Indie Game’s Swirsky, Pajot among Canadian winners at Sundance

Winnipeg filmmakers James Swirsky and Lisanne Pajot were visibly shell-shocked when they walked on stage to pick up hardware at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival for their documentary, Indie Game: The Movie.

PARK CITY, Utah — Winnipeg filmmakers James Swirsky and Lisanne Pajot were visibly shell-shocked when they walked on stage to pick up hardware at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival for their documentary, Indie Game: The Movie.

The first-time feature directors won the award for best editing in the World Cinema Documentary Competition, and were the only Canadians to take home a prize in what had to be the best showing for Canadians in Sundance history, with three documentaries in competition.

“Two years ago we jumped into a Yaris with no cruise control,” said Swirsky, noting the beginning of their Cinderella story that culminated with a film in the most prestigious independent film festival in the world, as well as a development deal with Scott Rudin and HBO (The Social Network).

Indie Game: The Movie tells the largely untold story of independent game development, where teams of one or two people spend years of their lives writing code for video games. They can either go broke, or make it big.

The movie has mirrored the two former industrial producers’ own lives of late as it reaffirms the importance of personal conviction and creative control.

The winner of the two big prizes in their category was Searching for Sugar Man, a documentary that tells the story of a long-forgotten Detroit singer-songwriter named Rodriguez.

Entirely anonymous in his own country, Rodriguez became a cult sensation in South Africa, where he was worshipped as the next Bob Dylan, and sold more records at one point than The Rolling Stones.

The singer had no idea he was famous on the other side of the world, but the success of Malik Bendjelloul’s film changed that overnight. Rodriguez isn’t just famous in Park City, now that Searching for Sugar Man sold to Sony Classics in the U.S., he’ll soon become a household name.

Searching for Sugar Man won the World Cinema Audience Award as well as a special jury prize.

“I can hardly catch my breath,” said Rodriguez, as he joined the director on stage in one of the most sedate Sundance awards shows in memory.

The slated host for the night, Parker Posey, was apparently too sick to emcee the gala, leaving the microphone duties to festival director John Cooper.

Outside of a plea for everyone to “have more sex,” and a tribute to Bingham Ray, a longtime supporter of independent film who passed away at the beginning of the festival, the mood was earnest and politically committed.

Winner of the grand jury prize in the U.S. competition was Eugene Jarecki’s The House I Live In, which explores America’s exploding prison industry. Jarecki pleaded to put an end to incarcerating people for non-violent crimes.

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Sundance 2012 Winners:

World Cinema Jury Special Prize, Documentary: Searching for Sugar Man

World Cinema Documentary Editing: Indie Game: The Movie, Lisanne Pajot and James Swirsky

World Cinema Jury Prize, Documentary: The Law in These Parts, Ra’anan Alexandrowicz, director

World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Prize:, Can, Rasit Celikezer, director

World Cinema Cinematography Award, Drama: David Raedeker, My Brother the Devil

World Cinema Cinematography Award, Documentary: Lars Skree, Putin’s Kiss

World Cinema Directing Award, Documentary: Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi, 5 Broken Cameras

Shorts Audience Award: The Debutante Hunters, Maria White, director

World Cinema Audience Award: Searching for Sugar Man

Audience Award, U.S. Documentary: The Invisible War

Audience Award, U.S. Dramatic: The Surrogate

Special Jury Prizes, U.S. Documentary: Love Free or Die and Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry

U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Prize for Excellence in Independent Film Producing: Jonathan Schwartz and Andrea Sperling, Smashed and Nobody Walks

U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Prize for Ensemble Acting: The Surrogate

Excellence in Cinematography, U.S. Documentary: Chasing Ice

Excellence in Cinematography, U.S. Dramatic: Beasts of the Southern Wild

U.S. Documentary Editing Award: Detropia

Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award: Safety Not Guaranteed, Colin Trevorrow

U.S. Directing Award: The Queen of Versailles, Lauren Greenfield

U.S. Directing Award: Middle of Nowhere, Ava Duvernay

Grand Jury Prize, Documentary: The House I Live In

Grand Jury Prize, Drama: Beasts of the Southern Wild

Alfred P. Sloan Prize: Robot and Frank, Valley of Saints.

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