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Sundance Awards: 'Fruitvale' Is 2013's First Oscar Contender

By Matt Patches, Hollywood.com Staff

Late Saturday night, former 20th Century Fox head honcho and proponent of independent film Tom Rothman took the stage at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival Awards ceremony to deliver the final prize of the night. The Grand Jury Award eventually went to Fruitvale, the debut feature from director Ryan Coogler starring Michael B. Jordan (Friday Night Lights) as Oscar Grant, the 23-year-old who was shot in the back by police on a San Francisco BART platform in 2009. Before Rothman handed over the award, he proclaimed that this wouldn't be the last time Coogler would take the stage to accept an award. Hint hint: he's talking about the Oscars. Next year's Oscars.

Even awards host Joseph Gordon-Levitt threw in his two cents:

#Fruitvale Best Picture 2013 #Oscar #Sundance

— Joseph Gordon-Levitt (@hitRECordJoe) January 25, 2013

The Sundance Awards certainly have a precedent for creating momentum for small films with unknown stars make their way to the Academy Awards. Look at this year's Beasts of the Southern Wild, which took home the Audience Award at Sundance 2012 and now is up for Best Screenplay, Best Actress, Best Director, and Best Picture. Rothman is making an early call on Fruitvale, but it's not an improbable one.

Here is the full list of winners from Saturday night's ceremony. Which ones do you think will keep racking up accolades over 2013?

The U.S. Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic was presented by Tom Rothman to:

Fruitvale / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Ryan Coogler) — The true story of Oscar, a 22-year-old Bay Area resident who crosses paths with friends, enemies, family and strangers on the last day of 2008. Cast: Michael B. Jordan, Octavia Spencer, Melonie Diaz, Ahna O'Reilly, Kevin Durand, Chad Michael Murray.

The U.S. Grand Jury Prize: Documentary was presented by Davis Guggenheim to:

Blood Brother / U.S.A. (Director: Steve Hoover) — Rocky went to India as a disillusioned tourist. When he met a group of children with HIV, he decided to stay. He never could have imagined the obstacles he would face, or the love he would find.

The World Cinema Grand Jury Prize: Documentary was presented by Bob Hawk to:

A River Changes Course / Cambodia, U.S.A. (Director: Kalyanee Mam) — Three young Cambodians struggle to overcome the crushing effects of deforestation, overfishing, and overwhelming debt in this devastatingly beautiful story of a country reeling from the tragedies of war and rushing to keep pace with a rapidly expanding world.

The World Cinema Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic was presented Anurag Kashyap to:

Jiseul / South Korea (Director and screenwriter: Muel O) — In 1948, as the Korean government ordered the Communists' eviction to Jeju Island, the military invaded a calm and peaceful village. Townsfolk took sanctuary in a cave and debated moving to a higher mountain. Cast: Min-chul SUNG, Jung-won YANG, Young-soon OH, Soon-dong PARK, Suk-bum MOON, Kyung-sub JANG.

The Audience Award: U.S. Documentary presented by Acura, was presented by Barbara Kopple to:

Blood Brother / U.S.A. (Director: Steve Hoover) — Rocky went to India as a disillusioned tourist. When he met a group of children with HIV, he decided to stay. He never could have imagined the obstacles he would face, or the love he would find.

The Audience Award: U.S. Dramatic presented by Acura, was presented by Mariel Hemingway to:

Fruitvale / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Ryan Coogler) — The true story of Oscar, a 22-year-old Bay Area resident who crosses paths with friends, enemies, family and strangers on the last day of 2008. Cast: Michael B. Jordan, Octavia Spencer, Melonie Diaz, Ahna O'Reilly, Kevin Durand, Chad Michael Murray.

The Audience Award: World Cinema Documentary was presented by Barbara Kopple to:

The Square (Al Midan) / Egypt, U.S.A. (Director: Jehane Noujaim) — What does it mean to risk your life for your ideals? How far will five revolutionaries go in defending their beliefs in the fight for their nation?

The Audience Award: World Cinema Dramatic was presented by Mariel Hemingway to:

Metro Manila / United Kingdom, Philippines (Director: Sean Ellis, Screenwriters: Sean Ellis, Frank E. Flowers) — Seeking a better life, Oscar and his family move from the poverty-stricken rice fields to the big city of Manila, where they fall victim to various inhabitants whose manipulative ways are a daily part of city survival. Cast: Jake Macapagal, John Arcilla, Althea Vega.

