Tag: sundance institute

2012 Sundance Film Festival Announces Awards

The House I Live In, Beasts of the Southern Wild, The Law in These Parts and
Violeta Went to Heaven Earn Grand Jury Prizes

Audience Favorites Include The Invisible War, The Surrogate,
and Valley of Saints

Sleepwalk With Me Receives Best of NEXT <=> Audience Award

Park City, UT — Sundance Institute this evening announced the Jury, Audience, NEXT <=> and other special awards of the 2012 Sundance Film Festival at the Festival’s Awards Ceremony, hosted by Parker Posey in Park City, Utah. An archived video of the ceremony in its entirety is available at www.sundance.org/live.

“Every year the Sundance Film Festival brings to light exciting new directions and fresh voices in independent film, and this year is no different,” said John Cooper, Director of the Sundance Film Festival. “While these awards further distinguish those that have had the most impact on audiences and our jury, the level of talent showcased across the board at the Festival was really impressive, and all are to be congratulated and thanked for sharing their work with us.”

Keri Putnam, Executive Director of Sundance Institute, said, “As we close what was a remarkable 10 days of the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, we look to the year ahead with incredible optimism for the independent film community. As filmmakers continue to push each other to achieve new heights in storytelling we are excited to see what’s next.”

The 2012 Sundance Film Festival Awards presented this evening were:

The Grand Jury Prize: Documentary was presented by Charles Ferguson to:

The House I Live In / U.S.A. (Director: Eugene Jarecki) — For over 40 years, the War on Drugs has accounted for 45 million arrests, made America the world’s largest jailer and damaged poor communities at home and abroad. Yet, drugs are cheaper, purer and more available today than ever. Where did we go wrong and what is the path toward healing?

The Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic was presented by Justin Lin to:

Beasts of the Southern Wild / U.S.A. (Director: Benh Zeitlin, Screenwriters: Benh Zeitlin, Lucy Alibar) — Waters gonna rise up, wild animals gonna rerun from the grave, and everything south of the levee is goin’ under, in this tale of a six year old named Hushpuppy, who lives with her daddy at the edge of the world. Cast: Quvenzhané Wallis, Dwight Henry.

The World Cinema Jury Prize: Documentary was presented by Nick Fraser to:

The Law in These Parts / Israel (Director: Ra’anan Alexandrowicz) — Israel’s 43-year military legal system in the Occupied Palestinian Territories unfolds through provocative interviews with the system’s architects and historical footage showing the enactment of these laws upon the Palestinian population.

The World Cinema Jury Prize: Dramatic was presented by Julia Ormond to:

Violeta Went to Heaven (Violeta se Fue a Los Cielos) / Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Spain (Director: Andrés Wood, Screenwriters: Eliseo Altunaga, Rodrigo Bazaes, Guillermo Calderón, Andrés Wood) — A portrait of famed Chilean singer and folklorist Violeta Parra filled with her musical work, her memories, her loves and her hopes. Cast: Francisca Gavilán, Thomas Durand, Luis Machín, Gabriela Aguilera, Roberto Farías.

The Audience Award: U.S. Documentary, Presented by Acura, was presented by Mike Birbiglia to:

The Invisible War / U.S.A. (Director: Kirby Dick) — An investigative and powerfully emotional examination of the epidemic of rape of soldiers within the U.S. military, the institutions that cover up its existence and the profound personal and social consequences that arise from it.

The Audience Award: U.S. Dramatic, Presented by Acura, was presented by Mike Birbiglia to:

The Surrogate / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Ben Lewin) — Mark O’Brien, a 36-year-old poet and journalist in an iron lung, decides he no longer wishes to be a virgin. With the help of his therapist and the guidance of his priest, he contacts a professional sex surrogate to take him on a journey to manhood. Cast: John Hawkes, Helen Hunt, William H. Macy.

The World Cinema Audience Award: Documentary was presented by Edward James Olmos to:

SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN / Sweden, United Kingdom (Director: Malik Bendjelloul) — Rodriguez was the greatest ‘70s US rock icon who never was. Hailed as the greatest recording artist of his generation he disappeared into oblivion – rising again from the ashes in a completely different context many miles away.

The World Cinema Audience Award: Dramatic was presented by Edward James Olmos to:

Valley of Saints / India, U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Musa Syeed) — Gulzar plans to run away from the war and poverty surrounding his village in Kashmir with his best friend, but a beautiful young woman researching the dying lake leads him to contemplate a different future Cast: Gulzar Ahmad Bhat, Mohammed Afzal Sofi, Neelofar Hamid.

The Best of NEXT <=> Audience Award, Presented by Adobe Systems Incorporated, was presented by Tim Heidecker to:

Sleepwalk With Me / U.S.A. (Director: Mike Birbiglia, Screenwriters: Mike Birbiglia, Ira Glass, Joe Birbiglia, Seth Barrish) — Reluctant to confront his fears of love, honesty, and growing up, a budding standup comedian has both a hilarious and intense struggle with sleepwalking. Cast: Mike Birbiglia, Lauren Ambrose, Carol Kane, James Rebhorn, Cristin Milioti.

The U.S. Directing Award: Documentary was presented by Fenton Bailey to:

The Queen of Versailles / U.S.A. (Director: Lauren Greenfield) — Jackie and David were triumphantly constructing the biggest house in America – a sprawling, 90,000-square-foot palace inspired by Versailles – when their timeshare empire falters due to the economic crisis. Their story reveals the innate virtues and flaws of the American Dream.

