An idyllic day on the ski slopes is shattered when teenager Stephanie Daley (Amber Tamblyn) is found bleeding all over the pristine white snow. It seems that the 16-year-old girl has had a baby in the bathroom of the ski resort and dumped her in a trashcan. So was it murder? Was the baby stillborn as Stephanie claims? And did she not know that she was pregnant as she insists? As her parents (Melissa Leo Jim Gaffigan) law enforcement and the residents of the small mountain town they live in struggle to understand just what happened to Stephanie she faces prosecution for her baby’s death. That’s when psychologist Dr. Lydie Crane (Tilda Swinton) is called on to evaluate Stephanie’s mental condition and to get to the bottom of the disturbing events. Lydie happens to be six months pregnant herself and as she begins to unravel the mystery of Stephanie’s actions her own life and emotional state become inextricably tied to the girl’s fate. Amber Tamblyn best known as TV’s Joan of Arcadia and the star of The Grudge 2 and The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants gives a striking performance as the title character a shy and withdrawn teen whose life is turned upside down by her first sexual encounter. Nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for her performance the actress expertly holds the screen opposite the formidable Tilda Swinton (the White Witch in The Chronicles of Narnia) who brings her usual top-notch talents to the film. She is eminently believable as a middle-aged woman whose late-in-life pregnancy brings out her emotional fragility and deep-seated fears--and causes a severe rift with her husband (well played by Timothy Hutton) who may or may not be having an affair. Hilary Brougher wrote and directed Stephanie Daley as part of the Sundance Institute Screenwriters and Directors Lab which stood her well when she took home the prestigious Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival. Her film was also nominated for that fest’s Grand Jury Prize but lost out to Quinceañera. But then she won best director at the Jackson Hole Film Festival that same year. All those accolades are well deserved as Brougher has fashioned a tightly constructed tale that blends mystery raw emotion and provocative questions into a compelling film. It leaves much for the audience to contemplate and discuss after the credits roll. Completely character-driven with no explosions or action sequences this is a serious movie some may find a bit too slowly paced. But it is precisely the deliberate pace that keeps us fascinated as the layers of both women’s lives are peeled back to reveal inherent truths about motherhood and the changes it brings. Those realities are obviously something Brougher the mother of twins has personal experience with experiences she expertly brings to the big screen.
Los Angeles race movie Quinceanera, directed by Wash Westmoreland and Richard Glatzer, won the festival's Jury Prize and the Audience Award for best U.S. dramatic film.
Similarly, director Christopher Quinn's God Grew Tired of Us, about three Sudanese boys settling in America, picked up the Jury Prize and Audience Award for best U.S. documentary.
Elsewhere, Iraq In Fragments won three documentary awards.
The full list of winners at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival in Utah is:
Grand Jury Prize, Dramatic - Quinceanera
Grand Jury Prize, Documentary - God Grew Tired of Us
Grand Jury Prize, World Cinema - 13 Tzameti (France/Georgia)
Grand Jury Prize, World Cinema Documentary - In the Pit (Mexico)
Audience Award, Dramatic - Quinceanera
Audience Award, Documentary - God Grew Tired of Us
Audience Award, World Cinema – No. 2 (New Zealand)
Audience Award, World Cinema Documentary - DeNadie (Mexico)
Best Dramatic Director : Dito Montiel for A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints
Best Documentary Director - James Longley for Iraq in Fragments
Best Dramatic Cinematography- Tom Richmond for Right at Your Door
Best Documentary Cinematography- James Longley for Iraq in Fragments
Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award - Hilary Brougher for Stephanie Daley
Best Documentary Film Editing - James Longley, Billy McMillin, Fiona Otway for
Iraq in Fragments
Special Jury Prize, Documentary - American Blackout and TV Junkie
Special Jury Prize, Dramatic Ensemble Performance - A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints
Special Jury Prize, Independent Vision - In Between Days
Special Jury Prize, World Cinema - Eve & The Fire Horse (Canada)
Special Jury Prize, World Cinema Documentary - Into Great Silence
(Germany/Switzerland) and Dear Pyongyang (Japan/Korea)
Jury Prize In Short Film-making - Bugcrush and the Wraith of Cobble Hill
Jury Prize in International Short Filmmaking - The Natural Route (Spain)
Honorable Mentions In Short Filmmaking - Before Dawn (Hungary); Preacher With An Unknown God (Us); Undressing My Mother (Ireland).
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Two of the most prestigious independent film communities have recently each given their stamp of approval on independent cinema both past and future. Nominees for the 2006 Independent Spirit Awards were announced as was the lineup for the independent feature film and world cinema competitions for next year’s Sundance Film Festival.
Although each organization acknowledge and reward independent filmmaking, the two fetes are quite different. The Spirit Awards are more of a conventional awards show, which will be handed out March 4 in Santa Monica, California [for full coverage on the Spirit Award nominations, click here].
The Sundance Awards are the culmination of the 10-day festival (Jan. 19-29 in Park City, Utah) that showcases the films in contention for awards. Next year’s Sundance Film Festival lineup marks a return of sorts to the fest’s roots, by giving way to more fresh faces. The total number of submissions increased, resulting in a different and exciting format--the expansion of the world competition to include more international films.
