Sundance is the top US festival for independent film, and a prize there means instant recognition for filmmakers. Several movies screened at the festival had an anti-war theme.

"A festival like Sundance is not just a showcase for films, but is a platform for voices and ideas," said festival director Geoff Gilmore. "There are a lot of filmmakers here who are trying to talk about America in a different light."

Forty Shades of Blue tells of a Russian woman who marries a man twice her age to immigrate to America and must come to a new understanding of herself. It earned Sundance's grand jury prize for American dramas.

'Saddening beacon'

Director Eugene Jarecki's Why We Fight won the grand jury prize for an American documentary with its examination of the US military-industrial complex and argument that the system's survival depends on constant battle.

Jarecki said that, in the current US military culture, the world now sees America as a "saddening beacon" for hope and freedom, and that US independent filmmakers gathered at the festival were not content to allow that image to be permanent.

The film tackled the ties between
the US military and arms industry 

"The people who are making the movies and making creative work are looking outward and saying we are not exactly as you think we are. There are voices here that do take issue, and wonder how the world should be," he said.

This year for the first time, Sundance held competitions for world documentaries and dramas, and the global cinema winners and movies also came to Sundance with anti-war themes.

The jury prize for a world drama was given to The Hero, about people looking for normality after the Angolan civil war ended in 2002. Shape of the Moon, from the Netherlands, won the world documentary jury award with a tale of three Christian families adapting to life in mostly Muslim Indonesia.

Iraq film

A special jury prize was given to documentary The Liberace of Baghdad, about Iraqi pianist Samir Peter and his family's daily struggle living in present-day Iraq.

Director Sean McAllister dedicated his Sundance award to "Iraqis and Americans and everybody who has died in Iraq".

Top Sundance awards come from juries of filmmakers, but the festival also gives audience awards based on a film's popularity.

Rap-music film Hustle and Flow about a pimp suffering a mid-life crisis earned the audience award for a dramatic film and Murderball about quadriplegic men who play a rugby-like game in wheelchairs won the documentary audience award.

The audience trophy for a world drama went to Denmark's Brother, about a man whose life changes after his brother vanishes on a UN mission in Afghanistan.

The world documentary audience favorite was Shake Hands With the Devil: The Journey of Romeo Dallaire, a Canadian film about the man who commanded the undermanned UN peacekeeping force in Rwanda during the 1994 genocide.