2015 Sundance Film Festival Award Winners

The Sunndance Film Festival announced its 2015 winners on Saturday after 10 days of premieres and deals in Park City Utah. A big win at Sundance can boost a film as it heads into the market and the following award season.

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Alfonso Gomez-Rejon’s film, “Me & Earl & the Dying Girl” was the big winner on Saturday night taking both the audience award and the grand prize in the U.S. dramatic category. The film uses animation and other flourishes in telling its coming-of-age story about a high-school senior and his relationship with a leukemia-afflicted classmate. “This movie is about processing loss and celebrating a beautiful life and a beautiful man,” Gomez-Rejon said as he accepted the grand jury prize, alluding to his late father, Julio Cesar Gomez-Rejon, to whom the film is dedicated.  With a win at Sundance, most pundits will be expecting Fox Searchlight to release the film in the summer or in the fall for awards season. A Sundance win does not guarentee Oscar nominations but it does elevate the film’s status and makes it a good candidate for nominations.

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Grand jury U.S. documentary honors went to Crystal Moselle’s movie “The Wolfpack” which examines six teenagers who have been held captive by their father in the solitude of a New York apartment. The group of brothers obsessively watch and recreate movies to connect to the outside world. “I stopped these kids on the street one day and here I am,” Moselle said in accepting the prize, adding “Life is surreal.

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Sundance also carves out separate categories for global fare. In those realms, the world cinema grand jury award went to “The Russian Woodpecker,” Chad Gracia’s story of the Ukrainian revolution and artists exploring the connection between Chernobyl and a Cold War-era communications weapon.”I don’t think we can stop Russia with bombs, but I think with a little bit of art and truth maybe we can make some progress,” Gracia said.  The protagonist, Fedor Alexandrovich, a shaggy young multimedia artist descended from generations of Ukrainian creatives took the podium to make an impassioned political plea. “When the Kremlin attacked Chechnya nothing stopped them. When the Kremlin attacked Georgia nothing stopped them. Now Kremlin is attacking Ukraine,” he said. “Save Ukraine please. Tomorrow will be too late.”

Elsewhere, audience awards went to Louise Osmond’s Dark Horse and Jimmy Chin and E. Chai Vasarhelyi’s Meru, while directing awards went to Matthew Heineman’s for Cartel Land and Kim Longinotto’s Dreamcatcher.