Variety Magazine: ‘Rock Steady Row,’ ‘Mr. Fish’ Win Top Slamdance Awards
By Dave McNary
“Rock Steady Row” won the grand jury narrative feature award and the audience narrative feature award. It focuses on a college freshman who, after his bike is stolen, is compelled to take action against the university’s reigning fraternities and the dean.
“’Rock Steady Row’ is a shining star in genre, young adult themes, and ‘save the day’ filmmaking,” the jurors said, “done creatively in a comic book meets George Miller meets John Carpenter universe. Sharply directed by Trevor Stevens and written by Bomani Story. With strong ingenuity not commonly seen at this budget and experience level, ‘Rock Steady Row’ stands tall.”
“Mr. Fish” won the grand jury documentary award. The film follows a political cartoonist as he struggles to provide for his family and stay true to his creativity.
“Crafted with the same rugged earnestness and political incorrectness as its subject, this fast paced, exceptionally told portrait creates a complex, funny and layered depiction of a cartoonist who embodies the principles of free speech while revealing the trappings of such an existence,” the jury said.
“Just like Fish’s cartoons, ‘Mr. Fish: Cartooning From the Deep End’ is a gateway to hard political discourse, challenging social norms and forcing us to look more closely at what tolerance means. For showing us what is lost when political art is sacrificed to subscription fees, and capturing its subject with the same raw idealism that keeps Fish drawing, we give the Feature Documentary Award to ‘Mr. Fish: Cartooning From the Deep End.'”
The award winners were announced Thursday evening at the festival’s annual awards ceremony at the Treasure Mountain Inn in Park City, Ut. Slamdance runs concurrently as an alternative to the larger Sundance Film Festival. The feature competition films in the documentary and narrative programs are limited to first-time filmmakers working with production budgets of less than $1 million. Slamdance alum Dana Nachman’s “Pick of the Litter” was the first deal at Sundance this year.
“We congratulate the winners and everyone at Slamdance who represented the unfiltered voice of independent artists,” said Slamdance president Peter Baxter. “Thousands came to appreciate our diverse international program, including our neighbors Sundance. As the major acquisition of ‘Pick of the Litter’ demonstrates, we can expect millions more to follow as our filmmakers and their work continue to attract global recognition out of our showcase.”
Baxter also announced Yassmina Karajah, director of the narrative short “Rupture” as the first recipient of The Russo Brothers Fellowship, a $25,000 prize that includes mentorship from Joe and Anthony Russo as well as development support from their studio.
“Ever since their first film premiered at Slamdance, Anthony and Joe Russo have cared deeply about supporting our community,” Baxter said. “They have continually given back to a festival that helped them — first as programmers and increasingly now as mentors.”
A full list of winners is below:
Narrative Feature Grand Jury Prize – Rock Steady Row (Dir.: Trevor Stevens)
Honorable Mentions: Fake Tattoos (Dir.: Pascal Plante) and Lovers (Dir.: Niels Holstein Kaa)
Documentary Feature Grand Jury Prize – Mr. Fish: Cartooning From The Deep End (Dir.: Pablo Bryant)
Honorable Mention – MexMan (Dir.: Josh Polon)
Documentary Short Grand Jury Prize – Nueva Vida (Dir.: Jonathan Seligson)
Honorable Mention: The Last Man You Meet (Dir.: Chris Bone)
Narrative Shorts Grand Jury Prize: Rupture (Dir.: Yassmina Karajah)
Honorable Mention: Goodbye, Brooklyn (Dir.: Daniel Jaffe)
Experimental Shorts Grand Jury Prize: Are You Tired Of Forever? (Dir.: Caitlin Craggs)
Honorable Mention: Silica (Dir.: Pia Borg)
Animated Shorts Grand Jury Prize: Interstitial (Dir.: Shunsaku Hayashi)
Honorable Mention: Satellite Strangers (Dir.: James Bascara)
Slamdance Acting Award: Rhaechyl Walker (My Name is Myeisha)
Spirit of Slamdance Award Winner: Wendy McColm (Dir. of Birds Without Feathers)
CreativeFuture Innovation Award: Railment (Dir.: Shunsaku Hayashi)
The Russo Brothers Fellowship Award Winner: Rupture (Dir.: Yassmina Karajah)
Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature: Rock Steady Row (Dir.: Trevor Stevens)
Runner up: Charlie And Hannah’s Grand Night Out (Dir.: Bert Scholiers)
Audience Award for Documentary Feature: Freedom For The Wolf (Dir.: Rupert Russell)
Runner up: MexMan (Dir.: Josh Polon)
Audience Award for Beyond Feature: My Name Is Myeisha (Dir.: Gus Krieger)
Runner up: Funny Story (Dir.: Michael Gallagher)