Below are the films to be shown in the four competition sections:
American Dramatic Competition A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints (Director, screenwriter: Dito Montiel) Come Early Morning (Director, screenwriter: Joey Lauren Adams) Flannel Pajamas (Director, screenwriter: Jeff Lipsky) Forgiven (Director, screenwriter: Paul Fitzgerald) Half Nelson (Director: Ryan Fleck; screenwriters: Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck) Hawk Is Dying (Director: Julian Goldberger; screenwriters: Harry Crews (novel), Julian Goldberger) In Between Days (Director: So Yong Kim; screenwriters: So Yong Kim, Bradley Rust Gray) Puccini for Beginners (Director, screenwriter: Maria Maggenti) Quinceanera (Director/screenwriters: Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland) Right at Your Door (Director, screenwriter: Chris Gorak) Sherrybaby (Director, screenwriter: Laurie Collyer) Somebodies (Director, screenwriter: Hadjii) Stay (Director, screenwriter: Bob Goldthwait) Steel City (Director, screenwriter: Brian Jun) Stephanie Daley (Director, screenwriter: Hilary Brougher) Wristcutters: A Love Story (Director: Goran Dukic; screenwriters: Goran Dukic, Etgar Kerett)
American Documentary Competition:
A Lion in the House (Directors: Steven Bogner, Julia Reichert) American Blackout (Director: Ian Inaba) An Unreasonable Man (Directors: Henriette Mantel, Stephen Skrovan) Crossing Arizona (Director: Joseph Mathew) God Grew Tired of Us (Director: Christopher Quinn) Ground Truth: After the Killing Ends (Director: Patricia Foulkrod) Iraq in Fragments (Director: James Longley) Small Town Gay Bar (Director: Malcom Ingram) So Much So Fast (Directors: Steven Ascher, Jeanne Jordan) Thin (Director: Lauren Greenfield) 'Tis Autumn: The Search for Jackie Paris (Director: Raymond De Felitta) The Trials of Darryl Hunt (Directors: Ricki Stern, Annie Sundberg) TV Junkie (Director: Michael Cain) Wide Awake (Director: Alan Berliner) Wordplay (Director: Patrick Creadon) The World According to Sesame Street (Directors: Linda Goldstein Knowlton, Linda Hawkins Costigan)
World Cinema Dramatic Competition 13 Tzameti (Director, screenwriter: Gela Babluani), France Allegro (Director: Christoffer Boe; screenwriters: Christoffer Boe, Mikael Wulff), Denmark The Aura (Director, screenwriter: Fabian Bielinsky), Argentina The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros (Director: Auraeus Solito; screenwriter: Michiko Yamamoto), Philippines Eve & The Fire Horse (Director, screenwriter: Julia Kwan), Canada Grbavica (Director, screenwriter: Jasmila Zbanic), Bosnia-Herzegovina The House of Sand (Director: Andrucha Waddington; screenwriter: Elena Soarez), Brazil Kiss Me Not on the Eyes (Director, screenwriter: Jocelyne Saab), Lebanon Little Red Flowers (Director: Zhang Yuan; Screenwriters: Ning Dai, Zhang Yuan), China Madeinusa (Director, screenwriter: Claudia Llosa), Peru No. 2 (Director, screenwriter: Toa Fraser), New Zealand One Last Dance (Director, screenwriter: Max Makowski), Singapore The Peter Pan Formula (Director, screenwriter: Cho Chan-Ho), South Korea Princesas (Director, screenwriter: Fernando Leon de Aranoa), Spain Solo Dios Sabe (Director: Carlos Bolado; screenwriters: Carlos Bolado, Diane Weipert), Brazil/Mexico Son of Man (Director: Mark Dornford-May; screenwriters: Mark Dornford-May, Andiswa Kedama, Pauline Malefane), South Africa
World Cinema Documentary Competition 5 Days (Director: Yoav Shamir), Israel Angry Monk--Reflections on Tibet (Director: Luc Schaedler), Switzerland Black Gold (Director: Marc Francis, Nick Francis), U.K. By the Ways, a Journey with William Eggleston (Directors: Cedric Laty, Vincent Gerard), France Dear Pyongyang (Director: Yang Yonghi), Japan The Giant Buddhas (Director: Christian Frei), Switzerland Glastonbury (Director: Julien Temple), U.K. I is for India (Director: Sandhya Suri), England/Germany/Italy In the Pit (Director: Juan Carlos Rulfo), Mexico Into Great Silence (Director: Philip Groening), Germany Kz (Director: Rex Bloomstein), U.K. No One (Director: Tin Dirdamal), Mexico The Short Life of Jose Antonio Gutierrez (Director: Heidi Specogna), Germany Songbirds (Director: Brian Hill), U.K. Unfolding Florence: The Many Lives of Florence Broadhurst (Director: Gillian Armstrong), Australia Viva Zapatero (Director: Sabina Guzzanti), Italy