The U.S. Directing Award: Dramatic was presented by Lynn Shelton to:

Middle Of Nowhere / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Ava DuVernay) — When her husband is incarcerated, an African-American woman struggles to maintain her marriage and her identity. Cast: Emayatzy Corinealdi, David Oyelowo, Omari Hardwick, Lorraine Touissaint, Edwina Findley.

The World Cinema Directing Award: Documentary was presented by Jean-Marie Teno to:

5 Broken Cameras / Palestine, Israel, France (Directors: Emad Burnat, Guy Davidi) — A Palestinian journalist chronicles his village’s resistance to a separation barrier being erected on their land and in the process captures his young son’s lens on the world.

The World Cinema Directing Award: Dramatic was presented by Alexei Popogrebsky to:

Teddy Bear / Denmark (Director: Mads Matthiesen, Screenwriters: Mads Matthiesen, Martin Pieter Zandvliet) — Dennis, a painfully shy 38-year-old bodybuilder who lives with his mother, sets off to Thailand in search of love. Cast: Kim Kold, Elsebeth Steentoft, Lamaiporn Sangmanee Hougaard, David Winters, Allan Mogensen.

The Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award was presented by Anthony Mackie to:

Safety Not Guaranteed / U.S.A. (Director: Colin Trevorrow, Screenwriter: Derek Connolly) — A trio of magazine employees investigate a classified ad seeking a partner for time travel. One employee develops feelings for the paranoid but compelling loner and seeks to discover what he’s really up to. Cast: Aubrey Plaza, Mark Duplass, Jake Johnson, Karan Soni.

The World Cinema Screenwriting Award was presented by Richard Pena to:

Young & Wild / Chile (Director: Marialy Rivas, Screenwriters: Marialy Rivas, Camila Gutiérrez, Pedro Peirano, Sebastián Sepúlveda) — 17-year-old Daniela, raised in the bosom of a strict Evangelical family and recently unmasked as a fornicator by her shocked parents, struggles to find her own path to spiritual harmony. Cast: Alicia Rodríguez, Aline Kuppenheim, María Gracia Omegna, Felipe Pinto.

The U.S. Documentary Editing Award was presented by Kim Roberts to:

DETROPIA / U.S.A. (Directors: Heidi Ewing, Rachel Grady) — The woes of Detroit are emblematic of the collapse of the U.S. manufacturing base. This is the dramatic story of a city and its people who refuse to leave the building, even as the flames are rising.

The World Cinema Documentary Editing Award was presented by Clara Kim to:

Indie Game: The Movie / Canada (Directors: Lisanne Pajot, James Swirsky) — Follow the dramatic journeys of indie game developers as they create games and release those works, and themselves, to the world.

The Excellence in Cinematography Award: U.S. Documentary was presented by Tia Lessin to:

Chasing Ice / U.S.A. (Director: Jeff Orlowski) — Science, spectacle and human passion mix in this stunningly cinematic portrait as National Geographic photographer James Balog captures time-lapse photography of glaciers over several years providing tangible visual evidence of climate change.

The Excellence in Cinematography Award: U.S. Dramatic was presented by Amy Vincent to:

Beasts of the Southern Wild / U.S.A. (Director: Benh Zeitlin, Screenwriters: Benh Zeitlin, Lucy Alibar) — Waters gonna rise up, wild animals gonna rerun from the grave, and everything south of the levee is goin’ under, in this tale of a six year old named Hushpuppy, who lives with her daddy at the edge of the world. Cast: Quvenzhané Wallis, Dwight Henry.

The World Cinema Cinematography Award: Documentary was presented by Jean-Marie Teno to:

Putin’s Kiss / Denmark (Director: Lise Birk Pedersen) — 19-year-old Marsha is a model spokesperson in a strongly nationalistic Russian youth movement that aims to protect the country from its enemies. When she starts recognizing the organization’s flaws, she must take a stand for or against it.

The World Cinema Cinematography Award: Dramatic was presented by Alexei Popogrebsky to:

My Brother the Devil / United Kingdom (Director and screenwriter: Sally El Hosaini) — A pair of British Arab brothers trying to get by in gangland London learn the extraordinary courage it takes to be yourself. Cast: James Floyd, Saïd Taghmaoui, Fady Elsayed.

A U.S. Documentary Special Jury Prize for an Agent of Change was presented by Heather Croall to:

Love Free or Die / U.S.A. (Director: Macky Alston) — One man whose two defining passions are in conflict: An openly gay bishop refuses to leave the Church or the man he loves.

A U.S. Documentary Special Jury Prize for Spirit of Defiance was presented by Heather Croall to:

Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry / U.S.A., China (Director: Alison Klayman) — Renowned Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei has garnered international attention as much for his ambitious artwork as his political provocations and increasingly public clashes with the Chinese government.

A U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Prize for Excellence in Independent Film Producing was presented by Cliff Martinez to:

Andrea Sperling and Jonathan Schwartz for Smashed and Nobody Walks

  • Smashed / U.S.A. (Director: James Ponsoldt, Screenwriters: Susan Burke, James Ponsoldt) — Kate and Charlie are a young married couple whose bond is built on a mutual love of music, laughter and… drinking. When Kate decides to get sober, her new lifestyle brings troubling issues to the surface and calls into question her relationship with Charlie. Cast: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Aaron Paul, Octavia Spencer, Nick Offerman, Megan Mullally.
  • Nobody Walks / U.S.A. (Director: Ry Russo-Young, Screenwriters: Lena Dunham, Ry Russo-Young) — Martine, a young artist from New York, is invited into the home of a hip, liberal LA family for a week. Her presence unravels the family’s carefully maintained status quo, and a mess of sexual and emotional entanglements ensues. Cast: John Krasinski, Olivia Thirlby, Rosemarie DeWitt, India Ennenga, Justin Kirk.

