Sundance Awards 2012: ‘Beasts Of The Southern Wild’ And ‘The House I Live In’ Win Grand Jury Prizes, ‘The Surrogate’ Cast
Tonight’s Sundance Film Festival Awards ceremony was an emotional roller coaster. The event began characteristically late with a parade of Sundance staff taking to the stage with a tiara and an apology from Festival Director John Cooper who said that actress Parker Posey wouldn’t emcee as originally scheduled because she had taken ill. “She was going to be the Sundance Queen,” Cooper said while displaying her regalia for the evening. As a last minute stand in, Black Rock director Katie Aselton took over for Posey.
Then the light mood turned dark as a large picture of indie maverick Bingham Ray who died here earlier in the week flashed on the screen. The room went silent and Cooper read from a eulogy put together by Ray’s longtime poker buddies: Magnolia Pictures chief Eamonn Bowles, Sony Classics SVP Tom Prassis, Sawyer Studios head Arnie Sawyer, and producer Ben Barenholtz. Cooper choked back tears and had to stop briefly to regain his composure. Afterward, there was quiet applause. And the show went on.
Without Posey the onstage antics were minimal. Most winners skipped acceptance speeches after Cooper advised, “Just say thank you and go on,” and Aselton added, “Really, nobody really cares…”
But then director Alison Klayman (Ai Weiwie: Never Sorry) collected her Special Jury Prize claiming she was “too nervous to say much”. She gave some quick thanks — and then asked the audience to lift a hand and give the finger en masse. She took a photo and explained, “I’ll send this to Ai Weiwei” – a gesture in support of China’s most famous visual artist who has been in and out of house arrest.
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UPDATED: Kicking off the 2012 Sundance Film Festival today, founder Robert Redford was cautiously optimistic about new opportunities for indies through alternative distribution channels such as video on demand. He thinks they can serve as an enhancement for the industry despite exhibitors’ misgivings about day and date strategies. “I hope they will see VOD as a good thing.” He conceded that “as an artist myself it’s hard to think of your work … reduced to a small screen. You make your work to be seen on the large screen with its subtleties, but hopefully if audiences see something on the small screen they will want to see it on the large screen.”
Redford acknowledged “the grim times we live in today,” the lingering economic malaise and “government paralysis.” In spite of that Redford touted this year’s film lineup as an example of a robust independent filmmaking community that is reflecting the times but “doing so without paralysis.” Redford said he sees a contracting mainstream movie business even while celebrated bigger-name directors are rediscovering an expanding indie film world — including filmmakers like Stephen Frears and Spike Lee, who are debuting their latest projects here this year. “They want to come because it allows for more creative freedom and there are also changes in opportunity for distribution.”
Redford later expanded on that theme, noting the studios have gone from being at the heart of the industry to a diminished role. “Artists were beholden to the rules that were placed on them with an emphasis on commerciality. Studios demanded cuts and re-edits. The advent of technology allowed for greater special effects and budgets went up. So that left the more humanistic side of cinema alone. Now there isn’t much left of that mainstream industry, which has opened up wide areas for independent film.” He said franchises dominant studios today and that has lead filmmakers like Lee to head back to independent cinema. Read More »
SUNDANCE OVERVIEW From Mike Fleming: Is Dealmaking Avalanche In The Forecast? Handicapping The High Priority Acquisitions
(Freelancer Sharon Swart is helping Deadline’s Sundance coverage.)
Sundance officially kicked off this evening in Park City with the festival’s first screenings of films, many with various rights available. Irish cop comedy The Guard has just started screening at the Egyptian Theatre, with buyers including Harvey Weinstein in the house. Other films showing tonight are the Harry Belafonte documentary Sing Your Song, documentary Project Nim (which HBO just picked up), U.S. competition drama Pariah, and midnight screening Silent House, a horror thriller from the filmmakers behind 2003’s beyond-scary Open Water.
Earlier at the Egyptian today, Sundance founder Robert Redford, Sundance Institute exec director Keri Putnam, and festival director John Cooper held their annual opening day press conference. Redford wanted to talk about the Sundance Institute, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary. “We usually focus on the festival,” Redford said in the conference’s opening remarks, but “I want to talk about why we are here… What’s our point.” He gave a quick recap of why he started the Institute and how the festival sprung from it five years later. Redford underlined its ongoing mission to support emerging artists with labs and workshops, as well as through the festival platform and several newer programs … Read More »
Robert Redford blogs about it here:
“I’m excited about the changes that John Cooper and I have discussed over the past several months. . . A new documentary premiere section that’s a nod to the continued evolution of nonfiction film. A Festival opening that isn’t focused on a single film but includes docs and narratives by U.S. and international filmmakers, along with a program of shorts. A new location for New Frontier that’s a sort of campus for truly innovative work that blurs boundaries of film, art, and technology.”