As the Sundance Film Festival drew to a close, commercially-viable films were being snapped up while the truly independent award-winners remained largely unbought.
Acquisitions of this year’s entries focused mainly on big names (Steve Carell) and wide appeal, as "Little Miss Sunshine" started things off with a $10 million deal followed by pics like "The Darwin Awards," "The Science of Sleep," "Factotum" and "The Night Listener." Even the smaller films that secured distribution deals boasted recognizable names — "Stay" (directed by Bobcat Goldthwait), "Right at Your Door" (with Rory Cochrane and Mary McCormack), and the recent ThinkFilm acquisition, "Half Nelson" (starring Ryan Gosling).
One look at the award winners announced Saturday night reveals the disparity between the best films in the festival and those that secured distribution deals. Setting precedence by winning two awards each in their respective categories, the two top winners both examined immigrant life in America.
Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland‘s "Quinceneara" boasts an unknown cast in the story of a Latina girl ostracized by her immigrant family when she becomes pregnant, and won both the prestigious Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award for best Drama.
Likewise, Christopher Quinn‘s documentary "God Grew Tired Of Us" won both Grand Jury and Audience Awards for best Documentary with it’s story of three Sudanese boys who trekked thousands of miles across their war-torn homeland and eventually found refuge in America.
By the end of the festival, neither of the history-making winners had secured a distribution deal.
Other winners in Sundance competition include Mexico’s "In The Pit" (World Cinema Jury Prize: Documentary), France’s "13 Tzameti" (World Cinema Jury Prize: Dramatic), Mexico’s "De NADIE" (World Cinema Audience Award: Documentary), and New Zealand’s "No. 2" (World Cinema Audience Award: Dramatic).
Honors also went to James Longley‘s doc "Iraq In Fragments," which won honors for Documentary Directing, Excellence in Cinematography, and Documentary Film Editing; "A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints" helmer Dito Montiel for Dramatic Directing; and "Right At Your Door" lensman Tom Richmond for Excellence in Cinematography.
Special Jury Prizes went to "A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints" for Best Ensemble Performance; Julia Kwan’s "Eve & the Fire Horse;" So Yong Kim‘s "In Between Days;" and docs "American Blackout" and "TV Junkie."