A U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Prize for Ensemble Acting was presented by Cliff Martinez to:

The Surrogate / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Ben Lewin) — Mark O’Brien, a 36-year-old poet and journalist in an iron lung, decides he no longer wishes to be a virgin. With the help of his therapist and the guidance of his priest, he contacts a professional sex surrogate to take him on a journey to manhood. Cast: John Hawkes, Helen Hunt, William H. Macy.

A World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Prize for Artistic Vision was presented by Clara Kim to:

Can / Turkey (Director and screenwriter: Rasit Celikezer) — A young married couple live happily in Istanbul, but their decision to illegally procure a child threatens their future together. Cast: Selen Uçer, Serdar Orçin, Berkan Demirbag, Erkan Avci.

A World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Prize for its Celebration of the Artistic Spirit was presented by Richard Pena to:

SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN / Sweden, United Kingdom (Director: Malik Bendjelloul) — Rodriguez was the greatest ‘70s US rock icon who never was. Hailed as the greatest recording artist of his generation he disappeared into oblivion – rising again from the ashes in a completely different context many miles away.

The inaugural Short Film Audience Award, Presented by Yahoo!, based on online voting for nine short films that premiered at the Festival and are currently featured on Yahoo! Screen, was presented to:

The Debutante Hunters (Director: Maria White) — In the Lowcountry of South Carolina a group of true Southern belles reveal their more rugged side, providing a glimpse into what drives them to hunt in the wild.

The following awards were presented at separate ceremonies at the Festival:

The Jury Prize in Short Filmmaking was awarded to: FISHING WITHOUT NETS / U.S.A. (Director: Cutter Hodierne, Screenwriters: Cutter Hodierne, John Hibey). The Jury Prize in Short Film, U.S. Fiction was presented to: The Black Balloon / U.S.A. (Directors: Benny Safdie, Josh Safdie). The Jury Prize in Short Film, International Fiction was presented to: The Return (Kthimi) / Kosovo (Director: Blerta Zeqiri, Screenwriter: Shefqet Gjocaj). The Jury Prize in Short Film, Non-Fiction was presented to: The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom / U.S.A. (Director: Lucy Walker). The Jury Prize in Animated Short Film was presented to: A Morning Stroll / United Kingdom (Director: Grant Orchard). A Special Jury Award for Comedic Storytelling was presented to: The Arm / U.S.A. (Directors and screenwriters: Brie Larson, Sarah Ramos, Jessie Ennis). A Special Jury Award for Animation Direction was presented to: Robots of Brixton / United Kingdom (Director: Kibwe Tavares).

The winning directors and projects of the Sundance Institute | Mahindra Global Filmmaking Award, in recognition and support of emerging independent filmmakers from around the world, are: Etienne Kallos / Vrystaat (Free State) (South Africa); Ariel Kleiman / Partisan (Australia); Dominga Sotomayor / Tarde Para Morir Joven (Late To Die Young) (Chile); and Shonali Bose / Margarita. With a Straw (India).

The Sundance/NHK International Filmmaker Award, honoring and supporting emerging filmmakers, was presented to Jens Assur, director of the upcoming film Close Far Away.

The inaugural Hilton Worldwide LightStay Sustainability Award for a completed feature film was presented to The Island President, directed by Jon Shenk. The in-process feature film award was presented to Solar Mamas, directed by Jehane Noujaim and Mona Eldaief. Each project received $25,000.

The inaugural Sundance Institute Indian Paintbrush Producer’s Award and $10,000 grant was presented to Dan Janvey and Josh Penn for Beasts of the Southern Wild.

The Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prizes, presented to outstanding feature films focusing on science or technology as a theme, or depicting a scientist, engineer, or mathematician as a major character, were presented to Robot & Frank, directed by Jake Schreier and written by Christopher Ford, and Valley of Saints, directed and written by Musa Syeed. The two films will split the $20,000 cash award by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

The 2012 Sundance Film Festival Jurors were: U.S. Documentary Competition: Fenton Bailey, Heather Croall, Charles Ferguson, Tia Lessin, Kim Roberts; U.S. Dramatic Competition: Justin Lin, Anthony Mackie, Cliff Martinez, Lynn Shelton, Amy Vincent; World Cinema Documentary Competition: Nick Fraser, Clara Kim, Jean-Marie Teno; World Cinema Dramatic Competition: Julia Ormond, Richard Pena, Alexei Popogrebsky; Alfred P. Sloan Award: Tracy Day, Helen Fisher, Dr. Robert J. Full, Gwyn Lurie, Alex Rivera; Short Film Competition: Mike Judge, Dee Rees, Shane Smith.

The 2012 Sundance Film Festival presented 117 feature-length films, representing 30 countries by 45 first-time filmmakers, including 24 in competition. These films were selected from 4,042 feature-length film submissions composed of 2,059 U.S. and 1,983 international feature-length films. 91 films at the Festival were world premieres. The Short Film Program was comprised of 64 short films selected from a record 7,675 submissions.

The 2012 Sundance Film Festival runs through January 29 in Park City, Salt Lake City, Ogden and Sundance, Utah. A complete list of films and events is available at www.sundance.org/festival.

