LA YOGA Magazine will have a presence this year at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. The prestigious 10-day independent film festival runs from January 17-27 in Park City, Utah. With 46,731 attendees in 2012, it is one of the largest independent film festivals in the United States. Sundance provides year-round creative and financial support for the development of original stories for the screen and stage.  During the festival, independent films vie for competitive awards, as well as for attention from buyers and distributors.

In past years, the festival has been responsible for bringing wider attention to such films as Garden State, The Blair Witch Project, Little Miss Sunshine, El Mariachi, Clerks, Thank You for Smoking, Sex, Lies, and Videotape, The Brothers McMullen, Hoop Dreams, Super Size Me, and Man on Wire.

2012 Sundance Film Festival Recap

The 2012 Sundance Film Festival featured 117 movies, many of which were subsequently released in theaters throughout the year . At least seven of the films screened in 2012 at Sundance received Oscar nominations for the 85th Annual Academy Awards. These selections from last year’s festival offerings are more than simply must-see films, they all definitely deserve the attention they are garnering.

2012 Sundance Dramatic Award Winners

Grand Jury Prize Dramatic and Nominated for 4 Academy Awards:
Beasts of the Southern Wild

Audience Award U.S. Dramatic and Nominated for an Academy Award:
The Sessions (originally shown under the name The Surrogate at Sundance)

World Cinema Jury Prize Dramatic:
Violeta Went to Heaven

The winner of the Grand Jury prize, Beasts of the Southern Wild (a critical and audience darling), is now a contender for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress and Best Adapted Screenplay with a total of four Oscar nominations. Brilliant performances were turned in by first-time actors Quvenzhané Wallis (six years old at the time of filming) and Dwight Henry. Beasts of the Southern Wild is a transcendent fantasy, a unique film from first-time director Benh Zeitlin, which was masterfully shot on a shoestring budget of under $2 million. The film tells the journey of Hushpuppy, a seven-year-old girl navigating the Katrina-ravaged community of “The Bathtub” in search of her long-lost mother.

The Sessions (which premiered at Sundance as The Surrogate) received the 2012 Audience Award and is a poignant story that brilliantly balances tears and laughs brilliantly. John  Hawkes has been unfortunately overlooked for a Best Actor nod this year, but Helen Hunt has received a well-deserved Oscar nomination for her bold performance as a sex surrogate to Hawkes’ crippled poet. John Hawkes, nominated for an Oscar in 2011 for  Winter’s Bone, achieves another searing performance as a contorted artist living in an iron lung who decides not to die with his virginity intact.  William H. Macy provides comedic intervals as the dubious priest advisor to the actor. Santa Monica’s own Ben Lewin directed the film, teaming with his wife Judi Lewin as producer and daughter Alexandra Lewin as associate producer.

Violeta Parra, the title character of Violeta Went to Heaven, was a folksinger and pop culture icon whose songs expressed the soul of her nation and protested social injustice. The film tells Parra’s extraordinary story, tracing her evolution from impoverished child to international sensation to Chile’s national hero, while capturing the swirling intensity of her inner contradictions, fallibilities, and passions.

Outstanding Documentaries in 2012

The 2012 Sundance documentary films not only bring awareness to relevant issues of the day (sexual harassment, AIDS, global warming), but many are now being recognized for their filmmaking process. Of the 15 documentaries shortlisted for the 2013 Academy Awards Best Documentary category, most of the films premiered or screened at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. The following five films have also just received the official nomination for an Oscar award. Be sure to watch these documentaries!

1. Audience Award U.S. Documentary, nominated for an Academy Award:
The Invisible War
The Invisible War has engendered actual change in the military courts since its premiere. Victims of sexual assault in various branches of the military have spoken up, told their story, and tried to prevent other young women from being abused by their coworkers and the system.

2. World Cinema Audience Award Documentary, nominated for an Academy Award:
Searching For Sugar Man
The rise of Rodriguez as a rock star is a delightful surprise. Searching for Sugar Man champions the comeback of the greatest American musical success story never known.

3. World Cinema Directing Award Documentary, nominated for an Academy Award:
5 Broken Cameras
In 5 Broken Cameras, a Palestinian villager gets his first camera after the birth of his fourth son. He begins to film political struggle in his village, along with the growth of his son. The struggle affects his family and his own life. One camera after another is shot at or smashed, each one telling a part of his story.

4. Screened at 2012 Sundance, nominated for an Academy Award:
How to Survive a Plague
This doc showcases heart-wrenching footage from behind the scenes of the “radical” Act Up and TAG coalitions of the 1980s in New York City, where 10,000 young people were dying from the new AIDS virus, How to Survive a Plague compiles footage that is simultaneously sad and hopeful.

5. Screened at 2012 Sundance, nominated for an Academy Award for Original Song:
Chasing Ice
Chasing Ice follows a stupendous bravado of acclaimed environmental photographer James Balog as he sets up time-lapse cameras in remote areas of the northern tundra to track the disappearing boundaries of Arctic glaciers. The outcomes affect his opinions on global warming.

By Karen Henry: Karen Henry is an Associate Editor at LA YOGA Magazine and covers film for the magazine.

Karen Henry
Karen Henry is an Associate Editor at LA YOGA who volunteers in a variety of capacities for nonprofit organizations and artists around Los Angeles. She practices yoga as a counterbalance to her daily impact sports and is a mother of four grown children who also practice yoga (well, the two in California at least).