The 2010 Palm Springs International Film Festival, which was held Jan. 5–18, announced this year's award winners at a luncheon at Spencer's Restaurant on Sunday, Jan. 17, the same day as the Golden Globes.
The Audience Award went to Niels Arden Oplev's 2010 Guldbagge nominee The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Sweden / Denmark / Germany), a dark thriller about an investigative journalist trying to solve a four-decade-old murder that may have been the work of a serial killer still on the loose. The runner-up was The World Is Big and Salvation Lurks Around the Corner (Bulgaria / Germany / Slovenia), one of the nine semi-finalists for the 2010 Best Foreign Language Film Oscar.
Other audience narrative favorites include: Backyard (Mexico), Bride Flight (Netherlands), For a Moment, Freedom (Austria / France), the Jim Carrey-Ewan McGregor vehicle I Love You Phillip Morris (USA / France), Max Manus (Norway / Denmark / Germany), A Matter of Size (Israel / France / Germany), The Over the Hill Band (Belgium), Today's Special (USA), White Wedding (South Africa) and another Oscar semi-finalist, Winter in Wartime (The Netherlands / Lithuania).
Judith Ehrlich and Rick Goldsmith's The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers (USA), one of the semi-finalists in the Academy's documentary feature category, received the Palm Springs festival's Audience Award for best non-fiction film. The documentary chronicles the efforts of Daniel Ellsberg, who smuggled a top-secret report about the history of the Vietnam War out of a safe in his office and into the pages of the New York Times.
The runner-up was Inside Hana's Suitcase (Canada / Czech Republic). Other audience documentary favorites include: The Art of the Steal (USA), Dumbstruck (USA / Japan / Bahamas), The Great Contemporary Art Bubble (U.K. / Germany / France/ The Netherlands), Learning from Light: The Vision of I.M. Pei (USA / Qatar), Nobody's Perfect (Germany), On These Shoulders We Stand (USA), Only When I Dance (U.K. / Brazil), Oscar semi-finalist Sergio (USA), Soundtrack for a Revolution (USA), The Sun Behind The Clouds: Tibet's Struggle for Freedom (India / U.K. / USA / Austria) and The Topp Twins: Untouchable Girls (New Zealand).
Another winner at the 2010 Palm Springs Film Festival was Ruben Östlund's Involuntary, Sweden's official entry for the 2010 Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. The quirky film set during the Swedish summer season received the FIPRESCI Award for Best Foreign Language Film of the Year. Other FIPRESCI winners were Best Actor Tedo Bekhauri for The Other Bank (Georgia / Kazakhstan), directed by George Ovashvili, and best actress Anne Dorval for I Killed My Mother (Canada), directed by Xavier Dolan.
The John Schlesinger Award for Outstanding First Feature (Narrative or Documentary) went to Haim Tabakman for Eyes Wide Open (Israel), in which a married butcher who falls in love with a younger man in Jerusalem's ultra-orthodox community. Two other films received special mentions: Caroline Bottaro's Queen to Play (France) and Warwick Thornton's best foreign language film Oscar semi-finalist Samson & Delilah (Australia).
The New Voices/New Visions category winner was the drama A Brand New Life (South Korea/France), directed by Ounie Lecomte. Here's the synopsis from the festival's press release: “It's 1975. Jinhee is nine years old, and the life she knows is about to be shattered. Inexplicably abandoned by her father in a Catholic orphanage outside Seoul, Jinhee begins an extraordinary emotional journey marked by rage and hope, death and rebirth.”
Honorable mention was given to Vladimir Paskaljevic's Devil's Town “for his audacious and challenging satire of modern day Serbia.” Other films screened for this award were: Angel at Sea (Belgium/Canada), Beautiful Kate (Australia), A Brotherhood (Denmark), Heliopolis (Egypt), Huacho (Chile / France), La Pivellina (Austria/Italy), The Man Beyond the Bridge (India), Northless (Mexico/Spain), Nothing Personal (The Netherlands / Ireland) and What You Don't See (Germany / Austria).
Letters to Father Jacob (Finland), directed by Klaus Härö, received the Bridging the Borders Award presented by Cinema Without Borders to “the film that is the most successful in bringing the people of our world closer together.” Letters to Father Jacob tells the story of a tough ex-con temporarily serving as an amanuensis for a blind pastor in rural Finland.
Photo: Involuntary (Platform); Eyes Wide Shut (Pimpa Film / Riva).
Proposition 8 Documentary Sells Out at Sundance: Mormon Anti-Gay Marriage Influence
Jan. 25 update: Reed Cowan's 8: The Mormon Proposition received two “sustained standing ovations” at its Sundance Film Festival screening on Sunday, reports Sean P. Means in The Salt Lake Tribune. A rumored protest against the film failed to materialize.
Narrated by Milk's Academy Award-winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black – who happens to be gay and to have been raised Mormon – 8: The Mormon Proposition accuses the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints of offering insidious support to California's Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriages in the state.
According to Means' article, “some in the audience cried when hearing stories of gay men and lesbians recounting discrimination they have suffered. Others hissed when Utah Eagle Forum President Gayle Ruzicka appeared on-screen, or when State Sen. Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan, appeared to declare homosexuality 'the greatest threat to America going down.'”
Means adds that in his documentary, Cowan presents “evidence of the LDS Church's work to persuade its members to donate money to the campaign for California's anti-gay Proposition 8 – and to hide the church's involvement, knowledge of which would have dissuaded voters, through front organizations.”
