"Push" claims top prizes at Sundance

Sat Jan 24, 2009 11:13pm EST
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By Bob Tourtellotte

PARK CITY, Utah (Reuters) - "Push: Based on the Novel by Sapphire" claimed three prizes on Saturday including best drama by the jury and audiences at the Sundance Film Festival, putting it on 2009's must-see list for independent film fans.

The dark drama about an overweight teenage girl growing up in Harlem who is neglected and abused by her parents, also earned a special jury prize for acting for Mo'Nique, who shed her image as a comedienne to take the role as the girl's mother.

"This movie made us laugh, made us cry and basically blew our minds," writer/director Mike White, who was on the five-member jury that picked the movie, told the audience at the Sundance awards ceremony.

Lee Daniels, director of "Push," held back tears as he thanked both Sundance organizers and the jury, saying they "tapped into the truth of what I was trying to get at."

He said the movie was important because "it spoke to every minority in Harlem, that's in Detroit, that's in Watts ... that can't read, that's obese and we turn our back on."

Documentary honors were split among several titles, with "We Live in Public," which chronicled 10 years in the life of Internet pioneer Josh Harris, winning the jury prize, and "The Cove," about the capturing of wild dolphins in the town of Taiji, Japan, taking home the audience award.

Sundance, backed by Robert Redford's Sundance Institute for filmmaking, is the top gathering for U.S. independent cinema, and each year the movies seen there are released to fanfare in theaters around the United States and the world.

Award winners are named by juries of industry veterans, as well as by voting from audiences. A win gives the movies a promotional boost as they enter the crowded market for mostly low-budget movies made outside Hollywood's mainstream studios.   Continued...

<p>A crowd gathers outside a screening at the Egyptian Theater at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah in this January 20, 2006 file photo. TRAVEL-SUNDANCE/ REUTERS/Sam Mircovich/Files</p>