Teen drama nabs grand jury prize at festival

“Push: Based on the Novel by Sapphire,” director Lee Daniels’ unflinching look at the parental abuse and self-redemption of a teenage girl in 1980s Harlem, was the big winner at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival, taking both the grand jury prize and the audience award in the U.S. dramatic competition.

On the World Cinema side, Sebastian Silva’s Chilean feature “The Maid” (La Nana), a comedy-drama about class conflict within a household, took the grand jury prize, while Lone Scherfig’s British entry “An Education,” a spirited account of a 16-year-old girl’s accelerated maturation in early ‘60s London, speared the audience award.

Sundance always places equal emphasis on its documentary categories, and the grand jury prize winner in the U.S. competition was Ondi Timoner’s “We Live in Public,” a revelatory look at Internet pioneer Josh Harris centered on his bizarre millennial art project in New York City. World Cinema docu grand jury nod went to Kim Longinotto’s U.K. pic “Rough Aunties,” which focuses on a group of women who look after abused and neglected children in South Africa.

Aud nod for an American documentary was voted to Louie Psihoyos’ “The Cove,” a trenchant expose of upsetting developments in dolphin-filled waters in Japan. World Cinema docu audience choice was Havana Marking’s “Afghan Star,” from Afghanistan and the U.K.; it looks at four contestants on an “American Idol”-style musical TV show in a country where participation in such a program, especially for women, is a life-threatening proposition. Marking also drew the directing nod for an international documentary.

Cary Joji Fukunaga copped the directing kudo for an American dramatic film for “Sin nombre,” which follows Central American immigrants as they make their way through Mexico. The jury singled out Adriano Goldman for a cinematography award for the same film. World Cinema cinematography honors went to John de Borman for “An Education.”

World Cinema directing nod went to Oliver Hirschbiegel for his study of Irish conflict, “Five Minutes of Heaven,” for which Guy Hibbert drew screenwriting kudos.

Directing award for U.S. documentaries was bestowed on Natalia Almada for “El General,” about her controversial great-grandfather, President Plutarco Elias Calles of Mexico.

The Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award, presented to the writer of an American dramatic feature, went to Nicholas Jasenovec and Charlyne Yi for “Paper Heart,” the story of the disbelieving Yi’s search for the true nature of love.

Documentary cinematography awards were extended, on the American side, to Bob Richman for “The September Issue,” R.J. Cutler’s account of the preparation of the 2007 issue of Vogue magazine, and, for an international docu, to director-lenser John Maringouin for “Big River Man,” about a Slovenian man’s endurance swim of the Amazon.

Editing awards for documentaries went, for a U.S. title, to Karen Schmeer for “Sergio,” about the Brazilian U.N. high commissioner for human rights who was killed in Iraq, and, for a World Cinema entry, to Janus Billeskov Jansen and Thomas Papapetros for “Burma VJ,” about Burmese journalists who covertly shot and sent out footage of the 2007 protests.

The American competition jurors awarded three special jury prizes: for spirit of independence to Lynn Shelton’s “Humpday,” about two straight guys who decide to appear in a porn video together; for acting to Mo’Nique for her performance as the abusive mother in “Push”; and on the documentary side to director Jeff Stilson’s “Good Hair,” in which Chris Rock sizes up black hairstyles.

Three special jury prizes were also voted in the World Cinema competition: one for originality to Benoit Delepine and Gustave de Kervern’s French film “Louise-Michel,” about female factory workers who hire a hitman to kill the executive who ordered the plant’s closing; an acting prize to Catalina Saavedra for “The Maid”; and one to Ngawang Choephel’s “Tibet in Song,” about Tibetans’ effort to preserve their culture through music.

Presented on Saturday night at the Racquet Club, the awards were determined by four juries. U.S. dramatic competition jurors were Virginia Madsen, Scott McGehee, Maud Nadler, Mike White and Boaz Yakin, wile U.S. documentaries were judged by Patrick Creadon, Carl Deal, Andrea Meditch, Sam Pollard and Marina Zenovich.

World Cinema dramatic competition jurors were Colin Brown, Christine Jeffs and Vibeke Windelov, while Gillian Armstrong, Thom Powers and Hubert Sauper served on the docu side.

Jury prizes for short went to Destin Daniel Cretton’s “Short Term 12” for the U.S. and to Jonas Odell’s “Lies” on the international side.

Honorable mentions for shorts were given to Chema Garcia Ibarra’s “The Attack of the Robots From Nebula-5,” Brady Corbet’s “Protect You + Me,” PES’ “Western Spaghetti,” Julius Avery’s “Jerrycan,” Sam Taylor-Wood’s “Love You More,” Max Winston’s “I Live in the Woods,” Nadejda Koseva’s “Omelette” and Jason Eisener’s “Treevenge.”

Max Mayer’s U.S. dramatic competition entry “Adam” won the annual Alfred P. Sloan Prize, a $20,000 award for a film with a science or technology theme.

The previously announced 2009 Sundance Institute/NHK Intl. Filmmakers Awards, given to one filmmaker apiece from the U.S., Japan, Europe and Latin America, were handed out at the ceremony to Diego Lerman, “Ciencias morales” (Moral Sciences), from Argentina; David Riker, “The Girl,” from the U.S.; Qurata Kenji, “Speed Girl,” from Japan; and Lucile Hadzihalilovic, “Evolution,” from France.