The Audience Award: Best of NEXT <=> was presented by Joseph Gordon-Levitt to:

This is Martin Bonner / U.S.A.(Director and screenwriter: Chad Hartigan) — Martin Bonner has just moved to Reno for a new job in prison rehabilitation. Starting over at age 58, he struggles to adapt until an unlikely friendship with an ex-con blossoms, helping him confront the problems he left behind. Cast: Paul Eenhoorn, Richmond Arquette, Sam Buchanan, Robert Longstreet, Demetrius Grosse.

The Directing Award: U.S. Documentary was presented by Liz Garbus to:

Cutie and the Boxer / U.S.A. (Director: Zachary Heinzerling) — This candid New York love story explores the chaotic 40-year marriage of famed boxing painter Ushio Shinohara and his wife, Noriko. Anxious to shed her role of assistant to her overbearing husband, Noriko seeks an identity of her own.

The Directing Award: U.S. Dramatic was presented by Ed Burns to:

Afternoon Delight / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Jill Soloway) — In this sexy, dark comedy, a lost L.A. housewife puts her idyllic life in jeopardy when she tries to rescue a stripper by taking her in as a live-in nanny. Cast: Kathryn Hahn, Juno Temple, Josh Radnor, Jane Lynch.

The Directing Award: World Cinema Documentary was presented by Enat Sidi to:

The Machine Which Makes Everything Disappear / Georgia, Germany (Director: Tinatin Gurchiani) — A film director casting a 15-23-year-old protagonist visits villages and cities to meet people who answer her call. She follows those who prove to be interesting enough through various dramatic and funny situations

The Directing Award: World Cinema Dramatic was presented by Nadine Labaki to:

Crystal Fairy / Chile (Director and screenwriter: Sebastián Silva) — Jamie invites a stranger to join a road trip to Chile. The woman's free and esoteric nature clashes with Jamie's acidic, self-absorbed personality as they head into the desert for a Mescaline-fueled psychedelic trip. Cast: Michael Cera, Gaby Hoffmann, Juan Andrés Silva, José Miguel Silva, Agustín Silva.

The Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award: U.S. Dramatic was presented by Wesley Morris to:

In a World... / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Lake Bell) — An underachieving vocal coach is motivated by her father, the king of movie-trailer voice-overs, to pursue her aspirations of becoming a voiceover star. Amidst pride, sexism and family dysfunction, she sets out to change the voice of a generation. Cast: Lake Bell, Demetri Martin, Rob Corddry, Michaela Watkins, Ken Marino, Fred Melamed.

The Screenwriting Award: World Cinema Dramatic was presented by Joana Vicente to:

Wajma (An Afghan Love Story) / Afghanistan (Director and screenwriter: Barmak Akram) — A young man in Kabul seduces a girl. When she tells him she's pregnant, he questions having taken her virginity. Then her father arrives, and a timeless, archaic violence erupts - possibly leading to a crime, and even a sacrifice. Cast: Wajma Bahar, Mustafa Habibi, Haji Gul, Breshna Bahar.

The Editing Award: U.S. Documentary was presented by Gary Hustwit to:

Gideon's Army / U.S.A. (Director: Dawn Porter) — Gideon's Army follows three young, committed Public Defenders who are dedicated to working for the people society would rather forget. Long hours, low pay and staggering caseloads are so common that even the most committed often give up.

The Editing Award: World Cinema Documentary was presented by Enat Sidi to:

The Summit / Ireland, United Kingdom (Director: Nick Ryan) — Twenty-four climbers converged at the last stop before summiting the most dangerous mountain on Earth. Forty-eight hours later, 11 had been killed or simply vanished. Had one, Ger McDonnell, stuck to the climbers' code, he might still be alive.

The Cinematography Award: U.S. Documentary was presented by Brett Morgen to:

Dirty Wars / U.S.A. (Director: Richard Rowley) — Investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill chases down the truth behind America's covert wars.

