Sundance leans serious with awards

Story of a struggle to hold a family together and an Afghanistan war documentary take top awards as this year's festival comes to an end.

PARK CITY, UTAH // Winter's Bone, a stark tale of a young woman trying to keep her family together, and Afghanistan war documentary Restrepo won top awards at the Sundance Film Festival on Saturday,

Winter's Bone earned two prizes, best drama film by the Sundance jury of industry professionals and screenwriting for co-writer and director Debra Granik at the top US gathering for independent movies. Restrepo, which tells of a year in the life of a platoon of US soldiers in Afghanistan, earned the jury prize for best documentary for filmmakers Sebastian Junger (author of The Perfect Storm) and Tim Hetherington.

"This country's in a very painful moment, we're in the middle of two wars," Junger said on stage, accepting his award. "If our movie can help this country understand how to go forward, we would be incredibly honored by that." Sundance, backed by Robert Redford's Sundance Institute for film, kicks off the year for movies made outside Hollywood's major studios, and hits here are often among the most-watched in theatres that show low-budget, art and foreign movies.

Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire was a big winner in 2009 and earned critical acclaim and box office success in theaters, and Sundance has helped launch the careers of directors such as Steven Soderbergh and Quentin Tarantino. While Winter's Bone and Restrepo took home top honors from the Sundance juries, audiences also got to vote for their favorites at the festival, which ended on January 31.

Audiences voted happythankyoumoreplease best drama film. From first-time director and actor Josh Radnor, who stars in US television comedy How I Met Your Mother, it tells of six young New Yorkers dealing with life, love and friendship. "I think my movie is rebellious," Radnor said on stage, echoing a theme of this year's festival about edgy filmmaking. "It's about people saying 'no' to cynicism and 'yes' to love."

Audiences voted Davis Guggenheim's (An Inconvenient Truth) documentary, Waiting for Superman, their favorite non-fiction film. Superman is a look at the crumbling US educational system and what can be done to fix it. US dramatic film directing honors went to Eric Mendelsohn with 3 Backyards, a trio of tales about three people -- a businessman, housewife and young girl - who find their lives change on a seemingly normal autumn day.

Among documentaries, Leon Gast was named best director for Smash His Camera, a look at the life and career of paparazzi Ron Galella, and the editing award went to Penelope Falk for Joan Rivers - A Piece Of Work, a look at the comedienne. Australia's, Animal Kingdom, was named best dramatic film by the Sundance jury. It tells of an armed robber on the run from a gang of renegade detectives. The audience award for best drama went to Contracorriente, set in a Peruvian village and tells of a young married fisherman in love with a gay painter.

The jury prize winner for documentary was Denmark's The Red Chapel, about an unscrupulous journalist, and the audience trophy went to environmental film Wasteland, backed by filmmakers in the United Kingdom and Brazil, about a Brazilian artist who creates images of people using materials from where they live. Following is a list of all winners: US Dramas Grand Jury Prize, "Winter's Bone" Audience Award, "happythankyoumoreplease" Directing, Eric Mendelsohn, "3 Backyards" Screenwriting, Debra Granik, "Winter's Bone" Cinematography, Zak Mulligan, "Obselidia" Special Jury Prize, "Sympathy for Delicious" US Documentaries Grand Jury Prize, "Restrepo," Audience Award, "Waiting for Superman" Directing, Leon Gast, "Smash His Camera" Editing, Penelope Falk, "Joan Rivers - A Piece Of Work" Cinematography, Kirsten Johnson, Laura Poitras, "The Oath" Special Jury Prize, "Gasland" World Cinema, Dramas Grand Jury Prize, "Animal Kingdom Audience Award, "Contracorriente" Directing, Juan Carlos Valdivia, "Southern District" Screenwriting, Juan Carlos Valdivia, "Southern District" Cinematography, Mariano Cohn and Gaston Duprat "The Man Next Door" Special Jury Prize, breakout performance, Tatiana Maslany "Grown Up Movie Star" World Cinema, Documentaries Grand Jury Prize, "The Red Chapel" Audience Award, "Wasteland" Directing, Christian Frei, "Space Tourists" Editing, Joelle Alexis "A Film Unfinished" Cinematography, Kate McCullough, Michael Lavelle "His & Hers" Special Jury Prize, "Enemies of the People" NEXT low-budget filmmaking Best of NEXT, "Homewrecker" Alfred P. Sloan Prize (science in filmmaking) "Obselidia" Jury Prize Short Film US "Drunk History: Douglass & Lincoln" International, "The Six Dollar Fifty Man" * Reuters

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