Tonight’s Sundance Film Festival Awards ceremony was an emotional roller coaster. The event began characteristically late with a parade of Sundance staff taking to the stage with a tiara and an apology from Festival Director John Cooper who said that actress Parker Posey wouldn’t emcee as originally scheduled because she had taken ill. “She was going to be the Sundance Queen,” Cooper said while displaying her regalia for the evening. As a last minute stand in, Black Rock director Katie Aselton took over for Posey.
Then the light mood turned dark as a large picture of indie maverick Bingham Ray who died here earlier in the week flashed on the screen. The room went silent and Cooper read from a eulogy put together by Ray’s longtime poker buddies: Magnolia Pictures chief Eamonn Bowles, Sony Classics SVP Tom Prassis, Sawyer Studios head Arnie Sawyer, and producer Ben Barenholtz. Cooper choked back tears and had to stop briefly to regain his composure. Afterward, there was quiet applause. And the show went on.
Without Posey the onstage antics were minimal. Most winners skipped acceptance speeches after Cooper advised, “Just say thank you and go on,” and Aselton added, “Really, nobody really cares…”
But then director Alison Klayman (Ai Weiwie: Never Sorry) collected her Special Jury Prize claiming she was “too nervous to say much”. She gave some quick thanks — and then asked the audience to lift a hand and give the finger en masse. She took a photo and explained, “I’ll send this to Ai Weiwei” — a gesture in support of China’s most famous visual artist who has been in and out of house arrest.