High school years were the focus of several Sundance Film Festival award winners this year, with Me and Earl and the Dying Girl sweeping the competition, held Saturday night in Park City, Utah. U.S. Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award for drama both went to went to the idiosyncratic and heartfelt Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, from director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon. Shy high-school student Greg (Thomas Mann) is coasting through senior year as anonymously as possible, making offbeat films with his only friend Earl (R.J. Cyler), until Greg’s mom (Connie Britton)compels him to befriend Rachel (Olivia Cooke), a girl in his class with leukemia.
This could bode well for the film’s Oscar possibilities, given that Whiplash, which is nominated for five Academy Awards, took both the same two Sundance prizes. U.S. Grand Jury Prize, documentary went to director Crystal Moselle’s The Wolfpack, the true story of six teenage brothers who have spent their entire lives locked away in a New York apartment housing project. All they know of the outside world is from movies obsessively watched and re-created.
World Cinema Grand Jury Prize, dramatic went to Slow West, directed by John Maclean, about a 16-year-old boy (Kodi Smit-McPhee) in the 19th century who travels across the American frontier in search of the woman he loves . U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award, excellence in editing went to director Rick Famuyiwa’s Dope, about a high-school senior (Shameik Moore) in a tough neighborhood in Los Angeles who finds himself juggling college applications and dodging a drug dealer at an underground party.
U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award, excellence in cinematography went to The Diary of a Teenage Girl, a coming-of age drama from director Marielle Heller about a 15-year-old aspiring comic-book artist (Bel Powley) in 1970s San Francisco who is sleeping with her mother’s boyfriend (Alexander Skarsgard).