Calling the film “obviously biased,” Mormon officials have refused to comment on it.
Curiously, the Mormon Church has recently declared its support for the end of discrimination based on sexual orientation in housing and at the workplace in Utah. That stance has been accused by some as a public relations stunt following the passage of Proposition 8; others have said that gays should accept what they can get for the time being while continuing to demand full equal rights.
8: The Mormon Proposition, Reed Cowan's (photo) controversial documentary on the connection between the Latter-day Saints Church and the passage of the anti-gay marriage Proposition 8 in California in fall 2008, has sold out five screenings at the Sundance Film Festival, according to a report in Cache Valley's Herald Journal. (That's in northern Utah.)
The report adds that tickets for 8: The Mormon Proposition “were snapped up before any other Sundance documentary and all but a handful of feature films.”
The Proposition 8 campaign – both for and against marriage equality – cost approximately $80 million. According to estimates reported in the Sacramento Bee, anti-gay marriage Mormon money accounted for about one-quarter of that amount.
Cowan, a 1997 Utah State University graduate in broadcast journalism, has called for supporters to ask Sundance festival organizers to add more screenings. “We plan on opening up a dialogue during the festival and hope that dialogue will continue on a national level for years to come,” Cowan told The Herald Journal via e-mail (he now lives in Florida). “The film is important and premiering in Utah makes it even more important. … Bringing an examination of the wrongdoing to the scene of the crimes, so to speak, is historic.”
Certainly, not everyone agrees with him.
“I understand that you dont have all of the information,” a Mormon man wrote the filmmaker. “Somehow, previous to prop 8, you feel you have been wronged or unfarily [sic] targeted by the LDS church. I am a member of the LDS church and it is my life and you dont realize the damage you have done to our freedom of religion by twisting facts and taking statements out of context you are smearing my name and my belief system. We dont hate the gay community and that has never been said by any member of the church's first presidency. … i love my church and yes we believe that homosexuality is wrong but it really isnt a question of policy it is a question of morality. That I believe is why the LDS faith got involved in the first place. We as a religion fight a battle against immoral actions not people. We are doing the same thing that every church does on the planet. Please stop targeting us. It is becoming dangerous for us to exist and to live in a free society.”
(I refrained from adding [sic] comments to the text above.)
Last year, following passage of Prop. 8, there were widespread calls for boycotting Utah. Many demanded that Sundance move their headquarters to another state. That didn't happen, of course, and ironically two of the most-talked-about films at Sundance 2009 featured gay characters: art-house hit and potential Oscar contender Precious and I Love You Phillip Morris, starring Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor.
Here's the 8: The Mormon Proposition synopsis from the Sundance festival's website:
“Mormons in California and Utah, following their prophet's call to action, wage spiritual warfare, fueled with money and religious fervor, against LGBT citizens and their fight for equality. This exploration of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' involvement in the passage of California's Proposition 8 reveals a secretive, decades-long campaign against lesbians' and gays' right to marriage.
“Directors Reed Cowan, a former Mormon missionary, and Steven Greenstreet deftly investigate this ongoing battle through three telling perspectives: personal, political, and ideological. They are careful not to succumb to emotional rant but choose instead well-researched data and a range of interviews with politicians, historians, and those most affected by the outcome. One such couple is composed of Spencer Jones and Tyler Barrick, who is the direct descendant of Mormon polygamist Frederick G. Williams. Cowan and Greenstreet's film tellingly reminds us that, if any common ground can ever be found, it must be based on truth and transparency.”
In a q&a posted on the film's website, Cowan is asked by an unnamed reporter, “You were taught not to question your prophet. Are you afraid of going to Hell?”
Cowan's response: “I think the vast majority of people in our film will tell you they've already lived the hell of being ostracized by their church. I believe the truth sets you free. And this film presents the truth of how people felt, how they feel and how their feelings were walked all over by a group of people who claim to carry the mantle of healing. There's no fear in telling those truths. There's hope.”
The 2010 Sundance Film Festival runs Jan. 21 to 31.
Photos: Sundance Film Festival
Johnny Depp star attraction
Johnny Depp is in Serbia where he will be the star attraction of the third edition of the Kustendorf International Film and Music Festival (website) in Drvengrad, launched by Emir Kusturica. Before heading for the festival town, Depp met with Serbian president Boris Tadic in Belgrade.
The festival kicks off tomorrow, Jan. 13, with the unveiling of a life-sized bust of Depp himself, “along with the fireworks and the music of Dejan Petrovic Orchestra.” Depp will later be handed the special “Award for Future Movies.” Also, three of Depp's films will be screened at the festival: Kusturica's Arizona Dream, Tim Burton's Edward Scissorhands, and Mike Newell's Donnie Brasco.
Twenty-eight short films from 18 countries are in competition at the Kustendorf festival, which runs until Jan. 19. Marjane Satrapi, of Persepolis fame, will preside a three-member international jury that will hand out Golden, Silver and Bronze Eggs to the winners. Among the competing entries are Alla Kofman's Thursday to Friday, Sinisa Vidovics Tata Morgana, and Matej Bobríks Where the Sun Doesn't Rush.
Two-time Palme dOr winner Kusturica for Underground (1995) and When Father Was Away on Business (1985) has said hell make a film about Pancho Villa, starring none other than Depp.