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Sundance wild about ‘Beasts’

'House I Live In' takes docu prize

PARK CITY, Utah — “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” Benh Zeitlin’s imaginative magical-realist debut about a young girl’s unique upbringing in southern Louisiana, and “The House I Live In,” Eugene Jarecki’s provocative documentary about the failure of the war on drugs, won the grand jury prizes for American films at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival.

Acquired at the fest by Fox Searchlight, “Beasts” proved an early critics’ favorite and proceeded to dominate fest conversation until its victory on Saturday night in Park City; pic also drew a cinematography prize for Ben Richardson’s lensing.

Jarecki was a repeat winner, having previously received the fest’s documentary grand jury prize for 2005’s “Why We Fight.”

Audience awards for American features went to “The Surrogate,” Ben Lewin’s fictionalization of poet Mark O’Brien’s journey to experience sex as a polio survivor, and “The Invisible War,” helmer Kirby Dick’s nonfiction examination of sexual assault in the U.S. military.

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World Cinema grand jury prizes were presented to “Violeta Went to Heaven,” Andres Wood’s biopic about Chilean singer-songwriter Violeta Parra, and “The Law in These Parts,” Ra’anan Alexandrovicz’s documentary about the Israeli military legal system in the Occupied Territories.

Aud nods for international features went to “Valley of Saints,” Musa Syeed’s drama about a boatman in politically turbulent Kashmir, and “Searching for Sugar Man,” Malik Bendjelloul’s docu portrait of forgotten ’70s rocker Rodriguez, which was acquired early on in the fest by Sony Classics. “Sugar Man” also scooped a special jury prize from the World Cinema dramatic jury.

Ava DuVernay drew the U.S. dramatic directing prize for “Middle of Nowhere,” the Los Angeles-set story of a woman’s crisis of conscience regarding her incarcerated husband. In American docs, Lauren Greenfield took helming honors for “The Queen of Versailles,” her look at the crumbling fortunes of Florida billionaire couple David and Jackie Siegel.

The Waldo Salt screenwriting award, honoring a U.S. dramatic entrant, was given to Derek Connolly for his sci-fi-inflected romantic comedy “Safety Not Guaranteed.”

World Cinema directing kudos went to Mads Matthiesen’s dramatic feature “Teddy Bear,” about a socially awkward champion bodybuilder, and Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi’s docu “5 Broken Cameras,” about a Palestinian village’s opposition to the building of Israeli settlements.

Screenplay prize for World Cinema went to Marialy Rivas, Camila Gutierrez, Pedro Peirano and Sebastian Sepulveda for “Young & Wild,” director Rivas’ drama about a young Chilean woman’s sexual coming-of-age.

A raft of special jury prizes went to the ensemble cast of “The Surrogate,” led by John Hawkes and Helen Hunt; producers Jonathan Schwartz and Andrea Sperling for their work on U.S. dramatic entries “Smashed” and “Nobody Walks”; “Love Free or Die,” Macky Alston’s portrait of openly gay bishop Gene Robinson, and “Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry,” Alison Klayman’s docu about the titular Chinese artist-activist, both in the U.S. documentary competition; and “Can,” Rasit Celikezer’s tale of a Turkish couple unable to conceive, in the World Cinema dramatic competition.

Excellence in cinematography prizes were presented to Ben Richardson for “Beasts of the Southern Wild” (U.S. dramatic); Jeff Orlowski for “Chasing Ice” (U.S. docu); David Raedeker for “My Brother the Devil” (World Cinema dramatic) and Lars Skree for “Putin’s Kiss” (World Cinema docu). Documentary editing prizes went to Enat Sidi for “Detropia” (U.S.) and Lisanne Pajot and James Swirsky for “Indie Game: The Movie” (World Cinema).

The Best of Next audience award went to “Sleepwalk With Me,” writer-director Mike Birbiglia’s feature-length adaptation of his one-man show. Birbiglia paid tribute in his acceptance speech to another Next entry, Craig Zobel’s “Compliance,” calling it his favorite film of the festival.

The Sundance Institute/NHK Award for emerging filmmakers was presented to Swedish helmer Jens Assur for “Close Far Away.”

As announced on Tuesday, the Sundance Institute/Mahindra Globe Filmmaking Award for emerging independent filmmakers was presented to Shonali Bose, “Margarita With a Straw” (India); Etienne Kallos, “Free State” (South Africa”); Ariel Kleiman, “Partisan” (Australia); and Dominga Sotomayor, “Late to Die Young” (Chile).

As announced Friday, Premieres entry “Robot & Frank” and World Cinema title “Valley of Saints” split the Alfred P. Sloan prize, given annually to a film focusing on science or technology as a theme.

Originally slated host Parker Posey was unable to attend the awards ceremony after taking ill on Saturday. In her absence, fest director John Cooper handled emcee duties with helmer Katie Aselton, whose Park City at Midnight entry, “Black Rock,” sold to LD Distribution in one of the fest’s earliest acquisitions.

And the winners are:

Grand Jury Prize (Dramatic): “Beasts of the Southern Wild”

Grand Jury Prize (Documentary):The House I Live In

Audience Award (Dramatic): “The Surrogate”

Audience Award (Documentary):The Invisible War

Directing (Dramatic): Ava DuVernay, “Middle of Nowhere”

Directing (Documentary): Lauren Greenfield, “The Queen of Versailles

Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award (Dramatic): Derek Connolly, “Safety Not Guaranteed”

Cinematography (Dramatic): Ben Richardson, “Beasts of the Southern Wild”

Cinematography (Documentary): Jeff Orlowski, “Chasing Ice”

Editing (Documentary):Enat Sidi, “Detropia

Special Jury Prizes (Dramatic): Jonathan Schwartz and Andrea Sperling, “Smashed,” “Nobody Walks”; the ensemble cast of “The Surrogate”

Special Jury Prize (Documentary): “Love Free or Die,” “Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry”

World Cinema Grand Jury Prize (Dramatic):Violeta Went to Heaven

World Cinema Grand Jury Prize (Documentary): “The Law in These Parts”

World Cinema Audience Award (Dramatic): “Valley of Saints”

World Cinema Audience Award (Documentary): “Searching for Sugar Man”

Best of Next Audience Award:Sleepwalk With Me

World Cinema Directing Award (Dramatic): Mads Matthiesen, “Teddy Bear”

World Cinema Directing Award (Documentary): Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi, “5 Broken Cameras”

World Cinema Screenwriting Award: Marialy Rivas, Camila Gutierrez, Pedro Periano and Sebastian Sepulveda, “Young & Wild”

World Cinema Cinematography Award (Dramatic): David Raedeker, “My Brother the Devil”

World Cinema Special Jury Prize (Dramatic): “Can”

World Cinema (Documentary) Editing Award: Lisanne Pajot and James Swirsky for “Indie Game: The Movie”

World Cinema Cinematography Award (Documentary): Lars Skree, “Putin’s Kiss”

World Cinema Special Jury Prize (Documentary): “Searching for Sugar Man”

Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize: “Robot & Frank” and “Valley of Saints”

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