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SXSW 2010: 'Tiny Furniture' the big winner in Austin

March 17, 2010 |  1:16 pm


The South by Southwest Film Festival jury has handed "Tiny Furniture," Lena Dunham's story about the  listless post-graduation life of a woman in her 20s, its narrative feature prize and also given Dunham its breakout award of "emergent narrative woman director."

"Tiny Furniture," in which Dunham also stars, has the main character walking a minefield of self-esteem issues and romantic complications in her post-college years. The crisply shot film costars Dunham's real-life mother and sister and was shot largely in their family's New York City apartment.

The festival on Tuesday also awarded a special jury prize for best ensemble to "Myth of the American Sleepover," directed by David Robert Mitchell, with an award for individual performance going to Brian Hasenfus for his role in Garth Donovan's "Phillip the Fossil."

Jeff Malmberg's "Marwencol" won the documentary feature prize at the festival, with a runner-up award  handed to "War Don Don," directed by Rebecca Richman Cohen. Audience prizes were given to the documentary "For Once in My Life," directed by Jeff Bingham and Mark Moormann, and the narrative feature "Brotherhood," directed by Will Canon.

With her modern-day, Elaine May-esque mix of anxiety, humor and insight, Dunham grew this year into just the kind of fresh voice SXSW seems designed to spotlight. The prize for "Tiny Furniture" was also validation for the self-nurturing system of SXSW; Dunham met many of her key collaborators on the project while attending the festival with her film "Creative Nonfiction" last year.

"Marwencol" tells the story of Mark Hogancamp, an upstate New York man who suffers debilitating brain damage after a bar fight. As a means of physical and emotional therapy, he creates an intricately detailed scale of a WWII-era Belgian town in his backyard. As the world of the miniature town takes on a life of its own in Hogancamp's imagination, his photographs of his handiwork begin to garner attention in the art world. Malmberg's documentary generated buzz after its first screening over the weekend, with attendees feverishly handing about copies of a book of Hogancamp's photos.

The film centers on a strong subject and builds a balanced structure around him, as Malmberg carefully introduces viewers to Hogancamp and his world, creating a delicate sense of understanding and empathy.

— Mark Olsen

Photo: Laurie Simmons and Lena Dunham in "Tiny Furniture." Credit: SXSW


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