The Cinematography Award: U.S. Dramatic was presented by Rodrigo Prieto to:

Bradford Young for Ain't Them Bodies Saints and Mother of George:

Ain't Them Bodies Saints / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: David Lowery) — The tale of an outlaw who escapes from prison and sets out across the Texas hills to reunite with his wife and the daughter he has never met. Cast: Rooney Mara, Casey Affleck, Ben Foster, Nate Parker, Keith Carradine.

Mother of George / U.S.A. (Director: Andrew Dosunmu, Screenwriter: Darci Picoult) — A story about a woman willing to do anything and risk everything for her marriage. Cast: Isaach De Bankolé, Danai Gurira, Tony Okungbowa, Yaya Alafia, Bukky Ajayi.

The Cinematography Award: World Cinema Documentary was presented by Sean Farnel to:

Who is Dayani Cristal? / United Kingdom (Director: Marc Silver) — An anonymous body in the Arizona desert sparks the beginning of a real-life human drama. The search for its identity leads us across a continent to seek out the people left behind and the meaning of a mysterious tattoo.

The Cinematography Award: World Cinema Dramatic was presented by Nadine Labaki to:

Lasting / Poland, Spain (Director and screenwriter: Jacek Borcuch) — An emotional love story about two Polish students who fall in love with each other while working summer jobs in Spain. An unexpected nightmare interrupts their carefree time in the heavenly landscape and throws their lives into chaos. Cast: Jakub Gierszal, Magdalena Berus, Angela Molina.

A U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Achievement in Filmmaking was presented by Diane Weyermann to:

Inequality for All / U.S.A. (Director: Jacob Kornbluth) — In this timely and entertaining documentary, noted economic-policy expert Robert Reich distills the topic of widening income inequality, and addresses the question of what effects this increasing gap has on our economy and our democracy.

A U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Achievement in Filmmaking was presented by Diane Weyermann to:

American Promise / U.S.A. (Directors: Joe Brewster, Michèle Stephenson) — This intimate documentary follows the 12-year journey of two African-American families pursuing the promise of opportunity through the education of their sons.

A U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Acting was presented by Clare Stewart to:

Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley in The Spectacular Now / U.S.A. (Director: James Ponsoldt, Screenwriters: Scott Neustadter, Michael H. Weber) — Sutter is a high school senior who lives for the moment; Aimee is the introvert he attempts to ""save."" As their relationship deepens, the lines between right and wrong, friendship and love, and ""saving"" and corrupting become inextricably blurred. Cast: Miles Teller, Shailene Woodley, Brie Larson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Kyle Chandler.

A U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Sound Design was presented by Clare Stewart to:

Shane Carruth and Johnny Marshall for Upstream Color / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Shane Carruth) — A man and woman are drawn together, entangled in the life cycle of an ageless organism. Identity becomes an illusion as they struggle to assemble the loose fragments of wrecked lives. Cast: Amy Seimetz, Shane Carruth, Andrew Sensenig, Thiago Martins.

A World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award was presented by Joana Vicente to:

Circles / Serbia, Germany, France, Croatia, Slovenia (Director: Srdan Golubovic, Screenwriters: Srdjan Koljevic, Melina Pota Koljevic) — Five people are affected by a tragic heroic act. Twenty years later, all of them will confront the past through their own crises. Will they overcome guilt, frustration and their urge for revenge? Will they do the right thing, at all costs? Cast: Aleksandar Bercek, Leon Lucev, Nebojsa Glogovac, Hristina Popovic, Nikola Rakocevic, Vuk Kostic.

A World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award for Punk Spirit was presented by Sean Farnel to:

Pussy Riot - A Punk Prayer / Russian Federation, United Kingdom (Directors: Mike Lerner, Maxim Pozdorovkin) — Three young women face seven years in a Russian prison for a satirical performance in a Moscow cathedral. But who is really on trial: the three young artists or the society they live in?

The Short Film Audience Award, Presented by YouTube, based on web traffic for 12 short films that screened at the Festival and were featured on The Screening Room, was presented to:

Catnip: Egress to Oblivion? / U.S.A.(Director: Jason Willis) — Catnip is all the rage with today's modern feline, but do we really understand it? This film frankly discusses the facts about this controversial substance.

[Photo Credit: The Weinstein Company]

Follow Matt Patches on Twitter @misterpatches

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