Docs

Sundance ’15: Awards wins for “Wolfpack,” “Woodpecker”

Crystal Moselle's The Wolfpack (pictured) and Chad Gracia's The Russian Woodpecker were the big winners at the Sundance Film Festival, taking home the Grand Jury Prize for U.S. Documentary and World Cinema Documentary respectively.
February 2, 2015

Crystal Moselle’s The Wolfpack (pictured) and Chad Gracia’s The Russian Woodpecker were the big winners at the Sundance Film Festival, taking home the Grand Jury Prize for U.S. Documentary and World Cinema Documentary respectively.

The Wolfpack, which has been acquired by Magnolia Pictures, offers a portrait of six teenagers who have lived their formative lives in solitude in an apartment in New York, but obsessively watch and recreate movies to connect to the outside world.

The Russian Woodpecker, meanwhile, follows a Ukrainian victim of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster as he discovers a dark secret and decides whether to risk revealing it.

Elsewhere, audience awards went to Louise Osmond’s Dark Horse and Jimmy Chin and E. Chai Vasarhelyi’s Meru, while directing awards went to Matthew Heineman’s for Cartel Land and Kim Longinotto’s Dreamcatcher (pictured below, right).

Dreamcatcher (f.k.a. The Dreamcatchers)For Heineman, the prize marked one of two awards, the other being a U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Cinematography.

Earlier in the festival, the short film jury award for non-fiction was presented to Kitty Green for The Face of Ukraine: Casting Oksana Baiul.

The full list of non-fiction winners, with synopses provided by Sundance, follows below:

The U.S. Grand Jury Prize: Documentary was presented by Gordon Quinn to:
The Wolfpack / U.S. (Director: Crystal Moselle)

Six bright teenage brothers have spent their entire lives locked away from society in a Manhattan housing project. All they know of the outside is gleaned from the movies they watch obsessively (and re-create meticulously). Yet as adolescence looms, they dream of escape, ever more urgently, into the beckoning world.

The World Cinema Grand Jury Prize: Documentary was presented by Mark Cousins to:
The Russian Woodpecker / UK (Director: Chad Gracia)

A Ukrainian victim of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster discovers a dark secret and must decide whether to risk his life by revealing it, amid growing clouds of revolution and war.

The Audience Award: U.S. Documentary, was presented by Adam Scott to:
Meru / U.S. (Directors: Jimmy Chin, E. Chai Vasarhelyi)

Three elite mountain climbers sacrifice everything but their friendship as they struggle through heartbreaking loss and nature’s harshest elements to attempt the never-before-completed Shark’s Fin on Mount Meru, the most coveted first ascent in the dangerous game of Himalayan big wall climbing.

The Audience Award: World Cinema Documentary was presented by Patrick Fugit to:

Dark Horse / UK (Director: Louise Osmond)

Dark Horse is the inspirational true story of a group of friends from a workingman’s club who decide to take on the elite “sport of kings” and breed themselves a racehorse.

The Directing Award: U.S. Documentary was presented by Roger Ross Williams to:
Matthew Heineman for Cartel Land / U.S., Mexico (Director: Matthew Heineman)

In this classic western set in the twenty-first century, vigilantes on both sides of the border fight the vicious Mexican drug cartels. With unprecedented access, this character-driven film provokes deep questions about lawlessness, the breakdown of order, and whether citizens should fight violence with violence.

The Directing Award: World Cinema Documentary was presented by Elena Fortes to:
Kim Longinotto for Dreamcatcher / UK (Director: Kim Longinotto)

Dreamcatcher takes us into a hidden world seen through the eyes of one of its survivors, Brenda Myers-Powell. A former teenage prostitute, Brenda defied the odds to become a powerful advocate for change in her community. With warmth and humor, Brenda gives hope to those who have none.

U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Social Impact was presented by Michele Norris to:
Marc Silver for 3½ Minutes / U.S. (Director: Marc Silver)

On November 23, 2012, unarmed 17-year-old Jordan Russell Davis was shot at a Jacksonville gas station by Michael David Dunn. 3½ Minutes explores the aftermath of Jordan’s tragic death, the latent and often unseen effects of racism, and the contradictions of the American criminal justice system.

U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Vérité Filmmaking was presented by Eugene Hernandez to:
Bill Ross and Turner Ross for Western / U.S., Mexico (Directors: Bill Ross, Turner Ross)

For generations, all that distinguished Eagle Pass, Texas, from Piedras Negras, Mexico, was the Rio Grande. But when darkness descends upon these harmonious border towns, a cowboy and lawman face a new reality that threatens their way of life. Western portrays timeless American figures in the grip of unforgiving change.

U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Break Out First Feature was presented by Eugene Hernandez to:
Lyric R. Cabral and David Felix Sutcliffe for (T)error / U.S. (Directors: Lyric R. Cabral, David Felix Sutcliffe)

With unprecedented access to a covert counterterrorism sting, (T)error develops in real time, documenting the action as it unfolds on the ground. Viewers get an unfettered glimpse of the government’s counterterrorism tactics and the murky justifications behind them through the perspective of a 63-year-old black revolutionary-turned-FBI informant.

U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Cinematography was presented by Kristen Johnson to:
Matthew Heineman for Cartel Land / U.S., Mexico (Director: Matthew Heineman)

In this classic Western set in the twenty-first century, vigilantes on both sides of the border fight the vicious Mexican drug cartels. With unprecedented access, this character-driven film provokes deep questions about lawlessness, the breakdown of order, and whether citizens should fight violence with violence.

World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award for Unparalleled Access was presented by Elena Fortes to:
The Chinese Mayor / China (Director: Hao Zhou)

Mayor Geng Yanbo is determined to transform the coal-mining center of Datong, in China’s Shanxi province, into a tourism haven showcasing clean energy. In order to achieve that, however, he has to relocate 500,000 residences to make way for the restoration of the ancient city.

World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award for Impact was presented by Mark Cousins to:
Pervert Park / Sweden, Denmark (Directors: Frida Barkfors, Lasse Barkfors)

Pervert Park follows the everyday lives of sex offenders in a Florida trailer park as they struggle to reintegrate into society, and try to understand who they are and how to break the cycle of sex crimes being committed.

World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award for Editing was presented by Ingrid Kopp to:
Jim Scott for How to Change the World / UK, Canada (Director: Jerry Rothwell)

In 1971, a group of friends sails into a nuclear test zone, and their protest captures the world’s imagination. Using rare, archival footage that brings their extraordinary world to life, How to Change the World is the story of the pioneers who founded Greenpeace and defined the modern green movement.

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