Sundance Film Fest 2006: House of Sand Wins Alfred P. Sloan Prize

Park City-“The 2006 Sundance Film Festival is pleased to announce that THE HOUSE OF SAND, directed by Andrucha Waddington and written by Elena Soarez, is the recipient of this years Alfred P. Sloan Prize. The Prize, which carries a $20,000 cash award to the writer/director provided by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, is presented to the outstanding feature film focusing on science or technology as a theme, or depicting a scientist, engineer or mathematician as a major character. The Prize will be presented at the Sundance Film Festival Awards Ceremony on Saturday, January 28.

THE HOUSE OF SAND is the story of a woman across three generations. In the remote dunes of Brazil, Maria spends her life while an entire century passes by her, her house, and sand. The film, which screened in this years World Cinema Dramatic Competition section, was recognized for its poetic meditation on the physics of time and the biology of human variation in a story of an isolated family's search for meaning against the backdrop of a half-century's scientific and technological evolution.

THE HOUSE OF SAND was also a recipient of the 2002 Sundance/NHK International Filmmakers Award which supports independent directors with a $10,000 grant and a guarantee from NHK, Japans largest broadcaster, to purchase the Japanese television broadcast rights.

The Alfred P. Sloan Prize is a major component of the Sundance Science-in-Film Initiative, which is made possible by a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. Now in its fourth year, the Initiative supports the development and exhibition of new independent film projects that explore science and technology themes or that depict scientists, engineers and mathematicians in engaging and innovative ways.

In addition to the Prize, the Initiative presents a panel discussion at the Festival that brings together scientists and filmmakers to explore compelling, contemporary issues regarding science in film; and, in the Sundance Feature Film Program, the Initiative supports the Sloan Commissioning Fund, which provides resources for Initiative projects early in the development phase; and the Sloan Fellowship, which develops eligible projects at the Sundance Feature Film Labs towards production. This Initiative blends the Sloan Foundations goal of enhancing public understanding of science and technology with Sundance Institutes mission to foster independent voices and compelling storytelling in film.

The winning film was selected by a committee of film and science professionals based on the quality of the films presentation of science and technology themes and/or characters. This years Alfred P. Sloan selection committee includes: John Underkoffler, MIT Media Lab alumnus and science consultant on MINORITY REPORT, THE HULK, and AEON FLUX; Greg Harrison, director of GROOVE (Sundance 2000), NOVEMBER (Sundance 2004), and the upcoming RADIOACTIVE BOYSCOUT; Lynn Hershman Leeson, director of CONCEIVING AVA and TECHNOLUST, both of which have screened at previous Sundance Film Festivals; Dr. Martha Farah, Director of the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience and Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania; and Dr. Antonio Damasio, M.W. Van Allen Professor and head of Neurology, University of Iowa.

This effort forms part of a broader national program by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to stimulate leading artists in film, television, and theater; to create more realistic and compelling stories about science and technology; and to challenge existing stereotypes about scientists, engineers, and mathematicians in the popular imagination.

Over the past seven years, the Foundation has partnered with six of the top film schools in the country ” AFI, Carnegie Mellon, Columbia, NYU, UCLA, and USC ” and established annual awards in screenwriting and film production and an annual first-feature award for alumni. The Foundation has also started an annual Sloan Feature Film Prize at the Hamptons International Film Festival and initiated new screenwriting workshops at the Hamptons and TriBeca Film Festival. And it continues to work with leading writer-producers and major studios to create more films, TV shows and TV movies featuring scientists, mathematicians and engineers.

The New York-based Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, founded in 1934, makes grants in science, technology, and economic performance. The Foundations program in public understanding of science, directed by Program Director Doron Weber, supports books, radio, film, television, and theatre, including not only Proof, Copenhagen, and Alan Aldas QED, but dozens of new plays from the Ensemble Studio Theatre and the Manhattan Theater Club, including the Broadway-bound play, The Secret Order.