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Vanessa Carlton

Sundance Showcases Rising Talent

Every January, Park City, Utah lights up with the stars of Hollywood who leave warmer climates to flock to the Sundance Film Festival. At the end of the week-long festival, awards and prizes were given away to outstanding independent films and documentaries, and break-through directors at the Sundance awards ceremony. In attendance were Kevin Smith, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Marisa Tomei, and Rita Wilson, among many other celebs. Other famous faces spotted around town included the Hilton sisters, Paris and Nicky, Carmen Electra, Jenny McCarthy and Pam Anderson, Keanu Reeves, Brooke Burns and Jared Leto, who came out to watch films starring themselves or their friends. Ex-couple Shannon Doherty and Rick Solomon were spotted holding hands as if they were an on-again couple. Stars such as Minnie Driver took advantage of the festival's snowy location as they also took to the slopes to ski. Late night parties were as abundant as the snow.

The Sundance Institute aims at promoting and honoring the artistic drive and achievement behind fresh filmmakers such as Craig Brewer who said, "I want to reinforce that for guys like me who have been making movies on DV and lighting them with Home Depot clamp lights and cutting them on our computers, Sundance is the dream." Winner of the American Dramatic Audience Award was Brewer's Hustle and Flow, which stars Terrence Howard playing a Memphis pimp who, sparked by a mid-life crisis, decides to pursue a career as a rap star.

The Sundance Film Festival is famous for promoting individuality and diversity. Most winning films embodied not just ingenuity but political potency as well. Eugene Jarecki's Why We Fight took home the American Documentary Grand Jury Prize for its depiction of the war in Iraq and the ideological forces that drive American militarism.

"It was a humbling experience to see the films I saw here and the extraordinary voices communicating a vision of this country as it leads the world," Jarecki said. "It's terribly crucial for the rest of the world to see."

Exceptionally unique story-lines are always a favorite at Sundance. This year, the Grand Jury Prize was awarded to director Ira Sachs for his work Forty Shades of Blue, a film about a Russian woman encountering an unusual situation when her much older Rock-n-Roll legend husband's stepson comes to visit. The Dramatic Jury awarded Special Jury Prizes for Originality of Vision to Miranda July who wrote, directed and acted in Me and You and Everyone We Know, a big favorite among critics as it describes a rare struggle between a lonely shoe salesman and an eccentric performance artist trying to make a connection.

Commending the eccentric and unfamiliar, but still the honest and biographical, Henry-Alex Rubin and Dana Adam Shapiro scored in directing a film about quadriplegics who play wheelchair rugby as a full-contact sport. Murderball grabs not just the gold at the Paralympic Games in Athens, Greece but the American Documentary Audience Award as well.

As always, Sundance brought in reigning stars and fresh filmmakers of incredible talent and craft to the icy mountains of Utah. Nothing beats a great flick to make you forget you ever left the sunshine of Hollywood to become a Park City snow bunny!

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