UPDATED: The full list of winners (from sundance.org):
2009 Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic: Lee Daniels, Push: Based on the Novel by Sapphire
Audience Award: Dramatic: Lee Daniels, Push: Based on the Novel by Sapphire
World Cinema Audience Award: Dramatic: Lone Scherfig, An Education
Directing Award: U.S. Documentary - Natalia Almada, El General
Directing Award: U.S. Dramatic - Cary Joji Fukunaga, Sin Nombre
World Cinema Directing Award: Documentary - Havana Marking, Afghan Star
World Cinema Directing Award: Dramatic - Oliver Hirschbiegel, Five Minutes of Heaven
Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award - Nicholas Jasenovec and Charlyne Yi, Paper Heart
World Cinema Screenwriting Award - Oliver Hirschbiegel, Five Minutes of Heaven
U.S. Documentary Editing Award - Karen Schmeer, Sergio, directed by Greg Barker
World Cinema Documentary Editing Award - Janus Billeskov Jansen and Thomas Papapetros, Burma VJ, directed by Anders Østergaard
Excellence in Cinematography Award: U.S. Documentary - Bob Richman, The September Issue, directed by R.J. Cutler
Excellence in Cinematography Award: U.S. Dramatic - Adriano Goldman, Sin Nombre, directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga
World Cinema Cinematography Award: Documentary - John Maringouin, Big River Man
World Cinema Cinematography Award: Dramatic - John De Borman, An Education, directed by Lone Scherfig
World Cinema Special Jury Prize for Originality - Benoît Delépine and Gustave de Kervern, Louise-Michel
World Cinema Special Jury Prize: Documentary - Ngawang Choephel, Tibet in Song
World Cinema Special Jury Prize for Acting - Catalina Saavedra, The Maid (La Nana)
Special Jury Prize: U.S. Documentary - Jeff Stilson, Good Hair
Special Jury Prize for Spirit of Independence - Lynn Shelton, Humpday
Special Jury Prize for Acting - Mo'Nique, Push: Based on the Novel by Sapphire
What can you say about a Sundance that will be remembered more for the scandals than the sales? You can say it's indicative of a malaise afflicting the whole alternative film sector, with critics and movie reps now apparently resorting to fisticuffs as a way of giving everyone something to write about.
By my count there were three juicy controversies at Sundance 2009: The pulling of The Carter, the controversial documentary about L'il Wayne, after a couple of screenings because it allegedly contains details that could get the superstar rapper in legal trouble; the yanking of the Polish Brothers' much-derided Billy Bob Thornton/Tea Leoni starring Manure after just one public screening (and a nearly "Q"-less audience Q and A that had Leoni murmuring "Let's just get out of here" ); and the dust up between Variety critic John Anderson and DIRT film-rep Jeff Dowd (the inspiration for the Dude in The Big Lebowski ) that had tongues awag across the festival.
Dowd's rep emailed me a very long statement from Dowd detailing his version of events (and consistently spelling the word "dining" as "dinning") in which Dowd talked about not defending himself from the four or so punches Anderson threw because he (Dowd) is both a former wrestler and a political activist, and therefore (who knew?) trained to avoid seeming confrontational by raising his hands. Dowd also let the world know he was not "fazed" by Anderson's punches, and had some admiring things to say about Anderson's physical condition and boxer's stance. Bottom line is that Dowd seems to have been hassling Anderson to write a better review of Dirt than he feared Anderson might, and that's what led to this incident. Anderson will be pleased to hear Dowd is not going to press assault charges.
Would that there was as much drama and action on the acquisitions front. But alas, instead of bidding wars, we leave Sundance (unless the rumored BET/Weinstein Co. co-purchase of Push becomes a reality) with a Norwegian zombie picture (starring Nazi zombies) as what may be the last festival sale. Dead Snow went to IFC. Its gorey and cliche-driven, but the bad guys are resurrected Nazis, so there's that.
I could wax poetic about Sundance being somewhat responsible for the lact of action this year (because it is -- it programs redundantly and predicatably much of the time) but I mostly won't. Because the over-arching issue, to quote James Carville, is "the economy stupid." Sundance had almost no sponsors and far smaller crowds, and press screenings were almost never full as belts tightened and jobs in journalism and acquisitions vanished forever this past year. And that's what was at work in Park City 2009 -- it's an ominous economic situation for everybody, Sundance included.
So it seems that as President Obama begins his arduous task of repairing the US economy, something a lot bigger than getting GM and CitiBank on their feet is at stake.
If things don't improve, what's Bob Redford gonna do with his free time?
Oh well, Sundance, we still love you and we all still live in hope.
Better luck next year...