The Sundance Film Festival

A program of the non-profit Sundance Institute, the Festival has introduced global audiences to some of the most ground-breaking films of the past two decades, including sex, lies, and videotape, Maria Full of Grace, The Cove, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, An Inconvenient Truth, Precious, Trouble the Water, and Napoleon Dynamite, and through its New Frontier initiative, has showcased the cinematic works of media artists including Isaac Julien, Doug Aitken, Pierre Huyghe, Jennifer Steinkamp, and Matthew Barney. The 2012 Sundance Film Festival sponsors include: Presenting Sponsors – Entertainment Weekly, HP, Acura, Sundance Channel and Chase SapphireSM ; Leadership Sponsors – Adobe Systems Incorporated, Bing™, Canon, DIRECTV, Focus Forward, a partnership between GE and CINELAN, Southwest Airlines, Sprint and Yahoo!; Sustaining Sponsors – Bertolli® Frozen Meal Soups, FilterForGood®, a partnership between Brita® and Nalgene ®, Grey Goose® Vodka, Hilton HHonors and Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts, L’Oréal Paris, Stella Artois®, Timberland, Time Warner Inc. and YouTubeTM. Sundance Institute recognizes critical support from the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development, and the State of Utah as Festival Host State. The support of these organizations will defray costs associated with the 10-day Festival and the nonprofit Sundance Institute’s year-round programs for independent film and theatre artists. www.sundance.org/festival

Sundance Institute

Sundance Institute is a global nonprofit organization founded by Robert Redford in 1981. Through its artistic development programs for directors, screenwriters, producers, composers and playwrights, the Institute seeks to discover and support independent film and theatre artists from the United States and around the world, and to introduce audiences to their new work. The Institute promotes independent storytelling to inform, inspire, and unite diverse populations around the globe. Internationally recognized for its annual Sundance Film Festival, Sundance Institute has nurtured such projects as Born into Brothels, Trouble the Water, Son of Babylon, Amreeka, An Inconvenient Truth,Spring Awakening, I Am My Own Wife, Light in the Piazza and Angels in America. Join Sundance Institute on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.


Sundance Film Festival’s Bertolli Lounge & Chris Masterson’s BDay Party Host Hollywood Celebrities

At the Bertolli Meal Soup Chalet, celebrities stopped by and showed their support for Bertolli’s “Ladles of Love” program benefitting Feeding America by ladling a bowl of soup, signing, and posting their ladle on the “Ladles of Love” wall.

Guests indulged in luxury skincare treatments courtesy of Lumene, participated in interactive fun provided by Tic Tac® Mints, checked out sunglasses

At the Bertolli Meal Soup Chalet hosted by Gen Art

furnished by Solstice Sunglass Boutique, amped up with Ultimat Vodka, Patron Tequila, and illy issimo, and hydrated with Activate Water. They also stopped by the Philadelphia Industry Lounge to pick up the ultimate “Philly Swag Bag”. Seth Rogen stopped in to hear his wife Lauren Miller discuss her new film, “For a Good Time Call” during the Inside Soup session, as did Justin Long, who also co-stars in the film.

Justin Long at the Bertolli Meal Soup Chalet hosted by Gen Art

Long stopped in the Philadelphia Industry Lounge and signed the LOVE sign. Rogen and Long signed ladles and enjoyed a cup of Bertolli Meal Soup.

Jessie Williams from the hit TV show Grey’s Anatomy also warmed up with a cup of soup and spent a good 45 minutes modeling sunglasses at the Solstice Sunglass Boutique. Nia Vardalos also dropped by the lounge for the second time to support her friend, actor Jareb Duplaise, who hosted the premiere of the Tic Tac Mints coach video he created. Gen Art also threw a private viewing party to kick off the big game between the Giants and the San Francisco 49’ers. Ryan Kwanten, Laura Prepon, and Christina Hendricks came by for a few drinks (and a few enthusiastic yells) and fit right in with all the other screaming football fans!

At the Bertolli Meal Soup Chalet Hosted by Gen Art

In the evening at Gen Art’s Bertolli Meal Soup ChaletAziz Ansari, Nick Lachey, Rashida JonesDanny Masterson, Wilmer Valderrama,

Celebs at the Bertolli Meal Soup Chalet hosted by Gen Art

and Julia Ormond stopped by to celebrate the birthday of Chris Masterson and the 1 year anniversary of Table Manners. Justin Long also returned to check out the night action with a small entourage and appeared to enjoy the crowd’s crazy antics on the dance floor.

Celebrities in attendance for the closing day of the lounge included Seth Rogen and Lauren Miller, Aziz Ansari, Nick Lachey, Rashida Jones, Justin Long, Ryan Kwanten, Christina Hendricks and Geoffrey Arend,Laura Prepon, Danny Masterson, Chris Masterson, Wilmer Valderrama, Julia Ormond, LCD Soundsystem, Ari Graynor, Cobra Starship, Jessie Williams, Nia Vardalos, Anica Marks, Nicky Hawthorne, Liz Lee, Jareb Duplaise, Dreama Walker, and OneRepublic.

At the Bertolli Meal Soup Chalet hosted by Gen Art


ChefDance Unites Spike Lee, Tommy Lee, Zac Brown and Deadmau5 at Sundance 2012

The fourth night of ChefDance brought together filmmakers (Spike Lee), musicians (Tommy Lee, Zac Brown, Deadmaus) and actors (Julian McMahon, Andrew Keegan). The cast of Red Hook Summer had a celebratory cast dinner at ChefDance with a scrumptious four-course meal prepared by Iron Chef judge, Donatella Arpaia. Guests cheered for Donatella’s gnocchi and the second course featured a red wine braised short rib with roasted brussels sprouts, parsnip puree & preserved lemon paired with “When Life Gives You Lemons” featuring Ketel One Vodka.Additional sponsors included Yogurtland, Sotheby’s, Sorel, Cascal Fermented Soda and Voss Water.

