Sundance Documentary Winners: Restrepo & The Red Chapel win Grand Jury Prizes

As it’s 4am here in England this post is brought to you by severe jet lag and copious amounts of tea. It may be the only time I’m ever grateful for the loopy wide-eyed effects of adjusting to timezones as it was fun to watch the Sundance awards being announced, and I got far too excited when Restrepo, Enemies of the People and Wasteland won (I’m never usually patriotic but for some reason this struck a nerve). Lucy Walker’s win for Wasteland added to her incredible achievement of having two documentaries at the festival, the other being Countdown to Zero. For my thoughts on Restrepo check out my review from a few days ago here.

I was also extremely pleased to see The Red Chapel win the World Documentary Grand Jury Prize. Although I didn’t have a favourite in either category I love that The Red Chapel uses humour to show a very difficult subject matter, again my review is here, and I urge you to see it when you can.

Morgan Spurlock presented the US Documentary Directing Award to Leon Gast for Smash his Camera with the introduction that “This honoree reminds us all how important the influence and skill of a director truly is”. Smash his Camera was an unsung gem of the documentaries shown at the festival and it was great to see it get some recognition, with Leon Gast comically double checking every person involved in the film received thanks after a previous bad experience.

There was, however, a element of sadness throughout the documentary community tonight as news had broken earlier of the tragic death of Karen Schmeer, an acclaimed editor who at the devastatingly young age of 39, was killed by a hit and run in New York on Friday night. Karen was a long-time colleague of Errol Morris having edited Fog of War, Mr Death and Fast, Cheap and Out of Control. Most recently she edited Sergio which was directed by juror Greg Barker who gave tribute tonight saying that “She loved this festival and she loved editing”.

Full List of Awards in the Documentary Competitions:

U.S. Documentary Competition

Grand Jury Prize  – Restrepo
Directed by Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington

Special Jury Prize – Gasland
Directed by Josh Fox

Directing Award – Leon Gast for Smash his Camera

Cinematography Award – Laura Poitras and Kirsten Johnson for The Oath

Editing Award – Penelope Falk for Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work

Audience Award – Waiting for Superman
Directed by Davis Guggenheim

World Cinema Documentary Competition

Grand Jury Prize – The Red Chapel
Directed by Mads Brügger

Special Jury Prize – Enemies of the People
Directed by Rob Lemkin and Thet Sambath

Directing Award – Christian Frei for Space Tourists

Cinematography Award – Kate McCullough and Michael Lavelle for His & Hers

Editing Award – Joëlle Alexis for A Film Unfinished

Audience Award – Wasteland
Directed by Lucy Walker