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Sundance 2011 is a wrap. The awards were announced Saturday night, and the jury spread their recognition around. Three of the best received films -- Drake Doremus's Like Crazy, Mike Cahill's Another Earth and Danfung Dennis's Hell and Back Again -- won two prizes, with the former, the tale of a long-distance romance, winning the Dramatic Competition Grand Jury Prize as well as an acting award for Felicity Jones. Another Earth, an intimate sci-fi tale of redemption won a Special Jury Prize as well as the Albert Sloan Award, given to science-themed pictures. Hell and Back Again, Dennis's on-the-ground depiction of the war in Afghanistan -- and stateside recovery for one injured solider -- won the World Cinema Jury prize as well as the World Cinema Cinematography Award for Dennis's stunning lensing on the Canon 5D outfitted with his own custom-built rigs. Dennis and Cahill are first-time feature filmmakers while Doremus returned to Sundance with Like Crazy after his first film, the no-budget Douchebag, screened at the fest only the prior year. (Douchebag wasn't a favorite of mine, so I didn't prioritize seeing Like Crazy... my loss!)

Elsewhere, awards were given to films by first-timers Sean Durkin and Dee Rees who, like Dennis, appeared in our "25 New Faces" column. Second-time filmmaker Peter Richardson's How to Die in Oregon won the Grand Jury Documentary Prize while the Documentary Directing award went to Jon Foy, another first-time filmmaker who submitted to Sundance on a lark and supported himself while making the film by cleaning apartments. Both the World Cinema Audience Award and the Dramatic Competition Audience Award went to first-time U.S. filmmakers, Arlick Brown and Maryam Keshavarz, who set their movies in foreign countries (Rwanda and Iran, respectively). Read the complete list of winners here.

As you can see there were a lot of newcomers at Sundance this year, most of whom embraced new forms of invention and self-sufficiency while making their films. I feel compelled to point this out because I've already read commentary by people not at the festival who've noticed that Like Crazy is an indie romance and have responded with a "same as it ever was" shrug. I couldn't disagree more. If there was ever a year that felt "different," it was 2011. There were new filmmakers and new types of films everywhere you looked. New distributors announced themselves by buying films. The Sundance Institute announced a partnership with crowdfunding platform Kickstarter. The New Frontiers section in its new space on Park became a go-to spot with a James Franco installation, a Lance Weiler transmedia project, and the best food in Park City (the Chow truck, which served fantastic tacos and sliders.) And if you wanted to skip the movies and star in your own private film by taking part in a transmedia cell-phone drama while wandering the town, you could. (I'm not even mentioning my two favorite films -- Jeff Nichols's Take Shelter and Miranda July's The Future, which weren't eligible for awards as they played in the Premiere section.)

We've got coverage of these films here at our Sundance '11 page, with more content going up this week. As we at Filmmaker decompress after what was a pretty hectic eleven days, take a moment to scroll through our site and consider the amazing diversity of new work at the festival this year. And bookmark this one piece which Movie City News dubbed "the best, most optimistic interview on the last day of Sundance." As I mentioned above, a lot of people think independent film is an inside game, but this interview -- and 2011 Sundance in general -- is a potent counterargument.

Thanks for reading these Sundance newsletters. I'll see you on Thursday of this week as Filmmaker's regular weekly newsletters resume.

Best,
Scott Macaulay
Editor

IN THIS NEWSLETTER
Editor's Note
Sundance Blog & Features
Sundance Responses
Sundance Video
SUNDANCE BLOG & FEATURES
On the blog, Sundance winners announced (Grand Prize winner, Like Crazy, pictured left), filmmakers tell us what Sundance means to them, and a look at three docs from the fest.

To read more posts from our blog, click here.

"HERE" DIRECTOR BRADEN KING By James Ponsoldt

Known for his stunning 1998 documentary, Dutch Harbor: Where the Sea Breaks Its Back, as well as countless music videos for musicians including Bonnie "Prince" Billy, Sonic Youth, and Dirty Three, director Braden King arrives at Sundance in Dramatic Competition with HERE. more

"PIONEER" DIRECTOR DAVID LOWERY By James Ponsoldt

To create a feature with a genuine sense of mystery pulsing beneath the filmed veneer is a rare accomplishment, but to achieve that in a short film? Next to impossible. However, Pioneer -- David Lowery's tender, moody short -- is an absolute cryptogram. more

To read all Sundance Features, click here.

SUNDANCE RESPONSES
"CEDAR RAPIDS," DIRECTOR MIGUEL ARTETA The biggest and most exciting surprise about making Cedar Rapids was how beautifully our well-known cast blended in with our lesser-known cast. The film is about the unlikely friendship between four insurance agents at an annual convention. Three of the actors are well-known to the public -- Ed Helms, John C. Reilly and Anne Heche -- and the fourth is an amazing character actor from New York, Isiah Whitlock Jr. Although Isiah is known for his great performance as Senator Clay Davis in the TV series The Wire and his theater work with David Mamet, he was the surprise factor for our audience. We needed to make people really believe that these were regular insurance folks form the Midwest. more

"TAKE SHELTER," WRITER-DIRECTOR JEFF NICHOLS The biggest surprise associated with the making of Take Shelter was, without question, Jessica Chastain. When traveling the festival circuit with my first film, Shotgun Stories, I was fairly outspoken about the fact that Michael Shannon is one of the greatest actors working today. When casting Take Shelter, a film that is anchored by the relationship of a married couple, the biggest question I had was: "What actress could go toe-to-toe with Michael Shannon?" Then the universe delivered me Jessica Chastain. more

"KINYARWANDA," WRITER-DIRECTOR ALRICK BROWN One of the biggest surprises while shooting Kinyarwanda on location in Rwanda is something that we may have just taken for granted. Frankly, it could have been a surprise in the U.S., in a community not familiar with low-budget or independent filmmaking. The community, many of our crew, and local officials seemed to have a really strong grasp of the work of big budget films - situations where, as a solution, money is often thrown at a problem. Many were also very familiar with the other extreme: people picking up a small camera and crew to make shorts and docs for relatively no money. In fact, I recall getting off the plane in Kigali and seeing tons of people with cameras. more

To read all Sundance Responses, click here.


SUNDANCE VIDEO
"PAGE ONE"'S ANDREW ROSSI AND DAVID CARR By Jamie Stuart

Filmed at the Sundance 2011 film festival, where their documentary Page One: A Year Inside the New York Times premiered, here are director Andrew Rossi and Times writer, subject, and soul David Carr discussing both the film and journalism in the age of the Internet. see video

To see all Sundance Videos, click here.

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