WHEN:  Monday, January 23

WHERE:  ChefDance
427 Main Street
Park City, UT 84060


More photos of the event and celebrity guests


Chefdance is a one-of-a-kind, 5 night culinary extravaganza combining food, wine, music, and film. Each evening, a world-renowned celebrity chef will create gourmet cuisine, paired with featured wines from around the world for a mix of attendees including celebrities, executives, and industry VIP’s. The first annual Chefdance Festival started in 2004, and continues to be a popular attraction during Sundance.


Created in 2006, Yogurtland was the first national frozen yogurt brand to empower their customers with the ability to serve themselves, and revolutionized the now ubiquitous self-serve, pay-per-ounce model seen nationwide. An industry pioneer in premium-quality frozen yogurt, Yogurtland’s fundamental “You Rule” philosophy allows customers the freedom to create their own servings from a choice of 16 original sweet and tart flavors made with real ingredients and more than 35 toppings. Headquartered in Anaheim, Calif., Yogurtland is the nation’s leading and fastest-growing frozen yogurt brand, with over 170 locations in the U.S., Mexico and Guam. For more information about Yogurtland, please visit www.yogurt-land.com.


Since the founding of the Sotheby’s auction house in 1744, the Sotheby’s name has been the premier brand for selling the world’s most valuable and prestigious possessions. The Sotheby’s International Realty(r) organization began in 1976, in part to serve its auction clients a complete package of estate disposition services, and soon became known for representing extraordinary luxury real estate throughout the world. Summit Sotheby’s International Realty serves the real estate needs of Park City and Salt Lake City, facilitating real estate connections between Utah and the world, and artfully uniting extraordinary homes with extraordinary lives.


Founded in September 2009, Snake Oil Cocktail Co. is a boutique cocktail design and consulting firm. The company specializes in creating distinctive culinary cocktails for select bars, restaurants and luxury events. The Snake Oil Cocktail team has a combined experience of over thirty years in cocktail industry, elevating the craft of cocktails nationwide. For more information on Snake Oil Cocktail Co. please visit www.snakeoilcocktail.com.


Sundance Institute and Skoll Foundation Provide Filmmakers and Social Entrepreneurs a Framework for Action

Originally posted by Kathy A. McDonald on Sundance Institute.

Documentaries tell us both who we are and what we could be. By spotlighting challenging issues, documentaries can also be instigators of social change. The subjects of these films are often pioneering social entrepreneurs—enterprising idealists who dedicate themselves to affecting positive social change.

Stories of Change: Social Entrepreneurship in Focus Through Documentary is a five-year long special initiative resulting from a collaboration between Sundance Institute’s Documentary Film Program and the Skoll Foundation. This unique partnership has brought together like-minded filmmakers and social entrepreneurs to explore and expose some of today’s most challenging global issues, from access to healthcare and education, to food security and energy in rural communities to providing real-world job skills to urban youth.

At the core of the initiative is a tangible objective to supply filmmakers with the resources to document meaningful efforts by social entrepreneurs and to bring added exposure to the projects (and the social justice issues therein) through effective outreach and ancillary media developed concurrently throughout production. Via this collaboration, the change makers will not only inspire audiences but also be inspired themselves to innovate further.

Beginning in 2007, the Skoll Foundation, together with the Sundance Documentary Film Program, began to explore the potential of bringing together Sundance filmmakers and social entrepreneurs. “There’s an incredible power the two groups could bring to each other’s work,” contends Sandy Herz the Skoll Foundation’s Director of Strategic Alliances. “Social entrepreneurs’ efforts are made more effective by the connection with filmmakers and master storytellers, and filmmakers have more impact because of this access to experts and innovators on the ground,” she says.


Solar Momas

Although the Skoll Foundation is the major backer, the films are not commissioned works — Filmmakers retain editorial control. Furthermore, almost all of the projects have attracted additional funding sources, advises Cara Mertes, Director of the Sundance Documentary Film Program. “This goes beyond creating a film for them,” Mertes explains. “It becomes how story and narrative can work within their culture and organization,” she says of the original approach.

The relationship works both ways. “The whole idea of bringing the two groups together, is that we will get stories that resonate with global populations,” says Mertes. The urgency of solving these large-scale problems necessitates “powerful storytelling in the service of change makers,” believes Mertes.

The Sundance Documentary Film Program, which administers Stories of Change, selected 10 projects in 2001 from more than 300 submissions. The partnership launched with two distinct threads: a series of convenings intended to facilitate interaction and engagement between filmmakers and social entrepreneurs and a fund for the resulting documentary film projects between these two groups. “We’ve found our social entrepreneurs are engaged in storytelling and walk away with much clearer ideas on how to tell their story in order to move people to action,” says Herz.  At the same time, filmmakers are able to advance the issues they care about most.

“Generally you don’t have time to think about outreach until a film is done,” explains director Kief Davidson. (His previous documentary Kassim the Dream, the story of a former child soldier turned boxing champ, was a winner of numerous festival prizes and distributed theatrically by IFC Films). Davidson and his producer Cori Stern are in the midst of production on the Untitled Global Public Health Documentary, a multi-faceted profile of Partners in Health, one of the world’s most innovative health care organizations.

“The film is jut one piece of a bigger grassroots campaign which we will construct in production and post,” Davidson says. He finds, “the challenge now becomes creating specific goals for an impact campaign, and not just showing what the situation is like, but what the average person can do to change things.”


To Catch a Dollar

As producer Cori Stern explains, the filmmakers’ intent is to emotionally engage the audience so they will want to participate in facilitating change. This activation involves more than just an end title card that posts a website link. “Sundance and Skoll have encouraged us from the very beginning to really think about how crafting the storytelling can dovetail with the impact goals and how they can inform each other,” says Stern. “What we choose to show is what the audience will be motivated to try to change.”

