Erik’s Sundance Film Festival ’09 Diary: Day 10

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Aside from stalking the halls at Flavorwire, Erik Davis contributes to Fandango.com and is also the editor-in-chief of AOL Moviefone’s Cinematical.com, one of the longest-running and most popular movie blogs online. He brought us his industry reports from Sundance throughout the festival, and can always be reached with tips or questions at erik [dot] davis [at] gmail [dot] com.

The 2009 Sundance Film Festival wrapped up last night with a fancy awards show followed by one of those hippity-hop closing night parties. Heading in to the evening, the two films most buzzed-about were Sin Nombre and Push: Based on the novel by Sapphire – and, as predicted, both took home multiple awards, with Sin Nombre taking Best Director and Best Cinematography, while Push received the coveted Grand Jury prize in U.S. Dramatic Competition, as well as the Audience Award and a special jury prize for acting for Mo’Nique.

The strangest award of the night had to be the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award, which was given to Paper Heart [Editor’s note: This is that Michael Cera movie that I was really psyched about, which seems to have bombed.], a film that had about five pages of actual script (the rest was improvised). For U.S. documentaries, two outstanding docs took home the biggest prizes – with my personal favorite, The Cove, winning the Audience Award, while We Live in Public snagged the Grand Jury prize.

In the World Cinema sections (dramatic and documentary), things seemed to be fairly evenly spread across the board, with the doc Afghan Star (about an American Idol-type competition in Afghanistan) winning the Audience Award and Best Director (Havana Marking). Meanwhile, Rough Aunties won the Grand Jury prize for documentaries and The Maid was awarded the same in dramatic competition.

With the exception of Sin Nombre (Focus Features), I don’t believe any of these other films have been picked up for U.S. distribution yet. The good folks at Cinetic were handling Push, and after speaking with them last night, I’m sure we’ll see that film in theaters or available for purchase online soon enough. The one film I’m championing, however, is The Cove – about the cruel slaughtering of 23,000 dolphins each year in Japan. Not only is it one of the most powerful “nature” documentaries I’ve ever seen, but it’s an atrocity that’s still being committed to this day, and one that could be stopped if more people see this film and decide to help.

Overall, the 2009 Sundance Film Festival was a successful one, in my opinion. The films were all top notch this year, despite the fact that harsh economic conditions kept a lot of folks away. It was a quieter fest, sure, but its slate featured some of the best films you’ll see all year.