Father-son love-triangle drama Forty Shades of Blue & anti-war documentary Why We Fight among Sundance winners
This year’s Sundance winners have been announced: Ira Sachs’ Forty Shades of Blue topped the Dramatic U.S. category at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, held in Park City, Utah, between Jan. 20–30.
Reportedly inspired by Satyajit Ray’s 1964 Indian drama Charulata, Forty Shades of Blue centers on a love triangle consisting of a Memphis-based music producer (Rip Torn), his Russian companion (Dina Korzun), and the producer’s estranged son (Darren E. Burrows). Sachs co-wrote the screenplay with Michael Rohatyn.
Eugene Jarecki’s Why We Fight, about the many decades of American-made warfare as seen through a sociopolitical-economic-ideological prism, was the domestic Documentary Grand Jury Prize winner. Two years ago, Jarecki’s brother, Andrew Jarecki, won that same award for Capturing the Friedmans.
In case the title of Jarecki’s documentary sounds familiar, that’s because Why We Fight was the name of a series of World War II propaganda films – e.g., Prelude to War, The Nazis Strike – made at the behest of the U.S. government. These were mostly directed by Frank Capra and Anatole Litvak, and narrated by future Best Supporting Actor Oscar winner Walter Huston (The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, 1948).
Post-civil war Angola + post-divorce Brooklyn
More Sundance winners: The World Dramatic Grand Jury Prize went to Zézé Gamboa’s The Hero / O Herói, the story of an Angolan man who tries to rebuild his life in the aftermath of that country’s 30-year civil war.
Dutch filmmaker Leonard Retel Helmrich’s Shape of the Moon / Stand van de maan, a portrait of a slum-dwelling family’s daily life in Indonesia, was given the World Documentary Jury Prize.
U.S. filmmaker Noah Baumbach won both the Best Director (Narrative) and the Waldo Salt Screenwriting awards for The Squid and the Whale, a semi-autobiographical dramatic comedy about two brothers (Jesse Eisenberg and [Kevin Kline and Phoebe Cates’ son] Owen Kline) trying to cope with the divorce of their Brooklyn-based parents (Jeff Daniels and Laura Linney).
The Best Documentary Director was Jeff Feuerzeig for The Devil and Daniel Johnston, about the bipolar-disorder-suffering American musician.
Acting winners Amy Adams & Lou Taylor Pucci
Amy Adams and Berlin Film Festival Best Actor winner Lou Taylor Pucci received Special Jury Prizes for Acting for their performances in, respectively, Phil Morrison’s Junebug and Mike Mills’ Thumbsucker.
In the former, Adams plays a pregnant woman who hopes that bringing a child onto this planet will help to set right her troubled relationship with her husband (Ben Mckenzie). In the latter, Pucci plays Tilda Swinton and Vincent D’Onofrio’s titular teenage son.
Special Jury Prizes for Originality of Vision went to Miranda July’s romantic comedy-drama Me and You and Everyone We Know and Rian Johnson’s neo-noir mystery Brick.
Rwanda genocide + another family-unfriendly love triangle
The Sundance Film Festival’s World Documentary Audience Award went to Peter Raymont’s Shake Hands with the Devil: The Journey of Roméo Dallaire, about the former Canadian Lieutenant-General and head of the United Nations peacekeeping force at the time of the 1994 Rwanda genocide.
The recipient of the World Cinema Audience Award was, like Forty Shades of Blue, an in-family love triangle tale: Susanne Bier’s Danish drama Brothers / Brødre, which had earned Ulrich Thomsen and Connie Nielsen Best Actor and Best Actress honors at last year’s San Sebastian Film Festival.
Also like Forty Shades of Blue, Craig Brewer’s Hustle & Flow is a Memphis-set drama, in this case about a pimp and drug dealer (Terrence Howard) who dreams of becoming a renowned rapper. Hustle & Flow nabbed the Audience Award for Best U.S. Dramatic Film while also earning Amelia Vincent the Best Cinematography (Dramatic) prize, and Geoffrey Richman and Conor O’Neill a Special Prize for Editing.
The Audience Award for Best U.S. Documentary was given to Henry-Alex Rubin and Dana Adam Shapiro’s Murderball, about a group of wheelchair-rugby players.
Below is a partial list of this year’s Sundance winners.
Sundance Film Festival winners
Dramatic Grand Jury Prize (U.S.): Forty Shades of Blue.
Documentary Grand Jury Prize (U.S.): Why We Fight.
World Dramatic Grand Jury Prize: The Hero.
World Documentary Grand Jury Prize: Shape of the Moon.
Director: Noah Baumbach, The Squid and the Whale.
Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award: Noah Baumbach, The Squid and the Whale.
Documentary Director: Jeff Feuerzeig, The Devil and Daniel Johnston.
World Cinema Audience Award: Brothers.
World Documentary Audience Award: Shake Hands with the Devil: The Journey of Roméo Dallaire.
Audience Award (U.S. Dramatic): Hustle & Flow.
Audience Award (U.S. Documentary): Murderball.
Special Jury Prize (World Dramatic) (tie): Live-In Maid (Argentina | Spain), dir.: Jorge Gaggero & The Forest for the Trees (Germany), dir.: Maren Ade.
Special Jury Prizes for Acting (tie): Amy Adams, Junebug & Lou Taylor Pucci, Thumbsucker.
Special Jury Prizes for Originality of Vision: Me and You and Everyone We Know & Brick.
Jury Prize in Short Filmmaking (U.S.): Family Portrait, dir.: Patricia Riggen.
International Jury Prize in Short Filmmaking: Wasp (U.K.), dir.: Alison Arnold.
“Sundance Winners” endnotes
Sundance Film Festival website.
Amy Adams Junebug image: Sony Pictures Classics.
“Sundance Winners: Pregnant Amy Adams + Father-Son Love Triangle” last updated in July 2021.