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Sundance and NHK Announce International Filmmakers Awards

Winners receive $100,000 to help with next films

The Sundance Institute and NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation) announced the winners of the 2010 Sundance / NHK International Filmmakers Awards on Friday. The four winners were selected from 12 finalists by members of an International Jury.

The annual award recognizes and supports filmmakers from Europe, Latin America, the United States and Japan on their next films. Each winner receives approximately $100,000 ($10,000 as a cash award and a guarantee from NHK to purchase the Japanese television broadcast rights). In addition, Sundance Institute staffers work closely with the winners throughout the year, providing creative and strategic support through the development, financing and production of their films. The awards will be presented at Saturday’s awards ceremony.

The winning filmmakers and projects are: Amat Escalante, "Heli" from Mexico; Andrey Zvyagintsev, "Elena" from Russia; Daisuke Yamaoka, "The Wonderful Lives at Asahigaoka" (written with Yugo Eto) from Japan; and Benh Zeitlin, "Beasts of the Southern Wild (written with Lucy Alibar) from the United States.

“The Sundance / NHK award is part of the Sundance Institute Feature Film Program’s year-round commitment to support singular voices in world cinema,” Michelle Satter, director, Sundance Institute Feature Film Program, said in a statement "We expect that the vision and innovative storytelling of this year’s four winners will resonate far beyond their countries of origin."

The Winners of the 2010 Sundance/NHK International Filmmakers Award are:

Amat Escalante / Heli (Mexico) In a small Mexican town, where most citizens work for an automobile assembly plant or the local drug cartel, Heli is confronted with police corruption, drug trafficking, sexual exploitation, love, guilt and revenge in the search for his father who has mysteriously disappeared.

Born in 1979, Amat Escalante is a self-taught filmmaker from Guanajuato, Mexico. At age 15, he began to devote himself completely to cinema. His first feature Sangre premiered in Un Certain Regard at the Cannes Film Festival 2005, where it received the Fipresci Prize. His second feature film Los Bastardos also premiered in the Official Selection Un Certain Regard Cannes in 2008 and won numerous awards including Best Film at the Morelia, Sitges and Mar del Plata film festivals. It has been distributed worldwide, including Mexico, USA, France and Canada.

Andrey Zvyagintsev / Elena (Russia) An elderly woman who has lived with her rich husband in a large, comfortable home tries to rescue her alcoholic son from poverty and give his family the opportunity for a better life that she alone could not provide.

Andrey Zvyagintsev graduated from The Russian Academy of Theatre Arts (GITIS) where he was trained as an actor, then worked on independent theatre projects and acted in TV series and films. In 2000 Andrei made his first short TV fiction films as a director. His first motion picture The Return was nominated for the Golden Globe after winning the Golden Lion and the Lion of the Future for the best director’s debut at the Venice Film Festival. His second feature film BANISHMENT premiered at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival where Konstantin Lavronenko won the award for Best Leading Actor Award, the first ever for a Russian actor.

Benh Zeitlin / Beasts of the Southern Wild (USA) (written with Lucy Alibar) In the Louisiana Delta, a ferocious ten-year-old girl refuses to evacuate her home without her dying father as the Southern Apocalypse descends upon them.

Raised by two folklorists in Queens, NY, Benh Zeitlin is a director, animator, and composer for the Court 13 coterie. Director of award-winning shorts Eggs, Origins of Electricity, I Get Wet and Glory at Sea, Filmmaker Magazine recently named him one of the “25 New Faces of Independent Film.” Zeitlin participated in the 2009 June Screenwriters and Directors Lab and is the recipient of a Sundance grant from the Annenberg Foundation. He currently resides in New Orleans where he is developing two feature films and transforming Glory at Sea’s ship, the U.S.S Jimmy Lee, into a rolling, pop-corn making, movie projector cum Mardi-Gras float in preparation for Carnival 2010.

Daisuke Yamaoka / The Wonderful Lives at Asahigaoka (Japan) (written with Yugo Eto) A young woman’s suicide attempt leaves her in a coma but stirs up the lives of the people around her in the sleepy riverside town of Asahigaoka.

Daisuke Yamaoka worked for production companies before completing Lost Girl in 2007. Lost Girl was released in 2009 and exhibited in Shibuya’s Eurospace Theater and screened at the Dresden International Film Festival in Germany. Mika and Seijun screened at the Philadelphia International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, Austin International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival and won the Toru Murakami Award at the Yamagata International Movie Festival. His film Death: The Only Cure for Idiots from Kanagawa University was a runner-up in the Kanagawa Film Concours Grand Prize.