Sundance announces 2015 Film Festival awards
February 1, 2015
The 2015 Sundance Film Festival is a kid at heart that cares about the world.
During the closing-night award ceremony held at the Basin Recreation Fieldhouse on Saturday, the Sundance Film Festival’s grand jury awards in the U.S. Dramatic and Documentary competitions were given to films about teens.
Alfonso Gomez-Rejon’s "Me and Earl and the Dying Girl" took home the dramatic award and Crystal Moselle’s "The Wolfpack" was bestowed the documentary award.
"Me and Earl and the Dying Girl" is a heart-touching drama about a high-school senior named Greg who makes films with his best friend Earl and is forced to befriend a classmate with leukemia.
Moselle’s "The Wolfpack" is about six teen brothers who live in a Manhattan housing project, whose only knowledge of the world was gleaned from films.
Gomez-Rejon, whose film also won the U.S. Audience Award, appeared breathless while he thanked his cast.
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"This movie was about processing loss and [was made] to celebrate a beautiful life and man, who is my father," he said. "Thank you for this opportunity."
Moselle was all smiles when she accepted her award.
"I stopped these kids on the street one day and here I am," she said. "I know you’re watching this and I [expletive] love you."
The heart of a teen was also recognized in the Grand Jury’s selection for the World Dramatic award with John Maclean’s "Slow West."
The film is about about a 16-year-old boy named Jay who searches for the woman he loves across the American frontier.
The award was accepted by cast member Kalani Quepo, who read a statement from Maclean at the podium.
"I with I could be there to pick up my award," Quepo quoted the filmmaker. "I’m now in Sequoia in upstate California staring at the world’s biggest tree. Let me tell you it is big."
After relaying Maclean’s thanks to his supporters and crew Quepo relayed one more item of gratitude.
"Thanks to dad for taking me to Westerns when I was a wee boy," he read. "Thanks to Sundance to showing me a good time… John."
One of the evening’s first awards presented was the Grand Jury World Documentary Award that was handed to Chad Garcia’s issue-examining "The Russian Woodpecker."
The world-premiere film is about the plight of Fedor Alexandrovich, a victim of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster who risks his life to reveal a terrifying government secret.
In one of the most heartfelt moments of the night, Garcia said he felt so lucky to be at Sundance.
"Not because of this unbelievable award, I feel lucky to be here because a good friend of mine, [cinematographer] Artem [Ryzhykov] was shot by snipers and almost killed while making this film," he said.
In addition, the film’s subject, Alexandrovich, was threatened by the KBG, according to Garcia.
"He’s still with us, but many Ukrainians, thousands of Ukrainian artists aren’t as lucky. I don’t think we can stop Russians with bombs, but I think with a little bit of art and truth, maybe we can make some progress."
Ryzhykov paid tribute to the Ukrainian artists who were killed.
"I hope this film will change this situation and help Ukraine," he said.
Alexandrovich, who also addressed the audience, implored to "Save Ukraine now. Tomorrow will be [too] late."
Another emotional moment came after Marc Silver’s "3 ½ Minutes" was given the Jury Award for Social Impact.
The film is about the shooting of the 2012 shooting of 17-year-old Jordan Davis by Michael David Dunn.
Davis’ parents, Ron Davis and Lucy McBath, were present at the ceremony.
"We would not be here if it wasn’t for these visionaries," McBath said about the filmmakers. "I never would have imagined his life as well as his death would mean so much to so many people."
Davis was also touched by the award.
"Never did I believe when I hugged Jordan to go to with his friends to go window shopping that would be the last time I would talk with him," he said. "This world we live in doesn’t tolerate children no more. This is not just a film. Black Lives Matter."
Before the awards were handed out, Keri Putnam, executive director of the Sundance Institute, thanked the festival’s supporters and sponsors, and said she was proud of the filmmakers whose works made it into the festival.
"They entertain and inspire us," Putnam said. "Pioneering artists need a creative home for risk taking. Their ideas create a ripple effect and create cultural shifts."
Festival Director John Cooper also gave a short speech and shared his gratitude to his staff and volunteers, including those who gave more than 100 hours of their time.
"Our deepest thanks goes to our dedicated and tireless volunteers, all 1,950 of them," he said.
He also acknowledged Cheryl Soshnik, who was recognized with the Gail M. Stevens volunteer award.
The award was named after the late Sundance Film Festival board chair who passed away in 2008.
The evening was hosted by comedian Tig Notaro, whose film "Tig" was in the festival this year. Notaro’s dry humor and non sequiturs helped the evening move along efficiently as she introduced the jurors, filmmakers and actors.
2015 SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL AWARDS:
WORLD CINEMA DRAMATIC
WORLD CINEMA DOCUMENTARY
For more information, visit sundance.org.