Sundance: ‘Whiplash’ Sweeps Top Dramatic Awards, ‘Rich Hill’ Takes Documentary Prize

The Miles Teller film grabs both audience and jury prizes, “Rich Hill” wins best documentary

Damien Chazelle’s “Whiplash,” starring Miles Teller as a success-obsessed jazz drummer who struggles under the harsh tutelage of his conductor, swept the jury and audience awards at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival Awards on Saturday night, a year after the director’s short of the same name won an award at the festival. “Fruitvale Station” earned the same dual victory last year, initiating Michael B. Jordan‘s ascent to stardom.

Teller may be on the same path, but Saturday it was Chazelle on-stage basking in the affection of his peers. He thanked Sundance for making the award possible, and his composer for helping with the music. He initially made the short on his own because “no one wants to make a movie about a jazz drummer.” It turns out people do — provided Chazelle is the one making it. Sony Pictures Classics acquired the film shortly after its premiere. 

It was one of the few films that everyone liked during a festival that produced no breakout hit or uniform favorite, and, accordingly, the awards were spread out among more than a dozen films. Though “Whiplash” won the two top awards in its category, no film won more than two awards the whole night.

Also read: Miles Teller in ‘Whiplash’ Opens Sundance With a Rousing Bang

The documentary “Rich Hill,” telling the story of Rich Hill, Missouri (population 1393) and how life had become difficult as the failing economy hit three families hard, won the Grand Jury documentary prize.  The film was made by cousins Tracy Droz Tragos & Andrew Droz Palermo, and funded on Kickstarter, like many films at the festival. Another crowdfunded film, Michael Rossato-Bennett’s “Alive Inside,” took the audience award. Rossato-Bennet’s film tracks social worker Dan Cohen as he realizes that music can help patients suffering from Dementia recover memories.

“Watchers of the Sky” won a pair of awards in the U.S. documentary categories, earning a special prize for use of animation, as well as the editing award. “20,000 Days on Earth” was the only world cinema competitor to win more than one award, taking the prizes for directing and editing of a documentary.

Nick Offerman and Megan Mullally hosted the annual fete, and spent the majority of their opening monologue joking about their sex life.

“Our frenzied coitus is the stuff of legend, there’s no place we’d rather get our swerve on than right here in Sundance,” Mullally said. Not to be outdone, Offerman added, “There’s something about a movie made outside of the studio system that makes me want to buy some popcorn in Megan’s downstairs lobby.”

Offerman was at Sundance this year for a stand-up special, made with “Kings of Summer” director Jordan Vogt-Roberts. At a certain point in the evening, he donned Vogt-Roberts’ bushy fur coat — an accessory that’s made the hirsute director easy to spot in Park City these past two years.

Also read: Sundance Day 3: Gay Marriage Dominates Festival With ‘Case Against 8,’ ‘Love Is Strange’

The ceremony began with the Alfred P. Sloan award, handed out to the festival’s best science fiction movie. Mike Cahill’s second feature film, “I, Origins,” about a scientist (Michael Pitt) studying the evolution of the eye, gave Cahill two Sloan awards in four years after the 2011 victory of his first movie, “Another Earth.” Cahill was not in attendance, as he returned home or the birth of his first child. This was a recurring gag for the first half of the show, as most of the winners in the world cinema categories dispatched video messages shot with their kids in their stead.

The awards for most shorts, which were available on YouTube throughout the festival, wee bestowed in advance. The one prize given out Sunday night was the audience award, which went to  Matthew Lessner’s “Chapel Perilous.” The 13-minute comedic short is about a door-to-door salesman whose visit at Levi Gold’s home prompts Gold to reevaluate his life. Lessner has screened work at the festival twice before — ashort in 2008 and his first feature, “The Woods,” in 2011.

Here is the full list of winners:

U.S.Dramatic Grand Jury Prize — “Whiplash,” Damien Chazelle

U.S. Documentary Grand Jury Prize — “Rich Hill,” Tracy Droz Tragos and Andrew Droz Palermo

U.S. Dramatic Audience Award — “Whiplash,” Damien Chazelle

Also read: Sundance Video: Wrap Industry Panel Tells Filmmakers to Be Personal, Have a Hook and a Plan

U.S. Documentary Audience Award  — “Alive Inside,” Michael Rossato-Bennett

U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award  — “The Overnighters,” Jesse Moss

U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Animation — “Watchers of the Sky,” Edet Belzberg

U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Musical Score — “Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter,” Octopus Project

U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Breakthrough Talent — Justin Simien, “Dear White People”

U.S. Dramatic Directing Award — “Fishing Without Nets,” Cutter Hodierne

U.S. Documentary Directing Award — “The Case Against 8,” Ben Cotner and Ryan White

U.S. Documentary Editing Award — “Watchers of the Sky,” Jenny Golden and Karen Sim

U.S. Dramatic Award for Cinematography — “Low Down,” Christopher Blauvelt

U.S. Documentary Award for Cinematography — “E-Team,” Rachel Beth Anderson and Ross Kauffman

Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award — “The Skeleton Twins,” Craig Johnson and Mark Heyman

Best of Next Audience Award: Malik Vitthal

World Cinema Dramatic Audience Award  — “Difret,” Zeresenay Berhane Mehari

World Cinema Documentary Audience Award  — “The Green Prince,” Nadav Schirmin

World Cinema Dramatic Grand Jury Prize — “To Kill A Man,” Alejandro Fernandez Almendas

World Cinema Documentary Grand Jury Prize  — “Return to Homs,” Talal Derki

World Cinema Special Jury Prize: Dramatic — “God Help the Girl,” Stuart Murdoch

World Cinema Jury Prize: Documentary – “We Come as Friends,” Hubert Sauper

World Cinema Dramatic Directing Award  – “52 Tuesday,” Sophie Hyde

World Cinema Documentary Directing Award  —  “20,000 Days on Earth,” Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard

World Cinema Cinematography Award: Dramatic  — “Lilting,” Ula Pontikus

World Cinema Documentary Cinematography Award  — “Happiness,” Thomas Balmes and Nina Bernfeld

World Cinema Dramatic Screenwriting Award — “Blind,” Eskil Vogt

World Cinema Documentary Award for Editing — “20,000 Days on Earth,” Jonathan Amos

Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film — “I, Origins”

Short Film Audience Award — “Chapel Perilous,” Matthew Lessner

Short Film Grand Jury Prize – “Of Gods and Dogs,” Abounaddara Collective

Short Film Jury Award, US Fiction: “Gregory Go Boom,” Janicza Bravo

Short Film Jury Award, International Fiction: “The Cut,” Genevieve Dulude-Decelles

Short Film Jury Award, Non-Fiction – “I Think This Is the Closest to How the Footage Leaked,” Yuval Hameiri and Michal Vaknin

Special Jury Award, Acting — Joel Nagle, “Palimpsest”

Short Film Jury Award, Animation – “Yearbook,” Bernardo Britto

Short Film Special Jury Award for Unique Vision — “Rat Pack Rat,” Todd Rohal

Short Film Special Jury Award for Non-fiction — “Love. Love. Love.,” Sandhya Daisy Sundaram

Short Film Special Jury Award for Direction and Ensemble Acting – “Burger,” Magnus Mork