“Whiplash,” writer-director Damien Chazelle’s drama starring Miles Teller as a young jazz drummer and J.K. Simmons as his drill sergeant-like music teacher, won the grand jury prize and the audience award for U.S. dramatic features on Saturday night at the 30th annual Sundance Film Festival.
Coming on the heels of last year’s double-fisted win for “Fruitvale Station” (then titled “Fruitvale”), the triumph of “Whiplash” marks the second year in a row that the top two prizes for an American narrative feature have gone to the same film.
The grand jury prize for U.S. documentaries went to “Rich Hill,” a close-up portrait of three underprivileged boys living in the titular Missouri town; the film was directed by cousins Tracy Droz Tragos and Andrew Droz Palermo. In the same category, Michael Rossato-Bennett’s “Alive Inside: A Story of Music & Memory,” about the treatment of Alzheimer’s patients through music, drew the audience award.
The World Cinema grand jury prizes went to “To Kill a Man,” a thriller from Chilean helmer Alejandro Fernandez Almendras, and “Return to Homs,” Talal Derki’s documentary about the effects of the civil war in Syria. The audience awards for international features went to “Difret,” Zeresenay Berhane Mehari’s dramatic examination of oppressed girls and women in Ethiopia, and “The Green Prince,” Nadav Schirman’s documentary portrait of Israeli secret-service informant Mosab Hassan Yousef.
Cutter Hodierne was awarded the U.S. dramatic directing award for his non-English-language directing debut, “Fishing Without Nets,” a bleak tale of a hijacked oil tanker seen from the perspective of one of the young Somali pirates. The Waldo Salt screenwriting award was presented to writer-director Craig Johnson for his dark comedy “The Skeleton Twins,” which stars Bill Hader and Kristen Wig.
Christopher Blauvelt received the U.S. dramatic cinematography prize for “Low Down,” director Jeff Preiss’ fictionalized account of two years in the life of jazz pianist Joe Albany. Special jury prizes were awarded to the Octopus Project, which composed the musical score for David Zellner’s “Kumiko the Treasure Hunter,” and to writer-director Justin Simien, named a “breakthrough talent” for his racially charged comedy “Dear White People.”
Ben Cotner and Ryan White shared the directing prize for American Documentaries for “The Case Against 8,” their inside look at the case to overturn California’s same-sex marriage ban. Rachel Beth Anderson and Ross Kauffman drew a cinematography prize for their dynamic lensing on “E-Team,” which follows the experiences of four globe-trotting Human Rights Watch activists.
Special jury prizes for U.S. documentaries were voted to Jesse Moss’ “The Overnighters,” a portrait of social and economic transformation in an oil-rich region of North Dakota, for its “intuitive filmmaking”; and to “Watchers of the Sky,” Edet Belzberg’s look at courageous activism worldwide, for its use of animation. “Watchers of the Sky” also picked up an editing prize for Jenny Golden and Karen Sim.
The Best of Next audience award was voted to “Imperial Dreams,” Malik Vitthal’s directing debut about a young writer and ex-con trying to reconnect with his young son in Watts, Los Angeles.
In the World Cinema dramatic competition, Australian director Sophie Hyde picked up the directing prize for “52 Tuesdays,” which was shot, per its title, over the course of a year, only on Tuesdays. Norwegian writer-director Eskil Vogt received the screenwriting prize for “Blind,” his drama about a woman who has lost her sight. Hong Khaou’s gay-themed grief drama “Lilting” received the cinematography prize for Ula Pontikos’ lensing, and “God Help the Girl,” a musical directed by Belle and Sebastian’s Stuart Murdoch, received a special jury prize.
In the World Cinema documentary competition, “20,000 Days on Earth,” Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard’s film about a fictitious 24 hours in the life of Nick Cave, won a pair of awards for directing and editing (by Jonathan Amos). “Happiness” drew the cinematography prize for lensers Thomas Balmes (who also directed) and Nina Bernfeld.
As announced on Friday, the $20,000 Alfred P. Sloan prize, presented annually to a film that focuses on science/technology as a theme, was given to Mike Cahill’s Premieres entry “I Origins,” a heady romantic drama about a pair of scientists studying the mysterious properties of the human eye. Cahill previously won this award for his 2011 sci-fi-themed debut, “Another Earth.”
Here is the complete list of winners…
And the winners are:
Grand Jury Prize (Dramatic): “Whiplash”
Grand Jury Prize (Documentary): “Rich Hill”
Audience Award (Dramatic): “Whiplash”
Audience Award (Documentary): “Alive Inside: A Story of Music & Memory”
Directing (Dramatic): Cutter Hodierne, “Fishing Without Nets”
Directing (Documentary): Ben Cotner and Ryan White, “The Case Against 8″
Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award (Dramatic): Craig Johnson, “The Skeleton Twins”
Cinematography (Dramatic): Christopher Blauvelt, “Low Down”
Cinematography (Documentary): Rachel Beth Anderson and Ross Kauffman, “E-Team”
Editing (Documentary): Jenny Golden and Karen Sim, “Watchers of the Sky”
Special Jury Award for Breakthrough Talent (Dramatic): Justin Simien, “Dear White People”
Special Jury Award for Musical Score (Dramatic): The Octopus Project, “Kumiko the Treasure Hunter”
Special Jury Award (Documentary): “The Overnighters”
Special Jury Award for Use of Animation (Documentary): “Watchers of the Sky”
World Cinema Grand Jury Prize (Dramatic): “To Kill a Man”
World Cinema Grand Jury Prize (Documentary): “Return to Homs”
World Cinema Audience Award (Dramatic): “Difret”
World Cinema Audience Award (Documentary): “The Green Prince”
Best of Next Audience Award: “Imperial Dreams”
World Cinema Directing Award (Dramatic): Sophie Hyde, “52 Tuesdays”
World Cinema Directing Award (Documentary): Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard, “20,000 Days on Earth”