer and the rapper immediately came through, wiring him the cash he needed within hours.

Praising Lin during a “Finishing the Game” Q & A earlier this week, Hammer told the audience, “We need a Hollywood that speaks to these issues,” Hammer said of Lin’s work, citing the filmmaker’s committment to pride in his own ethnicity and breaking down stereotypes.

Hammer also offers some photos and insights from his recent trip to Sundance on his blog. [Eugene Hernandez]

MC Hammer at the Cinetic Media party earlier this week. Photo by Brian Brooks/indieWIRE

Inside indieWIRE On the Scene: Park City

Inside indieWIRE On the Scene: Park City

WORLD CINEMA NOTEBOOK | “How She Move” Outdances Hollywood, “Son of Rambow” Offers Pleasure To Kids and Adults Alike, While “Longford” Underwhelms

In part two of World Cinema Notebook, Michael Lerman reviews several more World Competition films. “…the latter half of the week proved that the international titles could compete just as well [as American features],” he writes. “Buy or no buy, much of the less accessible world cinema such as “Ghosts” and “On a Tightrope” pales in comparison to what can best be described as big, bold crowd pleasers exhibiting some talent smarter than our Hollywood.”

REVIEW | Dramatis Personae: Yu’s “Protagonist” Plays with Extreme Personalities

Anthony Kaufman reviewsProtagonist,” which was directed by Jessica Yu and is screening in Sundance’s Documentary Competition category. “Compared to her fantastic and fascinating “In the Realms of the Unreal,” Kaufman writes, “Yu’s follow-up doesn’t have the same compelling and perverse punch, but it’s an intriguing experiment all the same.”

REVIEW | Suffer the Children: Amir Bar-Lev’s “My Kid Could Paint That”

Susan Gerhard reviewsMy Kid Could Paint That,” which was directed by Amir Bar-Lev and is screening in Sundance’s Documentary Competition category. “Taking a leaf from “Capturing the Friedmans,” “My Kid Could Paint That” invites its audience into the home of a family to judge whether a 4-year-old artist is a prodigy, or a hoax,” she writes. The film “marries its portraiture and investigation to an essay on art.”

REVIEW | Gays and the Good Book: Daniel Karslake’s “For the Bible Tells Me So”

Steve Ramos reviewsFor the Bible Tells Me So,” which was directed by Daniel Karslake and is screening in Sundance’s Documentary Competition category. The film “feels like that film that never ends, or a film whose director doesn’t how to end things,” writes Ramos. “I’ve always believed that there is such a thing as a documentary filmmaker who loves his subject too much and while I praise and support Karslake’s advocacy for equal rights for all Americans, his passion cripples his film terribly.”

INTERVIEW | Nejib Belkadhi: “Our approach was to stick to his amateur logic without falling into amateurism ourselves.”

The Sundance World Documentary Competition director of “VHS-Kahloucha” (Nejib Belkadhi) talks about how writing as a child led him to become a filmmaker, and why he believes independent filmmaking to be more a state of mind than something tangible in his interview in today’s indieWIRE.

INTERVIEW | Bruno Ulmer: “These men are forced to risk even the sense of their own masculinity.”

The Sundance World Documentary Competition director of “Welcome Europa” (Bruno Ulmer) discusses how his previous films about outcast helped him form the idea for his current film, and why it was such a challenge to find (and keep) subjects for his film in his interview in today’s indieWIRE.

INTERVIEW | Ian Iqbal Rashid: “My main influences were the dance films I grew up with: Fame, Flashdance, and in particular, Saturday Night Fever.”

The Sundance World Dramatic Competition director of “How She Move” (Ian Iqbal Rashid) talks about the challenges of shooting 14 dance numbers (in addition to the film itself) in 25 days, and how he transitioned from writing poetry to filmmaking in his interview in today’s indieWIRE.

INTERVIEW | George Ratliff: “I loved the idea of being scared, legitimately scared and it’s all because of some little kid.”

The Sundance Dramatic Competition director of “Joshua” (George Ratliff) describes why he held off on making the film initially, and his metamorphosis from documentary to narrative film in his interview in today’s indieWIRE.

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