As Mertes explains, selected projects focus on system transformers, like Dr. Paul Farmer of Partners in Health– innovators who can rethink and reset how and what can be done in their arenas. During the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, a panel scheduled for January 24th will present the Stories of Change initiative and will feature Davidson as well as Solar Mamas filmmaker, director Jehane Noujaim (Control Room) and subject, Bunker Roy founder of the Barefoot College.  The project comes full circle as Noujaim first met Roy at the 2010 Sundance Festival. Solar Mamas tracks three grandmothers from impoverished rural villages as they are trained at the Barefoot College to solar electrify their villages. This act transforms the life of the village but also the women’s own standings, converting them from marginalized members of society to key resources.

Because film (in the broadest sense of recorded moving images) is embedded in everyone’s day-to-day life through social media, mobile devices and other


Revolutionary Optimists

platforms, it is an increasingly critical and essential medium for information. Stories of Change will continue this tradition with a series multi-platform strategies including games, short films and geo-location apps that push these stories on to multiple screens as well as out into the real world. For instance, an element created during the filming of the The Revolutionary Optimiststhe Map Your World app–helps track clean water and previously undocumented neighborhoods.

To date, two feature films have been completed: Gayle Ferraro’s To Catch A Dollar premiered at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival and director Patrick Reed’s The Team premiered at IDFA 2010 and aired on PBS. By the finish of 2013, Mertes expects nine films to be completed, a collection that she hopes will have a shelf life that lasts well into the next decade, as these films bore into the issues of the day and show how social entrepreneurs provide workable solutions to the world’s most complex problems.


Buck: The Real Horse Whisperer and Living Legend

Sometimes life isn’t easy. Sometimes those we love are the ones that hurt us the most. And sometimes we find our salvation, and learn life’s most important lessons, in the unlikeliest of places.

BUCK directed by Cindy Meehl

By: Sandy Meyer

Buck Brannaman as himself in BUCK directed by Cindy Meehl

The film Buck, which will be released in theaters in late June, takes the audience on the journey of one man who turned his suffering into success by reaching out to the horses he loved.

Born into a family with an abusive father, Buck spends his childhood years in fear, always waiting for the next beating. He begins his career as a true life cowboy at the tender age of three, performing as a trick roper with his brother. By the age of six, he turns professional and is featured on TV. He enjoys performing, since this brings him great excitement and lots of positive feelings. But sometimes, the performances are followed by more hard times with his father, if Buck’s performance isn’t up to par. The death of his mother causes things to decline even further, until finally he is removed from his father’s custody and put into foster care.

Thanks to the guidance of his compassionate, smart, foster parents, Buck begins to recover and starts on the path which he was truly meant to travel. Under the tutelage of his adoptive father, Buck learns about horses and he connects with them in a way he had never expected that he could. He throws his total self into the care of the horses, finding safety and a companionship that he has never known before. The horses become his loyal friends, his confidants.

Buck’s eye opening realization comes when training young colts, as he watches their confusion and fear. Finally, he has found “someone” that understands his fear. The horses, in fact, become Buck’s mirror. Later, training under Ray Hunt, a well-known horse trainer, Buck instinctively knows that he has to train the horses with kindness and gentleness.  And he takes right to it, with all his heart. “I don’t know what this is,” he says, “but I need this.”

Buck Brannaman photo credit to Cindy Meehl

Buck soaks in everything he can from Hunt, nourishing his own soul with every word. Eventually, he runs his own seminars. As word gets around, Buck becomes very much in demand all over the country. About his training method, Buck says “Don’t treat them the way they are, treat them the way you want them to be.”

The relationship between man and horse comes alive on the screen in the story about Buck, showing the remarkable and profound lessons that animals can teach us. “A horse lives in the moment, and with the right treatment horses have the ability to make changes. Live in the moment – you can’t be in two places at once,” states Buck.

For those who are struggling with a difficult past or present, Buck says, “The cycle can be broken at any time – whether in the lives of horses, or in a cycle of your own life. I learned from the past. My dad couldn’t have been a worse dad, and in a strange way, that taught me how to be a good father.” Traveling nine months out of the year to conduct four-day training seminars for horses and their owners, Buck lives a solitary life, yet somehow finds a way to remain very close to his wife and daughter.

Buck Brannaman as himself in BUCK directed by Cindy Meehl

Audiences will be enamored with Buck’s gentle manner, quiet ways, and positive vision. The transformation from scared child to confident and successful man will give hope to anyone looking to change their life. Animal lovers will also find a special connection to the man who has somehow found a way to communicate with horses.

He is a living example of how it is possible to endure hardships and rise above the pain.  We can all learn from Buck and from the animals in our lives. Kindness and compassion will always win over difficulties. We all have the power to break the cycle.

Buck will be in local theaters at the end of June.

Check out some of Positive Impact’s other Living Treasures here!


Sundance Institute – 30 Years of Supporting Independent Filmmakers

By: Mary F. Dado

Interview by: Amber McDonald

Truth flickers in the dark every January in Park City. It’s the Sundance Film Festival in Utah: a celebration of freedom of expression.

The Sundance Institute is the creative juggernaut behind the radiant face of the festival. Unleashed by Robert Redford thirty years ago, this organization gives unfettered minds a forum to create beyond the industry; and far, far away from the conventional.

In an interview for Positive Impact Magazine, Keri Putnam, executive director of Sundance Institute, explains that financial support is vital for artists “in order to take risks and utilize creativity.” She says it is the intention of Sundance Institute to provide funding for producers and filmmakers who strive to make films that are inventive and visionary in nature.

