Winter’s Bone

Winter’s Bone wins at Sundance

Winter’s Bone won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance this weekend and also a Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award, which went to Debra Granik and Anne Rosellini.

Roadside Attractions snagged the domestic distribution rights and the film is now expected to see the light of day in the summer, at least in the U.S.

The press release:

Park City,Utah (January 30, 2010) – In a deal for one of Sundance’s most critically-acclaimed films, Roadside Attractions has acquired all North American rights to Debra Granik’s Dramatic Competition thriller WINTER’S BONE. Featuring an astonishing, star-making performance from actress Jennifer Lawrence (Jodie Foster’s upcoming Mel Gibson starrer THE BEAVER), WINTER’S BONE follows 17-year-old Ree Dolly as she faces down the unforgiving Ozark wilderness and an even more hostile criminal underworld in an attempt to find her missing father, who has put up the family homestead for his bail.

“With WINTER’S BONE, Debra Granik has crafted a classic detective story, a nail-biting thriller and an unbelievably touching family drama, all in one film,” said Roadside’s Head of Acquisitions and Business Affairs, Dustin Smith. “It’s everything Sundance is about. It’s everything independent film is about. And it’s everything I go to the movies for. We cannot wait to help Debra and her team get this film in front of as many people as humanly possible.”

Roadside plans to release the film theatrically this summer, with Lionsgate handling all ancillaries later in the year.

Adapted from a novel by Missouri-based author Daniel Woodrell (Ride With the Devil), WINTER’S BONE was directed by Debra Granik, whose 2004 film Down To the Bone won two Sundance jury prizes and launched the career of UP IN THE AIR star Vera Farmiga. The WINTER’S BONE screenplay was adapted by Granik and Anne Rosellini,who also produced along with Alix Madigan. Executive Producers were Jonathan Scheuer and Shawn Simon. In addition to Jennifer Lawrence, the film also features stunning performances by John Hawkes (Me and You and Everyone We Know) and Dale Dickey (Changeling) as well as a team of supporting players cast directly from the Ozark region depicted in the film. WINTER’S BONE is a production of Anonymous Content and Winter’s Bone Productions.

Following its Sundance launch, WINTER’S BONE will have its international premiere next month as an Official Selection of the 60th Berlin International Film Festival.

The deal was brokered by Dustin Smith and Howard Cohen for Roadside and Josh Braun and Jason Janego of Submarine Entertainment, on behalf of the filmmakers.

Winter’s Bone – first reviews (updated)

Winter’s Bone was screened at Sundance yesterday and the first reviews are pretty positive. Some snippets below.

A teenage girl’s resilience in the face of seemingly insurmountable physical and emotional obstacles just barely wards off the icy chill that cuts through “Winter’s Bone,” director Debra Granik’s bleak and exemplary sophomore feature. Following its brave heroine (an outstanding Jennifer Lawrence) as she seeks to uncover the truth behind her father’s disappearance, the film employs the structure of a whodunit to take a tough, unflinching look at an impoverished Ozarks community ruled by the local drug trade. Raw but utterly enveloping, “Bone” more than merits the patient distrib attention that’s become an increasingly rare commodity in the indie marketplace.

Sparely adapted by Granik and producer Anne Rosellini from a novel by Daniel Woodrell, the film amply confirms the low-budget artistry and skill with actors Granik evinced in her coincidentally similar-in-title debut, “Down to the Bone,” which won the directing award at Sundance in 2004. In its frigid rural setting (the Missouri Ozarks, where the film was entirely shot) and its story of a woman prepared to cross social and legal boundaries to keep her house and family intact, “Winter’s Bone” also bears a resemblance to another Sundance prize winner, 2008’s “Frozen River.”

With her mother in a near-catatonic state and her father in jail for cooking methamphetamine, 17-year-old Ree Dolly (Lawrence, “The Burning Plain”) is used to taking care of herself and her younger brother and sister — chopping wood from the family’s several acres of timberland and, with some help from the neighbors, just managing to put food on the table. Their already-fragile existence is further threatened when the local sheriff (Garret Dillahunt) informs her that her father, Jessup, has been released from prison and that their house and land — which Jessup had signed away as collateral — will be seized if he fails to show up for his scheduled court appearance. [Variety]

Even if I spent the day trudging around in wet, slushy shoes and even if I didn’t have a single real meal, experiences like catching “Winter’s Bone” on Saturday (Jan. 23) evening are the reason you go to festivals like Sundance.

