Sundance 2004: It’s a Wrap!

The Sundance Film Festival, which is backed by actor Robert Redford and his Sundance Institute for movies, comes to an end today in Park City, Utah. Saturday night’s awards ceremony saw the sci-fi drama Primer, win the top grand jury prize, while the jurors awarded DIG! the top prize in the documentary category. Debra Granik took the dramatic directing award for Down to the Bone, about a lower-middle-class wife and mother’s struggles with cocaine addiction.

Many celebs have attended the festival since it kicked off 11 days ago, including Ashton Kutcher, Demi Moore, David Arquette, Courteney Cox, Kevin Bacon and Jane Fonda. And while the stars littered the streets of the snowy mountain town, studios were busy making acquisitions.

Among the purchases this week were the The Woodsman, starring Kevin Bacon, for Newmarket Films; Garden State for Miramax Films and Fox Searchlight; and CSA: Confederate Sates of America for IFC Films.

Warner Independent Pictures, the new indie arm of Warner Bros., acquired We Don’t Live Here Anymore, a drama about two couples whose marriages are on the rocks. The film stars Naomi Watts, Mark Ruffalo, Laura Dern and Peter Krause.

But despite their success at Sundance, films that win the festival’s top awards have a difficult time finding broad audiences and, more often than not, become the year’s most talked-about art-house titles rather than box office hits.

Of course, the ultimate Sundance success story to date has to be that of Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez‘s The Blair Witch Project. The film cost about $25,000 to make, was acquired by Artisan Entertainment for a cool $1 million and raked in $140 million at the box office. But when it debuted at Sundance in 1999, Blair Witch never won a single prize. In fact, it wasn’t even in competition.

That said, it is nearly impossible to predict a film’s success, or failure, outside the festival grounds. But films such as November, starring the well-known Courteney Cox, are sure to garner buzz.

First-timer Jason Wishnow, whose pic Oedipus stars vegetables instead of actors, told Reuters Sunday that more than anything, the festival is about exposure.

“The goal is getting [the work] out to find agents, producers or someone who will take you to the next level,” he said.

The top winners in the independent film festival screen for one last time today.

Here is a complete list of winners:

Dramatic Grand Jury Prize: Primer, directed, written, and produced by Shane Carruth

Documentary Grand Jury Prize: DIG!, directed and produced by Ondi Timoner

Documentary Audience Award: Born Into Brothels, directed by Ross Kauffman and Zana Briski

Dramatic Audience Award: Maria Full of Grace, directed by Joshua Marston

Documentary Directing Award: Morgan Spurlock , Super Size Me

Dramatic Directing Award: Debra Granik, Down To the Bone

World Cinema Dramatic Audience Award: Seducing Doctor Lewis, directed by Jean-François Pouliot

Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award: Larry Gross, We Don’t Live Here Anymore

Documentary Special Jury Prize: Farmingville, directed by Catherine Tambini and Carlos Sandoval

Dramatic Special Jury Prizes: Brother to Brother, directed by Rodney Evans; and Vera Farmiga for her performance in Down To the Bone

World Cinema Documentary Audience Award: The Corporation, directed by Mark Achbar and Jennifer Abbott

Excellence in Cinematography Award: Ferne Pearlstein, Imelda from the documentary competition; Nancy Schreiber, November from the dramatic competition

Freedom of Expression Award: Repatriation, directed by Dong-won Kim

Jury Prize in Short Filmmaking: When the Storm Came, directed by Shilpi Gupta; and Gowanus, Brooklyn, directed by Ryan Fleck

Jury Prize in International Short Filmmaking: Tomo, directed by Paul Catling

Honorable Mentions in Short Filmmaking: Curtis, directed by Jacob Akira Okada; Harvie Krumpet, directed by Adam Elliot; Krumoed, directed by David LaChapelle; Papillion d’Amour, directed by Nicholas Provost; and Spokane, directed by Larry Kennar

2004 Sundance Online Film Festival Viewers Awards: Bathtime in Clerkenwell, directed by Alex Budovsky (Animation); Wet Dreams False Images, directed by Jesse Epstein (Short Subject); and The Dawn at my Back: Memoir of a Texas Upbringing, directed by Carroll Parrott Blue and Kristy H.A. Kang (New Forms Gallery)

Sundance/NHK International Filmmakers Award: Gyorgy Palfi, Taxidermia from Europe; Andrucha Waddington, House of Sand from Latin America; Miranda July, Me You and Everyone We Know from the United States. Kosuke Hosokaim, director of Tepid Love from Japan received an honorable mention