“We aim to discover and develop independent artists across the globe,” Putnam said. “We strive to be an organization that nurtures creativity and innovation — not just for the time an artist comes to our Labs, which provide a very private environment for artists to work, but also through support that continues as long as the artist wants to be involved.”

Taika Waititi - Something Beginning with Love - 05 Sundance Film Lab - by Michael McRae

Sundance began with a workshop and a handful of talented visionaries and has since morphed into a movement. Today’s roster has an artist exposing a complex character, and a director experimenting with a new way of telling a story. Tomorrow’s roster will be even more intriguing.

“The Institute was founded to support artists by creating environments that foster independence, discovery, and new voices in film,” Putnam says.

“Over the years, we have expanded beyond our American shores, grown a successful theatre program, and continually sought out the risk-taking story-tellers of our time,” she adds.

At Sundance, independent works are not curtailed by studio or commercial pressures. Instead they are fostered and then showcased in this oasis for filmmakers and cinema hounds. And because of the esteem Sundance has earned, it has been able to stream purposeful and devilishly delicious movies to the masses. The films of Sundance illuminate small moments like an innocent girl’s dream to win the Little Miss Sunshine beauty contest, her story framed against the backdrop of her dysfunctional family. Sundance has even sent fierce talents like Quentin Tarantino screaming like a comet into a theatre near you with his chilling “Reservoir Dogs” – both cinematic milestones.

However, while mainstream success with well-known industry names may be nice, it is Sundance’s mission to discover and bring exposure to those artists unfamiliar with the likes of red carpets and spotlights. Putnam references a Sundance Institute program, which works to scout and identify Native American and Indigenous artists as well as provide the support to get their work made and shown. These filmmakers can then bring their art back to native lands, she says.

“We cultivate artists who are telling the stories that connect us,” Putnam says.

High-Tech Tapestry

This year, Sundance lets us venture to more places never before visited with Kevin McDonald’s “Life in a Day” that chronicles the results of a global cinematic experiment.  Executive produced by Ridley Scott, this opus documents one day as seen through the eyes of people around the world. In collaboration with YouTube, the film’s creators solicited the “world-at-large” and asked them to present their perspective on the things they love…hate…or experience during one day in time (July 24, 2010), by shooting and uploading their video to the YouTube channel.

The result was 80,000 clips and 4500 hours of footage. A 90-minute film was crafted – a high-tech tapestry of our world shot by the people living in it. This film created a digital time capsule and another salute to the artistic heart, courtesy of Sundance.

Group Discussion - 2009 Theatre Lab - by Fred Hayes

The “S” list

Sundance symbolizes the spirit of innovation. It attracts “A” list actors, writers, producers and directors because it’s like a summer camp where the shackles of convention get checked at the gate and workshops encourage talent in an atmosphere of a non-judgmental community.

Because there are no limits, creatives have the opportunity to play (and write and direct) against type and leave behind the mainstream labels typically associated with their talents.

It has beckoned the likes of Patricia Clarkson, J.K. Simmons, Melissa Leo, Ed Harris, Vera Farmiga and the fearless Paul Giamatti who’s gone full circle. Paul went from his breakout role as lead actor in “American Splendor” (which took first honors at the 2003 Festival), to his mainstream foothold with the 2004 independent romantic comedy “Sideways,” to a nuanced and award-winning performance as John Adams on the HBO mini-series in 2008, to his heart-rending turn as Barney Panofsky in “Barney’s Version” in 2010, to attorney Mike Flaherty in his 2011 Sundance contribution, “Win Win.” Where would the brilliant, the offbeat, the Paul Giamattis of the world be without Sundance?

Tell a story – reveal beauty – expose injustice

Keri Putnam - 2010 - by Fred Hayes

The Sundance Institute doesn’t just move to a beat; it twists and shouts amidst a cacophony of sights and sounds and produces celluloid nirvana.

Thirty years ago, Robert Redford invited ten filmmakers to the Sundance Institute Filmmakers and Directors Lab. In this isolated setting, writers and directors first collaborated on independent film projects. Since then, the secrets and passions and imagination of us as a people have been captured in moving images to forever be relished and contemplated.

The Sundance film festival continues to be a highly regarded event among filmmakers and acts as a platform to showcase innovation and imagination year after year. One of the new ways Sundance Institute is working to connect art with audiences includes an initiative with The President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities to screen ten films in fourteen locations around the world, Putnam says.

According to Putnam, much of the institute’s current work focuses on artist development. They have Labs for screenwriters, directors, producers, documentary film editors, screenwriters, playwrights, and composers that provide a private, creative place in which to explore their art with the help of established creatives, she says.

“I love when an artist first comes to us with an idea and a vision, and comes back to us as someone who has seen success and is now in a place to offer their support to new, burgeoning artists,” Putnam expresses.

Writer and composer Stew was a fresh artist in need of guidance and space to create when he came to the Sundance Institute in 2004 and joined its Theatre Lab, she says. Since then, Stew has reached major theatrical success and returned to Sundance in March 2011, now serving as a creative advisor for a theatre project based out of Tanzania.

“Stew first came to our Lab with a stack of coffee-stained pages in his backpack, and within a few years that stack of coffee-stained pages was the Tony-Award winning musical, Passing Strange,” Putnam says. “By supporting such talent, the institute builds an incredible community of artists who have a common experience with us and whose influences extend far across the globe.”

Mary Dado is native of Manhattan and is an award winning writer. Since relocating to Palm Harbor, FL, she founded Business Writing, Ink., a company that assists business owners with website content, blog posts, newsletter articles, email campaigns, and any of custom copywriting and editing needs. To indulge her love for the written word, Mary works as a freelance writer for various magazines and periodicals.