I’d heard nothing at all about “Winter’s Bone” and was mostly interested in it because of supporting players John Hawkes and Garret Dillahunt and because writer-director Debra Granik showed significant skill working with actors on “Down to the Bone,” her feature debut.

But “Winter’s Bone” was one of two or three early evening screening possibilities and it was only my choice because a desired early afternoon screening was over-booked, forcing me into a different movie and causing me to exit the theater at exactly the right time to get into the line for “Winter’s Bone.” That’s why, like so much that goes down at Sundance, my screening decision was based more on pure convenience than artistic imperative.

Whatever, the cause, it was fortuitous. “Winter’s Bone” is the best film I’ve seen this Festival and also one of the best films I’ve seen in the past year, a drama I appreciated more as I became increasingly immersed in its unique world. []

Screening in the U.S. dramatic competition at Sundance 2010, “Winter’s Bone” brings to mind a number of prior Sundance highlights. Like “Frozen River,” it depicts a woman driven to hard choices by hard circumstances; like “Brick,” it sets a teen protagonist into a thoroughly modern set of problems that might be better described by the scenes and structures of classic film noir. Like director Debra Granik’s previous Sundance film, 2004’s “Down to the Bone,” it depicts a very American kind of poverty, one not only of economics but also of emotions. Based on the novel by Daniel Woodrell, “Winter’s Bone” has more than just the echoes of other films to offer, though. It has the forward motion of a thriller, yes, and the who-knows-what questions of a mystery. But it also has a delicacy to it, as 17-year-old Ree (Jennifer Lawrence) searches for her absent father while caring for her younger siblings and ill mother, and director Granik, shooting with the RED digital camera, wrings bleak poetry out of the ruined landscape of the Missouri Ozarks.

Ree is not looking for her absent father in the general sense, or to heal some past wound; local Sheriff Baskin (Garret Dillahunt) explains to Ree that her father Jessup, arrested for cooking crystal meth, put the family home up as his bond – and then disappeared. If he doesn’t appear in court in a week’s time, Ree and her family will lose everything: Baskin says to Ree, “Make sure that your daddy knows the gravity of this deal,” but Ree doesn’t know where he is. And no one will tell her. Trapped in the silences and secrets of the local criminal underworld, Ree goes to family and friends and neighbors and enemies, knocking on doors and seeing what happens like a Chandler hero, motivated by nothing less than survival. []

The strongest competition film is Debra Granik’s Winter’s Bone, a hillbilly noir set in the Ozarks, featuring an absolutely stunning performance by Jennifer Lawrence. I liked Granik’s Down to the Bone, with Vera Farmiga, which premiered six years ago, but this is really something to see. It mixes styles and tones beautitfully, and it’s colored by some beautiful uses of music, folklore and the down low. It’s the kind of film where every single performance feels note perfect. I’ll have more about it later. [Light Sensitive]

Half mountain noir, half mythological odyssey, Winter’s Bone is my favorite kind of detective story: the kind with no detective, per se. (That the movie takes place in a part of the world I know fairly well is just a bonus; suffice to say, Winter’s Bone is in my wheelhouse.) Jennifer Lawrence plays a 17-year-old high school dropout taking care of her mentally ill mother and her two younger siblings, and trying to make the most of whatever she can grow or kill on her family’s tree-covered property. Then the sheriff knocks on her door one day and warns Lawrence that her absent father is due in court, and that he’s put up the house and land as bond. [A.V. Club]

Winter’s Bone headed to Berlin Film Festival

Winter’s Bone will have its international premiere at the Berlin Film Festival, which runs from February 11 to 21 this year. It will be screened as part of the official program.

For all the info, head over to the Berlinale site.

The U.S. premiere at Sundance is only a few days away. The first screening is on January 23. For the complete schedule, go here.

Deep in the Ozark Mountains, clans live by a code of conduct that no one dares defy—until an intrepid teenage girl has no other choice. When Ree Dolly’s crystal-meth-making father skips bail and goes missing, her family home is on the line. Unless she finds him, she and her young siblings and disabled mother face destitution. In a heroic quest, Ree traverses the county to confront her kin, break their silent collusion, and bring her father home.

With thrilling tension, Winter’s Bone depicts an archetypal rite of passage from adolescence to adulthood. Only this time, the young warrior is a girl. As our heroine braves immoveable obstacles, she redefines the notion of family loyalty and, in the process, discovers her own power. The spare precision of Debra Granik’s direction is effortlessly profound. Stunningly genuine performances and exquisite visual details capture the textures and rhythms of a world where the mythic and the naturalistic intermingle.

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