Twenty-three films later (Thom beat me by six films with a final count of 29), I somehow made it to the closing night festivities of the 25th annual Sundance Film Festival.  Despite the onset of extreme fatigue, I steered clear of the infamous Sundance flu (that takes down so many of the regulars) and somehow survived with enthusiasm intact.  I even asked Thom if we could stay one additional day to watch a few of the winning films that we’d missed along the way (the answer was no).  Sitting in NY (which is absurdly colder than Park City, Utah), I am flooded with warm memories of the amazing people I met and the great films I saw. 

Here are few snapshots from closing night:

image The World Doc Jury with a few significant others.
L to R: Me (Thom’s wife), Hubert Sauper (director of DARWIN’S NIGHTMARE), Gillian Armstrong (Australian director of many films, including MY BRILLIANT CAREER, LITTLE WOMEN, CHARLOTTE GRAY), our very own Thom Powers, and editor John Pleffer (Gillian’s husband). 

image I was absolutely delighted that one of my favorite films ROUGH AUNTIES won the grand jury prize for World Docs.  An unadorned gem, the film is classic verite – driven by the strength of the characters and Longinotto’s intimate observation.  No gimmicks or tinsel here – just inspiring cinema.  Pictured here are Longinotto with two women from Bobbi Bear, the incredible organization that works with abused children in South Africa).


image And here are the women accepting the jury prize for Best World Documentary.

image One of the few films I regrettably missed (slept through the 8:30am screening start), AFGHAN STAR won Best Director (Havana Marking is pictured here) and the audience choice award for Best World Documentary.  AFGHAN STAR looks at four contestants on an “American Idol”-style musical TV show in a country where participation in such a program, especially for women, is a life-threatening proposition.
image BIG RIVER MAN‘s director/DP John Maringouin won Best Cinematography in World Docs.  BIG RIVER MAN follows a Slovenian man’s endurance swim of the Amazon.
image BIG RIVER MAN’s protagonists: Martin Strel, the Slovenian endurance swimmer, joined by his son and a companion.

image L to R: US Jury members Patrick Creadon (director of I.O.U.S.A.), Andrea Meditch (executive producer of two films currently nominated for an Oscar: MAN ON WIRE and ENCOUNTERS AT THE END OF THE WORLD), Sam Pollard (editor of MO’ BETTER BLUES, CHISHOLM ‘72, and many others), and Carl Deal (co-director of TROUBLE THE WATER, also currently nominated for an Oscar).  Fifth US juror Marina Zenovich (director of ROMAN POLANSKI: WANTED AND DESIRED) was missing for this photo.
image Director of US grand doc grand prize winner WE LIVE IN PUBLIC Ondi Timoner with the film subject Josh Harris.  A controversial choice, it seems that people are either in love with this film or can’t stand it.  In the spirit of diplomacy, I’ll refrain from my opinion.  (Oops, I think I just gave it away.  So much for diplomacy.)  On the other hand, Todd McCarthy from Variety told me it was his favorite film at the festival.
image Natalia Almada accepting the U.S. best directing award for her documentary EL GENERAL about her controversial great-grandfather, President Calles of Mexico. A lyrical film, bordering on poetic essay, Miss Almada was very deserving of this honor.
image Sundance Channel’s Ann Rose with Karina Longworth of SpoutBlog.
image Sales Agent Josh Braun of Submarine Entertainment with Indiewire’s Eugene Hernandez. 
image Sales agent Dana O’Keefe from Cinetic Media chatting with Thom Powers. 
image Scott Kennedy (whose film THE GARDEN screened a few weeks ago at STF and is currently nominated for an Oscar) with Thom Powers at the after-party. 
image By 1am, most of the jurors ended up drinking and eating in the hotel lobby.  With awards and mandatory screenings out of the way, it was nice to finally unwind. Too bad our airport pick-up was only four hours away!

2009 Sundance Film Festival Award Winners:
JURY PRIZE: “Rough Aunties,” directed by Kim Longinotto
DIRECTING AWARD: “Afghan Star,” directed by Havana Marking
EDITING AWARD: “Burma VJ,” directed by Anders Østergaard, edited by Janus Billeskov Jansen & Thomas Papapetros
CINEMATOGRAPHY AWARD: – “Big River Man,” cinematographer: John Maringouin
SPECIAL JURY PRIZE: Tibet in Song directed by Ngawang Choephel
AUDIENCE AWARD: “Afghan Star,” directed by Havana Marking

GRAND JURY PRIZE: “We Live in Public,” directed by Ondi Timoner
DIRECTING AWARD: “El General director,” Natalia Almada
EDITING AWARD: “Sergio,” directed by Greg Barker and edited by Karen Schmeer
EXCELLENCE IN CINEMATOGRAPHY AWARD: “The September Issue,” cinematographer: Bob Richman
AUDIENCE AWARD presented by Honda: “The Cove,” directed by Louie Psihoyos
SPECIAL JURY PRIZE: “Good Hair,” directed by Jeff Stilson