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Sundance Film Festival – Push Takes Home Three Prizes

Push Takes Home Three Prizes” width=”560″/>

The 25th edition of the Sundance Film Festival came to a close Saturday night with the announcement of the prize winners and a celebration. (The award-winning movies will screen today.) Hosted by Jane Lynch ( Best in Show , Role Models), the ceremony was as casual as the festival itself — the dress code was more ski wear than evening wear. Festival Director Geoffrey Gilmore opened the event with words for everyone in attendance, and not just those who were about to win: “The success of this Festival is a tribute to all the filmmakers sitting here.” But Gilmore also hit a cautious note when speaking about the changing face of exhibition: “The future isn’t clear; the future is uncertain. Independent film will change — and it has to change, because there are too many good films here that need to be seen everywhere.”

The biggest winner among the festival’s films was Push: Based on the Novel by Sapphire, a rough-but-real drama that won not only a Special Jury Prize for actress Mo’Nique, but also earned the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award. Push director Lee Daniels accepted his prize saying, “This is speaking for every minority that’s in Harlem, that’s in Detroit, that’s in Watts, that’s being abused, that can’t read, that’s obese and that we turn our back on. And this is for every gay little boy and girl that’s being tortured. If I can do this … y’all can do this.” Later, when receiving the Grand Jury Prize, Daniels was a little more casual: “I’m drunk… I just had three shots after I got the last [award].” Daniels wasn’t the only filmmaker at the end of a long week; upon accepting a Special Jury Prize, Humpday director Lynn Shelton, noted, “I’m so high on Dayquil right now.”

Anxiety was also the order of the evening as actress Charlyne Yi ( Knocked Up , Semi-Pro) and co-screenwriter Nicolas Jasenovec received the Waldo Salt Award for Screenwriting for the mostly-improvised Paper Hearts: Yi began by noting “I feel sick, I’m sweaty and I smell bad.” While Jasenovec noted, “This is a weird prize to give this film because there were about five written pages.”

The Grand Jury Prize for Documentary went to Ondi Tomoner’s We Live in Public, a portrait of Internet entrepreneur and artist Josh Harris. The Maid won the World Cinema Grand Jury prize, while Rough Aunties won the World Cinema Documentary Grand Jury Prize. Audience awards went to Push (U.S. Dramatic), The Cove (U.S. Documentary) An Education (World Dramatic) and Afghan Star (World Documentary). A complete list of winners can be found at the Sundance Festival site.

Although neither Push nor We Live in Public were acquired for distribution during the festival, expect some kind of announcement concerning Push in the next few days with several interested parties rumored to be circling the film.

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