It was a happy coincidence that in the year it was celebrating its 25th anniversary, the Sundance Film Festival showcased a bumper crop of new independent cinema. As Robert Redford, festival director Geoff Gilmore and director of programming John Cooper reiterated, Sundance is about discovering new talent - and this year's films did just that.
It certainly helped that the bona fide sensation of the festival, Push: Based On The Novel By Sapphire, which won both the grand jury prize and the audience award, was the kind of film on which Sundance was built: tough, bold and ground-breaking.
Producer Lee Daniels proved his directing skills on the film, and a new star was born in Gabourey Sidibe who plays the film's beleaguered teen lead Precious Jones. Push plunged Sundance audiences into a tough Harlem world of cruelty and abuse, yet steered them to a hopeful finale.
Lionsgate won the battle for North American distribution rights and has tied up with Tyler Perry's 34th Street Films and Oprah Winfrey's Harpo Films for the release. Elephant Eye Films has international sales rights and is screening the film in Berlin.
The overall standard in the US dramatic competition section was high. Cherien Dabis made a warm-hearted film about Palestinian immigrants to the US in Amreeka, Lynn Shelton delivered an auspicious entry in the 'mumblecore' canon with Humpday, Sophie Barthes showed elegance and wit in her Kaufman-esque debutCold Souls and Cary Joji Fukunaga proved a director to watch with his confident debut Sin Nombre.
But 2009 was also the year Sundance's world programmes came of age. The world cinema dramatic section featured world premieres of films by Lone Scherfig, Oliver Hirschbiegel and Oskar Roehler, and younger film-makers including Alexis Dos Santos (Unmade Beds), Eran Merav (Zion And His Brother) and Sebastian Silva (The Maid).
In other sections, the festival hosted world premieres of UK director Dominic Murphy's White Lightnin', which will play the Panorama in Berlin, and UK director Duncan Jones' science-fiction thriller Moon as well as international premieres of Norwegian zombie movie Dead Snow (sold to IFC Films during the festival) and Mexican blockbuster Rudo y Cursi which saw producers Guillermo del Toro and Alfonso Cuaron, actors Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna and director Carlos Cuaron in Park City.
Interestingly, the documentary sections failed to eclipse dramas for once. No one title emerged as a must-see, despite popular entries including Ondi Timoner's We Live In Public, which won the grand jury prize, RJ Cutler's The September Issue, about Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, which Roadside Attractions has bought for North America, Greg Barker's heart-wrenching Sergio and Louie Psihoyos' audience award winner The Cove.
And for all the flak Sundance gets about showcasing star vehicles, there could have been no better launch pad for I Love You Phillip Morris, the directorial debut of Bad Santa screenwriters Glenn Ficarra and John Requa. Financed by Luc Besson's EuropaCorp, it drew attention not only for starring Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor but because they played gay lovers.
It enters virgin territory for gay-themed films, featuring as it does two huge stars portraying a love affair with some comedy and very little self-consciousness. And as the festival trailers reminded us, Sundance is about nothing if not diversity.