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(Courtesy photo) Gulzar Ahmad Bhat (left) and Neelofar Hamid in the drama "Valley of Saints," in the World Dramatic competition of the 2012 Sundance Film Festival.
'Robot and Frank,' 'Valley of Saints' share Sloan Prize

A robot and a water scientist are at the center of the two movies that will share the 2012 Sundance Film Festival's Alfred P. Sloan Prize.

The American film "Robot and Frank" and the Indian/American drama "Valley of Saints" were named co-winners of the prize on Friday, and will split the $20,000 award.

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The Sloan Prize is given to films that explore themes of science and technology, or depict scientists, engineers or mathematicians in engaging ways. (The prize once prompted a classic piece of advice from actress-writer Guinevere Turner at a Sundance award ceremony a few years back: "Dudes, stick a robot in your movie – this is $20,000!")

"Robot and Frank" stars Frank Langella as a retired thief who is given a robot caretaker – who soon becomes his accomplice when he decides to take up his old trade. The film, which played in Sundance's Premieres section and was the Salt Lake City opening-night film, was directed by Jake Schreier and written by Christopher Ford. (The movie will screen today at 6 p.m. at the Egyptian Theatre, Park City, and Sunday at 3:30 p.m. at the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center in Salt Lake City.)

"Valley of Saints," written and directed by Musa Syeed, is set in a lakeside village in Kashmir. Gulzar (Gulzar Ahmad Bhat), a boatman, is determined to leave town with his best friend. Then he meets Asifa (Neelofar Hamid), a beautiful scientist who is investigating the lake for pollution. The movie played in the World Cinema Dramatic competition.

A screening of the Sloan Prize winner is scheduled for Sunday at 10:30 a.m. at the Prospector Square Theatre, Park City. It has not been announced which movie will screen then. (The other, presumably, would screen in one of the open "TBA" slots Sunday.)

Writer-director Katy Scoggin received the Sundance Institute's Alfred P. Sloan Commissioning Grant for "Flood," and the project "Operator" was the winner of the Alfred P. Sloan Lab Fellowship for director/co-writer Logan Kibens and co-writer Sharon Greene.

-- Sean P. Means



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