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Top Sundance awards: 2 small indies

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PARK CITY — It was a film festival that seemed to be dominated by big-name performances, but in the end it was two smaller independent films that won top honors at Sundance 2002.

And like so many other film-oriented organizations that give out awards, there were too many to easily keep track of. And some films won multiple awards. In all, 15 feature-length festival films and seven shorter-length works received awards this year.

That the festival jury and audiences chose to honor so many different movies is testament to the strength of this year's festival selections, said Sundance Film Festival co-director Geoffrey Gilmore.

"I've said for years that the festival doesn't have a particular theme," said Gilmore, who also serves as the festival's director of programming. "But the unique opinions expressed, the unique voices heard in this year's films, stress that this is a festival about diversity."

"Personal Velocity," director Rebecca Miller's drama about three women seeking release from their respective stifling relationships, won big at this year's festival, taking home both the Dramatic Grand Jury Prize and an Excellence in Cinematography Award (given to director of photography Ellen Kuras).

Gail Dolgin and Vincente Franco's "Daughter from Danang," which chronicles the reunion between a Vietnamese woman and her Amerasian daughter, won the Documentary Grand Jury Prize.

"Amandla! A Revolution in Four Part Harmony," an examination of resistance music and its effect in racially divided South Africa, took home two awards — the Documentary Audience Award and the Freedom of Expression Award.

The festival's directing awards went to Rob Fruchtman and Rebecca Cammisa, who co-directed the documentary "Sister Helen," and Gary Winick for the comedy "Tadpole."

The year's most popular World Cinema films were the controversial British documentary "Bloody Sunday" by Paul Greengrass and "The Last Kiss" from director Gabriele Muccino. The two films tied for an Audience Award.

The Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award went to Gordy Hoffman for the dark comic drama "Love Liza" (which starred his brother, respected character actor Philip Seymour Hoffman).

Continuing a tradition started seven years ago, the festival gave out Special Jury Awards, including performance prizes to the cast of "Manito," and to America Ferrara and Lupe Ontiveros for their work in "Real Women Have Curves." The latter film also won the festival's Dramatic Audience Award.

Other Special Jury Prizes went to Steven Shainberg's "Secretary" — awarded for the film's "originality" — the documentaries "Senorita Extraviada" and "How to Draw a Bunny," and "The Trespasser," which screened in the Latin American Cinema sidebar.

The awards were announced Saturday evening during a ceremony held in the Park City Racquet Club. That event was also broadcast live on television — though only to cable and satellite subscribers who had access to the Sundance Channel.

The annual showcase for independently made films ends today with screenings of the award-winning movies in a variety of Park City venues. "Personal Velocity" and "Daughter from Danang" will also be screened Tuesday night at Trolley Corners in Salt Lake City.

E-mail: jeff@desnews.com