1999 Sundance Film Festival Update #5: "Dramatic Competition Overview/And the Winners Are..."

Commentary by James Berardinelli
January 31, 1999

Although the Sundance Film Festival features its share of world premieres, foreign language features, and documentaries, the centerpiece of the 10-day event is the dramatic film competition, in which 16 hand-picked motion pictures (chosen from hundreds of entries) go head-to-head in an attempt to capture one of several prizes (including the prestigious Jury Prize and the nearly-as-important Audience Award). Of the 16 movies in competition this year, I saw 11, so I'm in a pretty good position to give an overall view of the playing field, and it's not a pretty picture.

First of all, however, let me list the five films I did not see (none of which had strong buzz or were expected to win anything):

Here are some brief thoughts about the 11 films I saw:

Here are the official winners, as announced Saturday night at the Awards Ceremony. Far too many awards are given out in an attempt to allow virtually everyone to claim that he/she won something at Sundance.

Grand Jury Prize, Dramatic Film: Three Seasons, directed by Tony Bui
Grand Jury Prize, Documentary: American Movie, directed by Chris Smith
Audience Award, Dramatic Film: Three Seasons, directed by Tony Bui
Audience Award, Documentary: Genghis Blues, directed by Roko Belic
Directing Award, Dramatic Film: Judy Berlin, directed by Eric Mendelsohn
Directing Award, Documentary: Regret to Inform, directed by Barbara Sonneborn
Filmmakers Trophy, Dramatic Film: Tumbleweeds, directed by Gavin O'Connor
Filmmakers Trophy, Documentary: Sing Faster: The Stagehands' "Ring Cycle", directed by Jon Else
Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award: Guinevere, screenplay by Audrey Wells; Joe the King, screenplay by Frank Whaley
Cinematography Award, Dramatic Film: Three Seasons, cinematography by Lisa Rinzler
Cinematography Award, Documentary: Regret to Inform, Rabbit in the Moon, cinematography by Emiko Omori
Freedom of Expression Award: The Black Press: Soldiers Without Swords, directed by Stanley Nelson
Special Recognition in Latin America Cinema Award: Santitos, directed by Alejandro Springall; Life Is to Whistle, directed by Fernando Perez
Special Recognition in World Cinema Award: Run Lola Run, directed by Tom Tykwer; Train of Life, directed by Radu Mihaileanu
Distinctive Film Making Vision: Treasure Island, directed by Scott King
Special Jury Award, Documentary: On the Ropes, directed by Nanette Burstein and Brett Morgan
Comedic Performance: Steve Zahn for Happy, Texas
Special Recognition in Short Filmmaking Award: "More", directed by Mark Osborne; "Fishbelly White", directed by Michael Burke [Honorable mention: "Atomic Tabasco", directed by James Cox; "Come Unto Me", directed by Nicole Cattell; "Devil Doll/Ring Pull", directed by Jarl Olsen; "A Pack of Gifts, Now", directed by Corky Quakenbush; "Stubble Trouble", directed by Philip Holahan]

© 1999 James Berardinelli

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