If winning the top prize at the Sundance Film Festival means being crowned the coming year's indie darling, then you'll soon be hearing more about “Like Crazy,” the tale of two star-crossed lovers separated by an ocean and visa problems.
Robert Redford's venerable festival in the heart of Utah ski country has proven a strong predictor of films that will make the critics gush in the ensuing months. Last year, "Winter's Bone," "Blue Valentine" and "Waiting for Superman" captivated the Park City crowd before going on to widespread acclaim.
The 2011 field was strong again, though "Like Crazy" was certainly the best of the 13 film we saw at the festival. Still, its victory was something of a surprise. Following Monday’s world premiere of “Another Earth,” about a MIT astrophysicist and a music composer whose paths cross on the eve of the discovery of a second planet just like our own, it seemed that everyone you ran into said it was “Awesome” or “Incredible” or “Amazing.”
And there were other films that dazzled, inspired or simply entertained enough to ensure they will be heard from over the course of the year. "Tyrannosaur," All Your Dead Ones" and "Cedar Rapids" were among the quality films that gave the eventual winner strong competition. But in the end, one could not quibble with the outcome.
“Like Crazy” is a powerful and beautifully told love story starring Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones and directed by Drake Doremus. Yelchin and Jones play a young couple who meet during their last year of college. But when her student visa runs out, she decides to stay through the summer, a decision that sets off a years-long legal nightmare that keeps the pair from giving their relationship a real chance. The film also earned a special Jury Award for Jones, who is going to be a huge star in two years.
Per dictates from the Times of New York and Los Angeles, Jones shared the title of Sundance “It girl” with Elizabeth Olsen, who starred in two features, the horror film “Silent House,” about a girl who heads to her family’s summer home to do some repairs only to find their a cabin haunted, and “Marta Marcy May Marlene,” about a young woman who struggles to get her life back together after escaping from a cult. The latter was good enough to win Sean Durkin the Directing Award for Dramatic filming.
“Another Earth” did garner the Alfred P. Sloan prize, which goes to “an outstanding feature film focusing on science or technology as a theme, or depicting a scientist, engineer or mathematician as a major character."
“Tyrannosaur,” about a man with a violent temper who finds a chance at redemption with a shop owner who is carrying her own dark secret, was the fest’s other big winner. The film earned first-time director Paddy Considine (most know him from his acting work in films like "The Bourne Ultimatum" and "Hot Fuzz") the World Cinema Directing Award for Dramatic Film, and the World Cinema Special Jury Prizes: Dramatic for Breakout Performances for Olivia Colman and Peter Mullan.
“All Your Dead Ones,” about a Colombian farmer who one morning discovers a pile of corpses in his cornfield, won World Cinema Cinematography Award: Dramatic for Diego F. Jimenez. It was a beautifully shot film that was hamstrung by some pacing issues and terrible subtitles, leaving us hoping that someone comes along to remake it.
Unofficially, there was also something of a competition between three comedies featuring established movie stars that made their world premieres at the festival. The best of them was “Cedar Rapids,” starring Ed Helms as a man sent to represent his insurance company at conference in the big city, where he gets caught up in a whirlwind of liquor, drugs, hookers. The film features an insanely over-the-top turn by John C. Reilly as the foulest, most disgusting man on Earth—it’s hilarious, with each line more cringe-worthy than the last.
Coming in second was “Win Win,” starring Paul Giamatti as a struggling lawyer who moonlights as a high school wrestling coach. In a moment of weakness he sees a chance to take advantage of a client, a decision that comes back to bite him when the man’s grandson shows up out of the blue. It’s a fun film with nice message about family and honesty and all that garbage, but it lacks the emotional rawness and heart we’ve come to expect from writer-director Tom McCarthy, the man who gave us “The Station Agent” and “The Visitor.”
Coming in last was “My Idiot Brother,” starring Paul Rudd as a stoner trying to get it together following an 8-month stretch in jail for selling pot to a uniformed cop. Along the way he crashes wth each of his three sisters—played by Elizabeth Banks, Emily Motimer and Zooey Deschanel—throwing their lives into chaos with his unflinching honestly and complete lack of guile. It was funny, but ultimately felt more like a four-episode sitcom marathon than a fully formed film.
Below is a complete list of this year’s winners:
The Grand Jury Prize: Documentary was presented to "How to Die in Oregon",directed by Peter D. Richardson. In 1994 Oregon became the first state to legalize physician-assisted suicide. How to Die in Oregon gently enters the lives of terminally ill Oregonians to illuminate the power of death with dignity.
The Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic was presented to "Like Crazy," directed by Drake Doremus; written by Drake Doremus and Ben York Jones. A young American guy and a young British girl meet in college and fall in love. Their love is tested when she is required to leave the country and they must face the challenges of a long-distance relationship.
The World Cinema Jury Prize: Documentary was presented to "Hell and Back Again," directed by Danfung Dennis. Told through the eyes of one Marine from the start of his 2009 Afghanistan tour to his distressing return and rehabilitation in the U.S., we witness what modern "unconventional" warfare really means to the men who are fighting it. U.S.A./United Kingdom
The World Cinema Jury Prize: Dramatic was presented to "Happy, Happy" ("Sykt Lykkelig"), directed by Anne Sewitsky; written by Ragnhild Tronvoll. A perfect housewife, who just happens to be sex-starved, struggles to keep her emotions in check when an attractive family moves in next door. Norway
The Audience Awards are presented to both a dramatic and documentary film in four competitions as voted by Sundance Film Festival audiences. The 2011 Sundance Film Festival Audience
Awards are presented by Acura.
The Audience Award: Documentary was presented to "Buck," directed by Cindy Meehl, for her story about the power of non-violence and master horse trainer Buck Brannaman, who uses principles of respect and trust to tame horses and inspire their human counterparts.
The Audience Award: Dramatic was presented to "Circumstance," directed and written by Maryam Keshavarz, in which a wealthy Iranian family struggles to contain a teenager's growing sexual rebellion and her brother's dangerous obsession.
The World Cinema Audience Award: Documentary was presented to "Senna," directed by Asif Kapadia; written by Manish Pandey, about legendary racing driver and Brazilian hero Ayrton Senna, taking us on the ultimate journey of what it means to become the greatest when faced with the constant possibility of death. United Kingdom
The World Cinema Audience Award: Dramatic was presented to "Kinyarwanda," directed and written by Alrick Brown, which tells the story of Rwandans who crossed the lines of hatred during the 1994 genocide, turning mosques into places of refuge for Muslims and Christians, Hutus and Tutsis. U.S.A./Rwanda
The Best of NEXT!: Audience Award was presented to "to.get.her," directed and written by Erica Dunton about five girls who come together for one fateful night where anything goes. They all had secrets, but their friendship was the only thing they knew to be true.
Directing Awards recognize excellence in directing for dramatic and documentary features.
The Directing Award: Documentary was presented to "Resurrect Dead: The Mystery of the Toynbee Tiles," directed by Jon Foy. An urban mystery unfurls as one man pieces together the surreal meaning of hundreds of cryptic tiled messages that have been appearing in city streets across the U.S. and South America.
The Directing Award: Dramatic was presented to "Martha Marcy May Marlene," directed and written by Sean Durkin. Haunted by painful memories and increasing paranoia, a damaged woman struggles to re-assimilate with her family after fleeing an abusive cult.
The World Cinema Directing Award: Documentary was presented to "Project Nim," directed by James Marsh, who explores the story of Nim, the chimpanzee who was taught to communicate with language as he was raised and nurtured like a human child.United Kingdom
The World Cinema Directing Award: Dramatic was presented to "Tyrannosaur," directed and written by Paddy Considine. For a man plagued by self-destructive violence and rage, a chance of redemption appears in the form of Hannah, a Christian charity shop worker with a devastating secret of her own. United Kingdom
The Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award was presented to "Another Happy Day," directed and written by Sam Levinson, about a pair of reckless siblings who are dragged into a chaotic family wedding by their overwrought mother.
The World Cinema Screenwriting Award was presented to "Restoration," directed by Yossi Madmony; written by Erez Kav-El, about an antique furniture restorer, who, aided by a young and mysterious apprentice, struggles to keep his workshop alive, while his relationship with his own estranged son, who is trying to close down the shop, begins to disintegrate. Israel
The Documentary Editing Award Matthew Hamachek and Marshall Curry and directed by Marshall Curry. The Earth Liberation Front is a radical environmental group that the FBI calls America's “number one domestic terrorist threat.” Daniel McGowan, an ELF member, faces life in prison for two multi-million dollar arsons against Oregon timber companies.
The World Cinema Documentary Editing Award was presentedto "The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975," edited by Göran Hugo Olsson and Hanna Lejonqvist and directed by Göran Hugo Olsson. From 1967 to 1975, Swedish journalists chronicled the Black Power movement in America. Combining that 16mm footage, undiscovered until now, with contemporary audio interviews, this film illuminates the people and culture that fueled change and brings the movement to life anew.Sweden/U.S.A.
