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Paddy Considine

British film talent triumphed at the closing night ceremony of the Sundance Film Festival winning several big awards.

The actress Felicity Jones won a Special Jury Prize for her role in the long-distance transcontinental romance Like Crazy. The picture itself won the top Grand Jury Prize for a Dramatic film.

Like Crazy, directed and co-written by Drake Doremus, was one of the breakout hits of the festival. Both the film — and Felicity Jones — leave Sundance as big winners.

Jones views the romance as refreshing because the intense woman she plays has a “ferocious will” and takes an active role in pursuing the relationship as opposed to the man who’s more passive. She also sees it as a very modern picture:  “there’s something incredibly contemporary about the film it’s hard to pinpoint – it totally takes on the world as it is now and how we communicate and makes a drama out of it.”

Olivia Colman and Peter Mullan won the World Cinema Special Jury Prizes for Breakout Performances. Colman and Mullan appear in the British film Tyrannosaur where they play badly damaged tormented souls who develop a tender relationship. The film, with its various depictions of human degradation, has shocked some audiences.

Succeeding in the film has meant a lot for Colman who’s best known for her comedy roles.  She says working on Tyrannosaur “did feel like a dream, the opportunity to do this was something I’d always dreamt of, it felt special.” The film was directed by British actor-turned-director Paddy Considine.

Considine won the World Cinema Directing Award for a Dramatic film for his achievement with Tyrannosaur. He understands that some may find his picture tough to watch — but he takes a defiant stance stating that the abuse depicted in the picture is merely holding up a mirror to reality. He says, “my film is one film of thousands of films that get made every year. If this isn’t your film I’m not going to apologize for it — there’s plenty of other things to watch.” He explains that there is a point to all the misery: “All I’m interested in is human beings and their survival, their capacity for forgiveness, their capacity to tolerate as creatures the horrors that are around them.”

Another British filmmaker, James Marsh, won the World Cinema Directing Award for a Documentary for Project Nim. Marsh’s film explores a landmark American experiment to determine if a chimp could communicate through sign language if it was raised as a human being. Marsh hopes his film makes audiences ponder. As he puts it, “there are questions that are asked about us as a species that I think are quite withering.”

Winning the Sundance award is another feather in the cap for this talented British filmmaker who picked up an Oscar for his documentary Man on Wire two years ago.

British director Asif Kapadia was also rewarded with a Sundance prize for his film Senna, which looks at the legendary Brazilian racing driver Ayrton Senna. Kapadia won the World Cinema Audience Award for a Documentary.

For Sundance winners the festival can lead to further success in the outside world. Two of the films which won festival prizes last year: Winter’s Bone and the British documentary Restrepo are contenders in the current Oscars race.

British talent was also represented in other categories. Britain’s Jazzy De Lisser who was named “It Girl” by Vanity Fair magazine was part of the ensemble in the film to.get.her which won the Best of NEXT! Audience Award.

The UK/US co-production Hell and Back Again, which followed a Marine from the start of his tour of duty in Afghanistan in 2009 to his rehabilitation back in America, won two awards. The film picked up the top World Cinema Jury Prize for a Documentary — and the World Cinema Cinematography Award for a Documentary. The film was directed and shot by Danfung Dennis.

It was seen as a strong year for the British at Sundance, and many participants say that overall the festival was one of the more successful in recent memory.

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By Tom Brook