Jane Lynch hosted the awards ceremony. Joseph Gordon-Levitt announced the U.S. audience awards, while Benjamin Bratt did the honors for the World Cinema favorites.

2009 Sundance Film Festival Award Winners:

GRAND JURY PRIZE: U.S. DOCUMENTARY
“We Live in Public,” directed by Ondi Timoner

GRAND JURY PRIZE: U.S. DRAMATIC
“Push: Based on the Novel by Sapphire,” directed by Lee Daniels and written by Damien Paul

WORLD CINEMA JURY PRIZE: DOCUMENTARY
“Rough Aunties,” directed by Kim Longinotto

WORLD CINEMA JURY PRIZE: DRAMATIC
“The Maid” (“La Nana”), directed by Sebastián Silva

AUDIENCE AWARD presented by Honda: U.S. DOCUMENTARY
“The Cove,” directed by Louie Psihoyos

AUDIENCE AWARD presented by Honda: U.S. DRAMATIC
“Push: Based on the Novel by Sapphire,” directed by Lee Daniels and written by Damien Paul

THE WORLD CINEMA AUDIENCE AWARD: DOCUMENTARY
“Afghan Star,” directed by Havana Marking

THE WORLD CINEMA AUDIENCE AWARD: DRAMATIC
“An Education,” directed by Lone Scherfig from a screenplay by Nick Hornby

DIRECTING AWARD: U.S. DOCUMENTARY
“El General director,” Natalia Almada

DIRECTING AWARD: U.S. DRAMATIC
“Sin Nombre,” written and directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga

THE WORLD CINEMA DIRECTING AWARD: DOCUMENTARY
“Afghan Star,” directed by Havana Marking

WORLD CINEMA DIRECTING AWARD: DRAMATIC
“Five Minutes of Heaven,” directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel from a screenplay by Guy Hibbert

WALDO SALT SCREENWRITING AWARD
Nicholas Jasenovec and Charlyne Yi for “Paper Heart”

WORLD CINEMA SCREENWRITING AWARD
“Five Minutes of Heaven,” directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel from a screenplay by Guy Hibbert

U.S. DOCUMENTARY EDITING AWARD
“Sergio,” directed by Greg Barker and edited by Karen Schmeer

WORLD CINEMA DOCUMENTARY EDITING AWARD
“Burma VJ,” directed by Anders Østergaard and edited by Janus Billeskov Jansen and Thomas Papapetros

EXCELLENCE IN CINEMATOGRAPHY AWARD: U.S. DOCUMENTARY
“The September Issue,” cinematographer: Bob Richman

EXCELLENCE IN CINEMATOGRAPHY AWARD: U.S. DRAMATIC
“Sin Nomb
re,” cinematographer: Adriano Goldman.

WORLD CINEMA CINEMATOGRAPHY AWARD: DOCUMENTARY
“Big River Man,” cinematographer: John Maringouin

WORLD CINEMA CINEMATOGRAPHY AWARD: DRAMATIC
“An Education,” cinematographer: John De Borman.

A WORLD CINEMA SPECIAL JURY PRIZE FOR ORIGINALITY
“Louise-Michel,” directed by Benoit Delépine and Gustave de Kervern

A WORLD CINEMA SPECIAL JURY PRIZE: DOCUMENTARY
Tibet in Song directed by Ngawang Choephel

A WORLD CINEMA SPECIAL JURY PRIZE FOR ACTING
Catalina Saavedra, “The Maid” (“La Nana”). Chile

A SPECIAL JURY PRIZE: U.S. DOCUMENTARY
“Good Hair,” directed by Jeff Stilson

A SPECIAL JURY PRIZE FOR SPIRIT OF INDEPENDENCE
“Humpday,” directed by Lynn Shelton

A SPECIAL JURY PRIZE FOR ACTING
Mo’Nique, “Push: Based on the Novel by Sapphire”

2009 JURY PRIZE IN U.S. SHORT FILMMAKING
“Short Term 12,” directed by Destin Daniel Cretton

INTERNATIONAL JURY PRIZE IN INTERNATIONAL SHORT FILMMAKING
“Lies,” directed by Jonas Odel

HONORABLE MENTIONS IN SHORT FILMMAKING
“The Attack of the Robots from Nebula-5,” directed by Chema Garcia Ibarra
“Protect You + Me,” directed by Brady Corbet
“Western Spaghetti,” directed by PES
“Jerrycan,” directed by Julius Avery; Love You More, directed by Sam Taylor-Wood
“I Live in the Woods,” directed by Max Winston
“Omelette,” directed by Nadejda Koseva
“Treevenge,” directed by Jason Eisener.

Alfred P. Sloan Prize
“Adam,” directed by Max Mayer

Sundance/NHK International Filmmakers Awards
Diego Lerman, “Ciencias Morales” (“Moral Sciences”) from Argentina; David Riker, “The Girl,” from the United States; Qurata Kenji, “Speed Girl” from Japan; and Lucile Hadzihalilovic, “Evolution” from France

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