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Sundance ends with grand prizes

PARK CITY, Utah -- "Personal Velocity," a film by Rebecca Miller telling the separate stories of three women, won the Grand Jury Prize for best feature film here Saturday night at the Sundance Film Festival.

Kyra Sedgwick, Parker Posey and Fairuza Balk star in the stories, which Miller told the audience were intended to be told "as fast as the mind thinks." The film also won for best cinematography, by Ellen Kuras, and it was significant, in a year when cable outlets and digital video were in high profile here, that it was a production of the Independent Film Channel's all-digital InDigEnt division.

The grand prize for best documentary went to "Daughter From Danang," by Gail Dolgin and Vincente Franco, which tells the story of a Vietnamese orphan, raised as a "100 percent American girl," who went back to her homeland to meet her birth mother, and found that the reunion was far from a simple thing.

In addition to the jury prizes, Sundance polls its audiences to discover the films with the most popular support. The winner of the Audience Award for feature films was the HBO-produced "Real Women Have Curves," a heartwarming film by Patricia Cardoso about a high-spirited Mexican-American teenager. Its co-stars, young America Ferrera and veteran Lupe Ontiveros, shared the jury prize for acting.

Among documentaries, the Audience Award winner was "Amandla!," also an HBO production, which traces the South African freedom struggle through its music. Directed by Lee Hirsch, "Amandla!" also won the Freedom of Expression Award sponsored by the Playboy Foundation.

Other special jury prizes included one to John Walters' "How to Draw a Bunny," a documentary about the life and death of the private, shy, charming performance artist Ray Johnson, in the feature category, and in documentaries, to Lourdes Portillo's "Senorite Extraviada," about an unsolved series of deaths of Mexican women near the American border.

A special jury prize for originality went to Steven Shainberg's "Secretary," about a troubled young woman who discovers an unexpected penchant for sadomasochism. And one for ensemble acting went to the cast of Eric Eason's "Manito," about a family from the Dominican Republic, living in a dangerous Manhattan neighborhood. The jury award in Latin American cinema went to "The Trespasser," by Beto Brant, a thriller about Brazilian corruption.

The Audience Award voting for World Cinema ended in a tie between Paul Greengrass' "Bloody Sunday," about a clash in Belfast on Jan. 30, 1972, between British soldiers and IRA backers; and Gabriele Muccino's "The Last Kiss," an Italian comedy about the interlocking lives of four couples.

The jury prize for best direction of a feature was won by Gary Winick's "Tadpole," starring Sigourney Weaver and Aaron Stanford in the "Graduate"-like story of a preppie young man who falls in love with an older woman; shot on a shoe-string budget, it made headlines here by selling to Miramax for $5 million.

For best direction of a documentary, the jury honored "Sister Helen," by Rob Fruchtman and Rebecca Cammisa, the story of an alcoholic mother of three, who, after the murder of a son and the drinking death of her husband, sobers up, becomes a Benedictine nun, and opens a halfway house in the Bronx.

The Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award went to Gordy Hoffman for "Love Liza," which starred his younger brother Philip Seymour Hoffman as a man so depressed by the death of his wife that he falls into gas-sniffing and thence into a bewildering series of misadventures. Gordy Hoffman said the screenplay drew on his experiences as a Chicago taxi driver.

The jury prize for best documentary cinematography went to Dan B. Gold for "Blue Vinyl," the story of how after director Judith Helfand's parents had their home covered with vinyl siding, she became curious about how vinyl by-products cause cancer.

The best short film was "Gasline," by Dave Silver, about the travails of a small gas station owner during the oil crisis.

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