In the end, the film that most critics thought would take top honors at the Sundance Film Festival did. Fruitvale, which tells the story of the seemingly senseless shooting of 22-year-old Oscar Grant by a Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) police officer at the Fruitvale station in Oakland on New Year's Day of 2009, came away with both the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award for a dramatic film. It had been hailed passionately by critics (NPR/Los Angeles Times critic Kenneth Turan called it the standout film of the festival, a very, very moving film; Marlow Stern of the Daily Beast noted that it received rounds and rounds of applause -- and quite a few tears -- at its press screening in Park City, Utah). The film, which was produced by Forest Whitaker and Nina Yang, was quickly snapped up for $2 million by the Weinstein Co., topping bids from Paramount, Universal's Focus Features, Fox Searchlight, and CBS Films. Announcing the award Saturday night, former Fox studio chief Tom Rothman predicted that it will pick up many more awards down the line. This will not be the last time you guys walk to a podium, he said to the filmmakers, who included the much praised first-time director Ryan Coogler. He also predicted that the film will deliver a mighty social impact. For anyone out there who thinks for one second that movies don't matter or can't make a difference in the world, welcome the winner, he said. (Not so impressed was Daily Variety critic Geoff Berkshire, who complained that the film forgoes nuanced drama for heart-tugging, head-shaking and rabble-rousing.) In the documentary category, Steve Hoover's Blood Brother won the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award. The film has not yet been picked up by a distributor.
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