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in Filmmaking
on Jan 29, 2007

Following a Saturday evening awards ceremony, Sundance wrapped its 10-day run today with a series of award-winner screenings on Sunday. At the Saturday event, the drama Padre Nuestro, directed by Christopher Zalla, was announced winner of the Dramatic Grand Jury Prize. The Documentary Grand Jury Prize went to Jason Kohn‘s Brazil-set corruption saga Manda Bala (Send a Bullet). Audience prizewinners included James C. Straus‘s John Cusack-starrer Grace Is Gone for the Dramatic Audience Award and Documentary Audience Award recipient Hear and Now from Irene Taylor Brodsky.

The complete list of awards is available on the festival website.

After the awards announcements, guests spilled into the adjacent party space at the Racquet Club, where they were greeted with thumping techno spinning on the turntables and long lines at the bars — a generally upbeat atmosphere overall, compared with last year’s more subdued event.

Festivalgoers still on hand Sunday were able to attend screenings of many of the award-winners, so I headed off to the Eccles Theater for Dramatic Grand Jury Prize-winner Padre Nuestro. Zalla’s film follows petty-thief
Juan, on the run from some nasty gangsters, and naïve Pedro, who’s searching for his long-lost father across the Mexican border. When the illegal immigrants arrive in New York City, Pedro discovers that Juan has stolen his luggage, along with his identity.

Juan tracks down Pedro’s father Diego, introducing himself as the 17-year-old son the older man has never met. Openly hostile at first, Diego refuses to acknowledge “Pedro” as family, throwing the boy out, but Juan persists, suspecting that Diego is stashing a large amount of cash, and gradually wearing down Diego’s resistance. Meanwhile, the real Pedro wanders the streets, desolately searching for his father.

First-time feature director Zalla uses this straightforward premise to parse themes of identity, family and fate, drawing impressive performances from the small ensemble cast and building the narrative from a fairly banal drama to an emotionally understated thriller. The final scenes in which Diego embraces the self-delusion he realizes is his only remaining hope for survival are heartrending.

[Reporting by Justin Lowe]

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