Robert Redford–Shining Star for the Environment

By: Rachel Schaeffer – Columnist for Living Treasures

I suppose the real question about Robert Redford is, what doesn’t he do? On the website of his latest venture, the Redford Center, is a call to action: “There are countless ways to get engaged…Now more than ever the world needs all of us pitching in…It doesn’t mean you have to change your life, but chances are you will change someone else’s.” Find out more about this and other life changing efforts he is making in “Robert Redford: A Shining Star for the Environment.”


Robert Redford–Shining Star for the Environment

By: Rachel Schaeffer – Columnist for Living Treasures

This past October, Robert Redford was knighted in the Legion of Honor, France’s highest cultural honor. The elite recognition of merit recognizes not only military, but also cultural, scientific, or social contributions of people from any nationality.

In a ceremony at the Paris presidential palace, French President Nicolas Sarkozy pinned a red-ribbon medal on the 74-year-old actor, director and environmentalist. Redford was recognized for both his lengthy film career and for his loyal efforts to protect the environment.

Sarkozy said “You are the incarnation of the United States and all that the country represents…We need friends like you who have the courage to try to wake up people’s consciousness.”

Redford has indeed shone and ridden valiantly through the fields of entertainment in his career that has spanned over four decades. Many think of him as “The Sundance Kid,” from his breakthrough role in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid in 1969, alongside beloved friend Paul Newman. Four years later, Redford became the number one box office actor in The Way We Were and The Sting. His directorial debut was in 1980 with Ordinary People, which won him an Academy Award for Best Director.

Actor Robert Redford Photo By: © Denis Makarenko | Dreamstime.com

What Redford has given back to the film industry is equally impressive. In 2002, he won an Honorary Award at the Oscars not only for his many roles as actor, director and producer, but also as founder and president of the inspirational Sundance Institute and Sundance Film Festival in the mountains of Utah.

Founded in 1981, Sundance Institute has been the creative playground for innumerable new voices in the world of independent film, theater and the musical arts. Sundance offers workshops, labs, fellowships and mentoring support in everything from documentary film to The Native American and Indigenous Program. The Sundance Film Festival is one of the most famous film festivals in the world.

Even at Sundance, Redford is clean and green, from his choice of cars to the Film Festival’s efforts of walking paths, shuttles and recycling. As a young boy, Redford enjoyed the ocean and the Sierras, and worked at Yosemite National Park. In an interview with Bob Edwards, Redford said, “I got exposed to some of the most majestic power I had ever experienced—it was real, it was live…I think that’s where it started.”

Redford has spoken on behalf of nature for his entire adult life. As a filmmaker, he produced films as far back as 1979 to bring attention to conservation. The Solar Film, for example, was nominated for an Academy Award.

Redford is on the Board of Trustees of the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), an organization dedicated to solving the most challenging environmental issues. Redford explained that he needed to consolidate his energies behind a group that he believed had the most power and that was NRDC because they had the power to go to court.

Along with members of congress, NRDC and other preservation groups, Redford used his voice to halt the Bureau of Land Management from auctioning and leasing over 100,000 acres of Utah wilderness to gas and oil companies in 2009, during the final days of the Bush administration.

Redford wrote the forward to A Force For Nature: The Story of NRDC and the Fight to Save Our Planet (Chronicle Books, 2010), authored by environmentalist and founder of NRDC John Adams and his wife, Patricia Adams. He has been the narrator for numerous NRDC videos including recently produced, The Fix: Robert Redford Reflects on the Gulf Oil Disaster.

In narrating The Fix, Redford says of the disaster, “…What can’t be disguised are the consequences…eleven people were killed…the economic consequences are going to spread… ”

As a prolific writer at the progressive news website The Huffington Post, Redford discusses such topics as conservationism and renewable resources, repeatedly echoing the notion that we have a legacy to pass down to our children and our children’s children as their birthright. In a December 2008 post, Redford writes,

“You can’t put a price on silence or solitude. You can’t quantify the beauty of wilderness.”

The sheer number and prestige of organizations that have recognized Redford’s extraordinary contribution to the environment are very impressive. In 1987, he won the United Nations Global 500 Award; in 1997, he received the National Medal for the Arts by President Clinton; in 1989, it was the Audubon Medal Award. Time magazine named Redford a “Hero of the Environment” in 2007.

Redford was presented with the ROBIE Humanitarian Award at the 2009 Jackie Robinson Foundation awards ceremony, an honor bestowed upon recipients who use their talents for creating a better world. Also in 2009, Redford was the first-ever recipient of the Duke LEAF (Lifetime Environmental Achievement in the Fine Arts) awarded to

“an artist whose work has lifted the human spirit by conveying our profound spiritual and material connection to the Earth, thereby inspiring others to help forge a more sustainable future for all.”

His latest vision, inspired by Redford and his children James, Shauna, and Amy, is the Redford Center in Berkeley, CA, opened in 2009. According to their website, they are “a group driven by creative innovation and social activism, seeking to shape programs that inspire hope and deepen commitments to social issues.”  Events include topics such as Greening America’s Schools and The Art of Activism with Newark, New Jersey Mayor Cory Booker.

Redford is quoted on this creative and inspiring site, “We can’t expect to create the change we seek if we aren’t living as part of the solution.”

Living the solution with deep compassion, Redford is truly a national treasure, acting on behalf of what he considers our country’s sacred natural treasures. A humble and private knight, Redford receives his recognitions graciously with the hope that they garner more attention and action toward saving and protecting what he holds most dear –his Queen, Nature herself.