"Freedom on My Mind," a documentary about the civil-rights movement, and "What Happened Was," a two-character drama, won top honors at the Sundance Film Festival Saturday night.
The Grand Prizes were voted on by separate juries for the documentary and dramatic categories, with the winners chosen from 16 competition films.Second only to the Grand Prizes are the Audience Awards, voted on by festivalgoers at screenings during the week. On the dramatic side, audiences chose "Spanking the Monkey," about a dysfunctional family. The most popular documentary was "Hoop Dreams," about two inner-city high school basketball stars followed by the filmmakers for five years.
Other jury prizes included:
- Filmmakers Trophy (documentary): "Theremin: An Electronic Odyssey."
- Filmmakers Trophy (dramatic): split between "Clerks" and "Fresh."
- Cinematography Award (documentary): "Colorado Cowboy: The Bruce Ford Story."
- Cinematography Award (dramatic): "Suture."
- Freedom of Expression Award: "Dialogues With Madwomen" and "Heart of the Matter."- Waldo Salt Screenwriter Award: Tom Noonan, for "What Happened Was."
- Special Jury Award for Technical Excellence: "Coming Out Under Fire."
- Dramatic Jury Special Recognition: actors Sean Nelson, for "Fresh," and Alicia Witt and Renee Humphrey, for "Fun."
The festivities were hosted by comic actor Ben Stiller, whose feature directing debut - "Reality Bites," a romantic comedy about college graduates who find their life goals stalled in the '90s - had its world premiere Friday. That screening was the festival's hottest ticket and proved to be the most star-studded event of the week.
Television camera lights glared in the lobby of the Egyptian Theater, announcing the arrival of the film's stars, Winona Ryder and Ethan Hawke, as well as Danny DeVito, who co-produced the film.
Stiller, DeVito and co-producer Michael Shamberg introduced "Reality Bites," then Stiller and the cast - Ryder, Hawke, Janeane Garofalo and Steve Zahn - fielded audience questions following the screening.
Asked about the film's themes of "twentysomething" angst and aimlessness, Stiller said he just wanted to make a movie he would like to see, "one that's entertaining." And he doesn't feel that the film's appeal is narrow. "If you've ever been in your 20s or if you will be in your 20s, we hope you'll enjoy this."
He also said that being able to sign up a star of Ryder's magnitude was the deal clincher. "It was nice to be able to use someone who could get the movie made and who was really right for the (lead) character."
Ryder, who won a Golden Globe award last week for her performance in "The Age of Innocence," said she hopes "Reality Bites" will not simply be labeled a "Generation X" picture, that it has more to offer than that.
Stiller said he was excited and a bit nervous to be premiering his film at the Sundance festival, adding that although it is a major studio film, "it feels independent." "Reality Bites" will receive a national release on Feb. 18.
The festival's other impossible-to-get ticket was for Thursday's world premiere of "The Hudsucker Proxy," a comedy about big business set in the 1950s. The film, by Joel and Ethan Coen ("Raising Arizona," "Barton Fink"), stars Tim Robbins, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Paul Newman, and will be released in March.
The Coen brothers, Robbins and Leigh, were at the Egyptian Theater, as was producer Joel Silver, whose name is generally associated with big-budget action pictures like the "Lethal Weapon" and "Die Hard" films. "I'm not sure which one is Joel and which one is Ethan," Silver joked as he introduced the Coens. "They actually don't speak; Joel writes things down and Ethan signs."
But the Coens, though soft-spoken, were quite articulate, and spoke of this premiere as a fond return to Sundance, where they won the dramatic competition Grand Prize 10 years ago for their first film, "Blood Simple." "It was a big deal for us to come to Sundance - was it really 10 years ago?" Ethan Coen said. "And it was a big boost for us. We're glad to be back."
Asked how they came up with the idea of casting Paul Newman as the heartless boardroom villain of "Hudsucker," Ethan said, "Paul asked us the same question. And we didn't have the answer then, either."
For festival information, phone 328-FILM (3456); for ticket information, phone 322-1700. All theaters and auditoriums are in Park City. Several screenings were still to be announced (TBA).
SUNDAY (JAN. 30)
Egyptian Theatre: "What Happened Was," dramatic Grand Prize winner, 11 a.m.; "Freedom on My Mind," documentary Grand Prize winner, 2 p.m.; "Spanking the Monkey," dramatic Audience Award winner, 5 p.m.; TBA 8 p.m.
Holiday Village Cinema I: "Totally F***ed Up" 11 a.m.; "Shorts Program I" 2 p.m.; "Shorts Program II" 5 p.m.; TBA 8 p.m.
Holiday Village Cinema II: "Abyssinia" 11:20 a.m.; "Ivan and Abraham" 2:20 p.m.; TBA 5:20 p.m.; TBA 8:20 p.m.
Holiday Village Cinema III: "Mickey One" 11:40 a.m.; "Four Friends" 2:40 p.m.; "Not Just for Kids" 5:40 p.m.; TBA 8:40 p.m.
Prospector Square: "Two Small Bodies" 10:30 a.m.; "The Young Americans" 1 p.m.; "Makin' Up" 4 p.m.; TBA 7 p.m.
Library Center: "Theremin: An Electronic Odyssey," documentary Filmmakers Trophy winner, 10:30 a.m.; a dramatic Filmmakers Trophy winner 1 p.m.; "The Bed You Sleep In" 4 p.m.; "Night Moves" 7 p.m.