Welcome to Pine Hill, the first feature film from Keith Miller, has won the Grand Jury Sparky Award for Feature Narrative at Slamdance. The film focuses on former drug dealer Shannon (Shannon Harper) who now works as a bouncer when the sun goes down and a claims adjuster when the sun comes up. In this verite-style offering, Shannon receives a bit of life-changing news that sets him on a path to confront the past and contemplate his future.
As you can see in the scene above, there’s something obviously compelling about the delivery and the style. It’s enough to make nerve endings tingle and the brain start thinking about fight or flight. Simple, yes, but effective.
The story behind the film is also fascinating. Director Miller and star Harper met when Miller was walking his dog in New York and an angry Harper approached him claiming that it was his dog. After a huge shouting match, they realized that it was Harper’s dog – a puppy he had previously lost. The next day they met so that Miller could pay him for the animal and could toss out the idea that they make a film together. A short was born, and so was their working relationship. They accidentally shared a dog, and now they share a victory.
Here are the rest of the winners from Slamdance this year – emerging artists truly worth keeping an eye on. The Slamdance pedigree alone ensures that there’s some truly interesting work going on from these filmmakers:
Grand Jury Sparky Award for Feature Narrative went to Welcome to Pine Hill by Keith Miller.
Grand Jury Sparky Award for Feature Documentary went to No Ashes, No Phoenix by Jens Pfeifer.
Grand Jury Sparky Award for Short Documentary went to The Professional by Skylar Neilsen.
Grand Jury Sparky Award for Animation went to Venus by Tor Fruergaard.
Grand Jury Sparky Award for Short Film went to I Am John Wayne by Christina Choe.
Special Jury Prize for Experimental Short went to Solipist by Andrew Huang.
Honorable Mention for Best Ensemble went to I’m Coming Over by Sam Handel.