Paste's Best of Sundance 2011

Movies  |  Features
<em>Paste</em>'s Best of Sundance 2011

After a week and a half in Park City and two more weeks watching screener DVDs, we are proud to present our own favorites from Sundance 2011. Where applicable, we’ve also listed the Festval’s own award and what that jury said about it.

Best Actor in a Leading Role:
Michael Shannon in Take Shelter
Shannon’s slowly-coming-unhinged Everyman had us on the edge of our seats for the entire film. Utterly believeable and moving. Read our review here.

Best Actress in a Leading Role:
Brit Marling in Another Earth
It would be dazzling enough had she merely co-written and co-produced the second-best feature at Sundance, but Marling’s acting is something to behold. A strong category this year, and we wouldn’t argue with Jessica Chastain, Vera Farmiga, or Juno Temple as winners either. Read our review here.

Best Actor in a Supporting Role:
John Hawkes in Martha Marcy May Marlene
Other actors having to compete with Hawkes in this category is just unfair. For the second straight year (last year it was in Winter’s Bone), Hawkes takes our award in this category. Read our review here.

Best Actress in a Supporting Role:
Kathy Bates in Take Shelter
She only has one short scene to explain (or suggest) so much about the story in general, and Michael Shannon’s character in particular. And she does it with such an understated simplicity. Read our review here.

Breakout Performance:
Juno Temple in Little Birds
Temple turned in one of the best performances of the entire festival as the wayward adolescent exploring the big city. The combination of cocksure confidence and nagging insecurity has never been so compelling. Read our review here.

Winner of the World Cinema Grand Jury Prize, Documentary:
Hell and Back Again, directed by Danfung Dennis (U.K./U.S.A.)
What the jury said: “A film which is simple but powerful. It almost blew the filmmaker away, but fortunately did not. Instead, it blew everyone else away.”
Paste Award for World Cinema, Documentary:
An African Election, directed by Jarreth Merz (Switzerland)
Incredibly enough, the retelling of a closely contested election in Ghana turns out to be the most fingernail-biting thriller of the entire fest. An object lesson in democracy at work, and a thrill a minute. Read our review here.

Winner of the World Cinema Grand Jury Prize, Dramatic:
Happy, Happy (Sykt Lykkelig), directed by Anne Sewitsky (Norway)
What the jury said: “A film that made the jury laugh and had us identifying with characters very far removed from our own lives. A film that accomplished the very difficult task of exposing pain and heartache through humor.”
Paste Award for World Cinema, Dramatic:
Kinyarwanda, directed by Alrick Brown (Rwanda)
The Norweigan film was quite enjoyable, but pales in comparison to the originality, audacity, and sheer emotional force of the first film ever to come out of Rwanda. Read our review here.

Winner of the Best of NEXT! Audience Award:
to.get.her, directed by Erica Dunton
Paste Award for NEXT!/New Frontier/Park City Midnight:
to.get.her, directed by Erica Dunton
There were several outstanding films among the smaller sections this year (Jess+Moss deserves special mention) but none so heartfelt, moving and challenging as Erica Dunton’s stunner in the NEXT! section. A film you’ll still be thinking about weeks later. Read our review here.

Winner of the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award:
Another Happy Day, written by Sam Levinson
What the jury said: “For writing that was both hilarious and mature, and for bringing life to so many diverse characters.”
Paste Award for Screenwriting:
Another Earth, written by Mike Cahill and Brit Marling
It’s always impressive when someone takes a premise that sounds ridiculous and treats in with a straight face—and succeeds (last year’s Sympathy for Delicious springs to mind). But Cahill and Marling embued their script with an emotional wallop that is impossible to ignore. Read our review here.

Winner of the U.S. Documentary Competition Grand Jury Prize:
How to Die in Oregon, directed by Peter D. Richardson
What the jury said: “A film both moving and scary, with a few laughs and many, many tears. First and foremost it’s a film about how we can embrace life on its own terms. It also happens to be a film about how we die.”
Paste Award for U.S. Documentary:
Connected, directed by Tiffany Shlain
Improbably, the most thought-provoking documentary of the festival turns out to be the most personal and nakedly emotional one as well. Read our review here.

Winner of the U.S. Dramatic Competition Grand Jury Prize:
Like Crazy, directed by Drake Doremus
What the jury said: “A film that spoke with such overwhelming honesty that not one member of the jury has been able to shake its unflinching examination of love, separation, and what eventually brings any two people together. It is a remarkably moving film, shot sparingly but with incredible emotional depth. It broke our hearts, then put them back together again. A shining example of why we all come to this festival.”
Paste Award for U.S. Dramatic:
Take Shelter, directed by Jeff Nichols
It’s a film that works on many levels, many of which are only evident in retrospect. Like a boxer working his opponent’s body for rounds, you don’t quite realize the cumulative impact of its workings until the knockout blow comes. Read our review here.

Best Sundance Documentary:
The Interrupters, directed by Steve James
James would justifiably be a legend if Hoop Dreams was all he ever gave the world, but he continues his legacy with a documentary that brings true heroes to light. Read our review here.

Best Sundance Narrative Film:
Take Shelter, directed by Jeff Nichols
See above.

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