Film Scouts Diaries

1998 Sundance Film Festival Diaries
Slam-Bam-Thank-You-Ma'am (January 25)

by Richard Schwartz

PARK CITY, Jan. 25 - The funny thing is, they had no idea.

Riding back in a van with the cast of "Slam" following a Friday night party at the Canyons resort, they were pointedly told, "You know you guys are going to clean up at the Sundance awards."

None of them - Saul Williams, Sonja Sohn and company - had any idea what I was talking about. "Is that why everybody has been telling us congratulations?" one of the crew asked.

Yet as the actors piled out of the van and prepared for some more late-night partying, the gang seemed to have not an inkling of what was in store for the next evening.

What did indeed transpire was "Slam" joining the ranks of such distinguished successes as "The Brothers McMullen"and "Welcome to the Dollhouse" by winning the Sundance Dramatic Competition Award.

The other big winner Saturday night was another film created by minority talent - "Smoke Signals" - the only feature ever written, directed and starring solely Native Americans. The Miramax picture grabbed audience award honors and the filmmaker award for director Chris Eyre. "Smoke Signals" is based on a screenplay by writer Sherman Alexie.

The documentary category featured some interesting choices as well. Jury voting resulted in a tie. "Frat House," the heavily lauded documentary about fraternity hazing, took home honors for its young filmmakers Todd Phillips and Andrew Gurland. The filmmakers shared their honors with Liz Garbus and Jonathan Stack, whose "The Farm" chronicled life at America's largest maximum security prison.

Other films capturing honors included Darren Aronofsky's "Pi" and Barbara Kopple's "Wild Man Blues."

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