Sundance Film Festival 2015: The Crowd Pleasers and the Underdogs

By Javin Dana

Catlin Speak (Portland, Oregon)

Every year, Sundance shatters cinematic bounds by bringing something entirely new to the realm of cinema. Whether it be the success of Sundance directors, such as the Coen Brothers (“Blood Simple” in 1985) and Quentin Tarantino (“Reservoir Dogs” in 1991), or the birth of rich cinematic pieces, like the recent “Boyhood” (2014), Sundance continues to be attributed to the success and growth of film worldwide.

This year was no different. The Sundance Film Festival took place from Jan. 22 to Feb. 1 in Park City, Utah, featuring a plethora of films from different countries around the world ranging from the grotesque to the beautiful.

Sundance category winners are determined by a panel of professional judges (named the ‘Jury’), who decide on the ‘Jury Award Winners’, and audience votes—which of course decide the ‘Audience Award Winners’.

The major categories and winners this year were as follows:

U.S. Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic – “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl”

Directing Award: U.S. Dramatic – Robert Eggers, “The Witch”

U.S. Grand Jury Prize: Documentary – “The Wolfpack”

Directing Award: U.S. Documentary – Matthew Heineman, “Cartel Land”

World Cinema Grand Jury Prize: Documentary – “The Russian Woodpecker”

World Cinema Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic – “Slow West”

Audience Award: World Cinema Documentary – “Dark Horse”

Audience Award: World Cinema Dramatic – “Umrika”

Audience Award: U.S. Documentary – “Meru”

Audience Award: U.S. Dramatic – “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl”

As apparent by the fact that it occurred twice, the movie “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, an up-and-coming director, was both a crowd and jury favorite. The film tells the story of a high school senior, Greg (Thomas Mann), with anxiety and relationship issues. These issues have advanced so far into his life that he hopes avoid any intimate relationships for the rest of high school career. His only friend, Earl (Ronald Tyler II), is an African American teen who lives in a lower-income part of town. However, his life is changed when his mother forces him to spend time with a girl in his class Rachel (Olivia Cooke). However, the catch is she’s just recently been diagnosed with Leukemia. The story follows his struggle and coming-of-age as he attempts to reconcile with his own personal issues, the changing of his relationships and the imminent dangers in his friendships.

The next Sundance Festival will take place in early 2016.

About Grace Masback

Grace Masback, 17, aspires to give voice to the voiceless and holds the modest ambition of becoming the voice of Gen Z. Frustrated by the dearth of impactful platforms for teen journalists, she founded WANT, a news, sports, and entertainment website that aggregates the best in high school journalism from school newspapers and teen bloggers around the world (www.wantnewsforteens.com).

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