Sundance honours go to jazz drama Whiplash and documentary Rich Hill

PUBLISHED : Monday, 27 January, 2014, 4:40am
UPDATED : Monday, 27 January, 2014, 4:40am

Musical drama Whiplash and documentary Rich Hill, about inhabitants of a poverty-stricken rural US town, have taken top honours at the Sundance Film Festival awards, a key accolade for independent films.

Whiplash, the opening night film starring Miles Teller and J.K.Simmons, enticed audiences with its story of a jazz drummer in an obsessive pursuit of his craft. The film won both the audience and grand-jury awards in the US drama competition.

The awards were a big win for 28-year-old writer-director Damien Chazelle, who won the US fiction short-film grand-jury prize last year at Sundance with a short version of Whiplash. He made it into a feature for this year.

The film has been snapped up by Sony Pictures Classics for US$3 million, and could follow in the path of its Sundance predecessors such as 2010's Winter's Bone and 2012's Beasts of the Southern Wild, which both won the grand jury dramatic prize and subsequently landed Oscar nods.

The grand-jury US documentary prize went to Rich Hill, which explores the lives of three adolescent boys living in the rural Missouri town of Rich Hill, and their attempts to overcome the struggles of poverty.

The US documentary audience award went to Alive Inside: A Story of Music and Memory, which explores the effect of music on elderly patients suffering from Alzheimer's disease.

The Sundance Film Festival hands out 28 awards at a ceremony broadcast live online, this year hosted by comedian couple Nick Offerman and Megan Mullally.