Just caught the red eye back from Park City, and now I’m safely ensconced back in New York again, feeling a mix of relief and post-cinematic stress disorder. A few hours before I hopped the midnight plane, the Sundance press office released the names of the top prize winners at last night’s 2008 awards dinner. I was especially happy that Carl Lessin and Tia Deal picked up the grand jury prize for their extraordinary Katrina doc Trouble the Water, the story of two married former drug dealers transformed by the storm, and thriving against all odds. Also thrilling was the news that Lance Hammer had won the directing award in the dramatic competition for Ballast, his mournful, slow-burning drama about family, drugs, grief, and reconciliation, set in the Mississippi Delta. The film’s director of photography, Lol Crawley, also won an excellence in cinematography award for his brilliant capturing of the Delta’s tonal atmosphere in winter. A special jury prize also went to Chusy Haney-Jardine for his fiercely strange but tender Anywhere USA, a film that truly does merit the “spirit of independence” distinction. Finally, Alex Rivera must have gone home happy last evening; his ten-year effort to bring Sleep Dealer, a near-future depiction of technodystopian Mexico, to the big screen was rewarded with The Alfred P. Sloan Prize, given each year to a Sundance film that creatively advances the public understanding of science or technology, and the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Prize, which he shared with co-writer David Riker.
Congratulations to them and the rest of the winners!