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Whiplash claims top prizes at Sundance Film Festival (2014)


Story by Jack Foley

DRUMMING drama Whiplash has taken the grand jury prize and the audience award at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.

Written and directed by Damien Chazelle, the film – which opened this year’s showcase of independent film – follows an obsessive jazz drummer (played by Miles Teller) and won near universal acclaim. It has since been bought by Sony Picture Classics, which will bring it to a wider audience.

Ironically, Chazelle won the US fiction short film grand jury prize last year at Sundance for his original short version of Whiplash and then decided to expand it into a feature and bring it back.

“I remember my first time here was with a short, and the whole reason we made a short was because of my experiences as a drummer,” he said, upon accepting his award. “No one wanted to finance the film because no one wants to make a film about a jazz drummer – surprising!”

The double win at Sundance will also lend the film a higher profile as it rolls out at other festivals around the world, prior to cinema releases.

This year’s documentary prize – one of co-founder Robert Redford’s most cherished categories – was won by Rich Hill, which follows a group of teenagers living in a deprived area of rural America.

Co-director Tracy Droz Tragos dedicated the win to the film’s subjects, saying: “This is a small film but it’s got a big heart and we dedicate it to the families of Rich Hill, Missouri, and the families in this film: the three boys and their families who were so brave and so lovely to let us into their lives and to trust us and reveal some stuff that was so tough.”

Further prizes went to Alive Inside: A Story of Music & Memory, a film that explores the effect of music on elderly patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. It claimed the US documentary audience award.

Chapel Perilous, a comedy about a man who is visited by a salesman with nothing to sell, won the short film audience prize, which is sponsored by YouTube and based on the number of online hits each entry had.

And Burger, about an evening in a fast food restaurant as groups of people from different walks of life meet for the first time, took a special jury award as well as an acting prize for Welsh actor Mathew David and a directing one for Norwegian director Magnus Mork.

The film was funded by Iris Film Prize.

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