By Anne Thompson and Beth Hanna | Thompson on Hollywood January 21, 2014 at 7:48PM
UPDATED: Mike Cahill's well-reviewed sci-fi "I, Origins" has been awarded the 2014 Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize and will receive $20,000 cash from the Sloan Foundation at Sundance. A jury of film and science professionals selected the film for its focus on science and technology as a theme. Cahill and collaborator Brit Marling won the prize in 2011 for "Another Earth." Cahill joins an esteemed pack of past prize winners including Andrew Bujalski for "Computer Chess" (2013), Werner Herzog for "Grizzly Man" (2005) and Shane Carruth for "Primer" (2004).
EARLIER: Acquisitions continue up in Park City, as Fox Searchlight has snapped up worldwide rights to Mike Cahill's ("Another Earth") existentialist sci-fi premiere "I, Origins," starring Brit Marling, Michael Pitt, Astrid Berges-Frisbey, Steven Yuen and Archie Punjabi. Meanwhile, A24 has taken North American rights to Gillian Robespierre's abortion rom-com "Obvious Child," starring Jenny Slate.
"I Origins" is a brainy and atmospheric follow-up to Cahill and Marling's "Another Earth,"--with a similar otherworldly vibe and a magnificently complex Dolby Atmos soundtrack mixed at Lucas Sound with 128 discreet channels (most films use five, the fllm won a Sundance sound fellowship). Fox Searchlight plans a 2014 release for "I, Origins," which premiered January 19 at the Eccles Theatre. Here's what the trades are saying:
“I Origins” puts the eyes in sci-fi, recasting human peepers — those proverbial windows to the soul — as the key to so much more than philosophers, scientists or fashion photographers had ever previously considered. In the vein of such divisive cult favorites as “Primer” and “Upstream Color,” Mike Cahill’s crazy-ambitious sophomore feature (after “Another Earth”) refuses to let a modest budget constrain its larger-than-life-itself concept, cramming everything from the existence of God to a new, all-encompassing theory of reincarnation into the guise of a sexy, globe-trotting detective movie that very nearly collapses under the weight of its own mumbo-jumbo.
I Origins is a bracingly venturesome, exploratory work that achieves an exceptional balance between the emotional and intellectual aspects of its unusual story. Very involving and visually voluptuous for a film anchored in a rather arcane, albeit fascinating, area of scientific research, writer-director Mike Cahill's follow-up to his impressive, Sundance multi-award-winning 2011 debut, Another Earth, puts exciting filmmaking skills at the service of a story with fulsome romantic, biological and metaphysical dimensions.
"Obvious Child," which follows a stand-up comedian (Slate) who accidentally gets pregnant after a one-night stand and decides to abort, premiered January 17 as part of the NEXT section. TOH! was impressed with the film (review here), writing that Robespierre and Slate "have delivered a film with actual edge, [while retaining] the characteristics that any successful romantic comedy should have: It's heartwarming, romantic and very funny."
More Sundance pick-ups from earlier in the fest are here.