Spirit of triumph prevails at Sundance

Sat Jan 26, 2008 11:36pm EST
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By Bob Tourtellotte

PARK CITY, UTAH (Reuters) - Two films about people working to triumph over personal tragedy took the top prizes at the Sundance Film Festival on Saturday night as the key event for U.S. independent movies honored a new generation of stars.

"Frozen River," written and directed by Courtney Hunt, won the Grand Jury Prize for best film drama, and "Trouble the Water," from directors Tia Lessin and Carl Deal, was named best documentary among the entries in Sundance's U.S. competition.

Hunt's movie, "Frozen River," captivated the five-member jury that included director Quentin Tarantino and actress Marcia Gay Harden, with a tale of two women overcoming hardship and embarking on a scheme to smuggle illegal immigrants into the United States in order to better their own lives.

Tarantino said the film "took his breath away." It was "one of the most exciting thrillers I am going to see this year."

"Trouble the Water" was judged the best U.S. documentary by a five-member jury for its tale of New Orleans residents uprooted from their homes in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

"We couldn't have predicted the despair and outrage we felt" in making the movie, said Lessin. But she added "out of that, emerged a story that is all about survival and hope."

The Sundance Film festival, which is backed by Robert Redford's Sundance Institute for Filmmaking, is the top event for moviemakers working outside Hollywood's major studios, and its winners vault into top ranks of U.S. independent cinema.

One theme festival organizers have touted this year is the emergence of a new generation of filmmakers -- writers and directors born after the U.S. baby boom years -- who are now finding their own voices and offering stories to moviegoers.   Continued...

<p>Kim Rivers (L) and Scott Roberts are shown in a scene from the film "Trouble The Water" in this September 2005 photograph. The 2008 Sundance Film Festival winners were announced January 26, 2008 in Park City, Utah, with The Grand Jury Prize: Documentary award presented to "Trouble The Water" directed by Tia Lessin and Carl Deal. REUTERS/Sundance Film Festival/Handout</p>