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War on Drugs, Military Rape, Oppression in Palestine: Sundance Winners

The Law in These Parts documentary Palestinian Occupied Territories
Ra'anan Alexandrovicz's The Law in These Parts

Benh Zeitlin's Beasts of the Southern Wild, the story of a young girl growing up in Louisiana (to be released by Fox Searchlight) was the top U.S. narrative feature at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. Eugene Jarecki's The House I Live In, a documentary about the United States' inane, costly, deadly, and corruptive war on drugs (good for cops and prison profiteers; bad for everybody else, especially the poor and the disenfranchised), was the winner in the U.S. documentary category. [Full list of Sundance 2012 Winners.]

Considering the recent changes made to the voting rules of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Documentary Branch, expect The House I Live In to be shortlisted for Oscar 2013. By the way, Jarecki's 2005 documentary Why We Fight, about the reasons for the United States getting into one war after another, also received top honors at Sundance.

The 2012 World Cinema grand jury prize for a narrative film went to Andres Wood's biopic of Chilean singer Violeta Parra, Violeta Went to Heaven, starring Francisca Gavilán. Ra'anan Alexandrovicz's The Law in These Parts, about Israel's oppressive and corrupt military legal system in the occupied Palestinian territories, was the World Cinema documentary winner.

Kirby Dick's The Invisible War, which explores the little-discussed issue of systematic and widespread sexual assault in the U.S. military, was the Audience winner for best U.S. documentary. The story of man-in-the-iron-lung poet and journalist Mark O'Brien's attempts at losing his virginity, Ben Lewin's The Surrogate was the Audience winner for best U.S. narrative feature. John Hawkes (Winter's Bone, Martha Marcy May Marlene) plays O'Brien; Helen Hunt is the sex “surrogate” (and married soccer mom); and William H. Macy is O'Brien's priest.

Musa Syeed's Kashmir-set drama Valley of Saints was the World Cinema: Dramatic Audience winner, while Malik Bendjelloul's Searching for Sugar Man, about two South Africans trying to discover the fate of '70s rocker Rodriguez, won for best documentary.

John Cooper is hosting the 2012 Sundance Film Festival Awards ceremony, as originally announced host(ess) Parker Posey fell ill. A highly emotional Cooper has just finished reading a message dedicated to film executive Bingham Ray, who died Monday, January 23, after suffering a stroke at the festival. Ray, credited for supporting American and international independent productions such Terry George's Hotel Rwanda and Michael Moore's Bowling for Columbine, was 57. [Full list of Sundance 2012 Winners.]

Regarding long speeches, John Cooper is advising Sundance winners to thank only those in the room and then hit the bar later. The science-oriented (in movies) Alfred P. Sloan Award winners were Musa Syeed's Valley of Saints and Jake Schreier's Robot and Frank (written by Christopher D. Ford). The latter stars James Marsden, Frank Langella, Susan Sarandon, Liv Tyler, Peter Sarsgaard, and Jeremy Strong.

The Law in These Parts photo: Sundance Film Festival.

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