The Excellence in Cinematography Awards honor exceptional cinematography in both dramatic and documentary categories:
The Excellence in Cinematography Award: Documentary was presented to "The Redemption of General Butt Naked," directed by Eric Strauss and Daniele Anastasion; cinematographers: Eric Strauss, Ryan Hill and Peter Hutchens. A brutal warlord who murdered thousands during Liberia's horrific 14-year civil war renounces his violent past and reinvents himself as an Evangelist, facing those he once terrorized.
The Excellence in Cinematography Award: Dramatic was presented to "Pariah," directed and written by Dee Rees; cinematographer: Bradford Young. When forced to choose between losing her best friend or destroying her family, a Brooklyn teenager juggles conflicting identities and endures heartbreak in a desperate search for sexual expression.
The World Cinema Cinematography Award: Documentary was presented to "Hell and Back Again," directed by Danfung Dennis; cinematographer: Danfung Dennis. Told through the eyes of one Marine from the start of his 2009 Afghanistan tour to his distressing return and rehabilitation in the U.S., we witness what modern "unconventional" warfare really means to the men who are fighting it. U.S.A./United Kingdom
The World Cinema Cinematography Award: Dramatic was presented to "All Your Dead Ones," directed by Carlos Moreno; written by Alonso Torres and Carlos Moreno; cinematographer: Diego F. Jimenez. One morning, a peasant wakes to find a pile of bodies in the middle of his crops. When he goes to the authorities, he quickly realizes that the dead ones are a problem nobody wants to deal with. Colombia
Two World Cinema Special Jury Prizes: Dramatic for Breakout Performances were presented to Olivia Colman and Peter Mullan for their roles in "Tyrannosaur," directed and written by Paddy Considine.For a man plagued by self-destructive violence and rage, a chance of redemption appears in the form of Hannah, a Christian charity shop worker with a devastating secret of her own. United Kingdom
A World Cinema Special Jury Prize: Documentary was presented to "Position Among the Stars" ("Stand van de Sterren") directed by Leonard Retel Helmrich, for his expose of the effects of globalization on Indonesia's rapidly changing society as it ripples into the life of a poor Christian woman living in the slums of Jakarta with her Muslim sons and teenage granddaughter. The Netherlands
A Special Jury Prize: Documentary was presented to "Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey," directed by Constance Marks, an inspirational film that crosses cultures and generations
A Special Jury Prize: Dramatic was presented to "Another Earth" directed by Mike Cahill; written by Mike Cahill and Brit Marling. On the eve of the discovery of a duplicate Earth, a horrible tragedy irrevocably alters the lives of two strangers, who begin an unlikely love affair.
A Special Jury Prize: Dramatic was presented to Felicity Jones for her role in "Like Crazy," directed by Drake Doremus; written by Drake Doremus and Ben York Jones. A young American guy and a young British girl meet in college and fall in love. Their love is tested when she is required to leave the country and they must face the challenges of a long-distance relationship.
As announced on Tuesday, the Jury Prize in Short Filmmaking was awarded to "Brick Novax pt 1 and 2" (Director and screenwriter: Matt Piedmont). The International Jury Prize in Short Filmmaking was given to "Deeper Than Yesterday" / Australia (Director and screenwriter: Ariel Kleiman). In addition, the jury awarded Honorable Mentions in Short Filmmaking to: "Choke" / Canada (Director and screenwriter: Michelle Latimer); "Diarchy" / Italy (Director and screenwriter: Ferdinando Cito Filomarino); "The External World" / Germany, Ireland (Director and screenwriter: David O’Reilly); "The Legend of Beaver Dam" / Canada (Director: Jerome Sable, screenwriters: Jerome Sable and Eli Batalion); "Out of Reach" / Poland (Director and screenwriter: Jakub Stozek); and "Protoparticles" / Spain (Director and screenwriter: Chema García Ibarra).
On Tuesday Sundance Institute and Mahindra announced the winners of the inaugural Sundance Institute/Mahindra Global Filmmaking Award, in recognition and support of emerging independent filmmakers from around the world. The winning directors and projects are: Bogdan Mustata, Wolf from Romania; Ernesto Contreras, I Dream in Another Language from Mexico; Seng Tat Liew, In What City Does It Live? from Malaysia; and Talya Lavie, Zero Motivation from Israel.
Sundance Institute and NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation) on Thursday announced Cherien Dabis, director of "May in the Summer," as the winner of the Sundance Institute/NHK Award honoring and supporting emerging filmmakers.
"Another Earth," written and directed by Mike Cahill, is the recipient of this year’s Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize. The Prize, which carries a $20,000 cash award by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, is presented to an outstanding feature film focusing on science or technology as a theme, or depicting a scientist, engineer, or mathematician as a major character.