Notre Dame Alumnus Wins Top Documentary Award at Sundance

Author: Kate Cohorst

Peter D

Director Peter D. Richardson, a 2002 alumnus of the Department of Film, Television, and Theatre, won the prestigious U.S. Documentary Competition Grand Jury Prize at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival.

In accepting the prize for How to Die in Oregon, Richardson thanked “the extraordinary individuals who allowed me to enter and document their lives. I love you. This award is for and because of you.”

Oregon became the first U.S. state to legalize physician-assisted suicide in 1994, and according to a synopsis on the Sundance website, the film “gently enters the lives of the terminally ill as they consider whether—and when—to end their lives by lethal overdose. Richardson examines both sides of this complex, emotionally charged issue.”

The documentary will air on HBO later this year.

“It will get many, many more viewers because of the prize,” says FTT Professor Jill Godmilow, who won the Sundance Grand Jury Prize in the U.S. Dramatic Category for 1987’s Waiting For the Moon. “People pay attention to what wins at Sundance.”

She says the prize will also make Richardson a much more credible producer in terms of raising money for the next project, noting that “it’s as good as an Academy Award nomination.”

Godmilow, who taught Richardson at Notre Dame and continues to mentor him, says he was an “exceptionally good” student and “has a lot of energy and ambition and drive.”

In fact, she says, his prize-winning documentary was actually the 31-year-old Richardson’s second film at Sundance—an “extraordinary” accomplishment. His previous documentary, Clear Cut: The Story of Philometh, Oregon, premiered at the festival in 2006.

Notre Dame at Sundance

Richardson isn’t the only College of Arts and Letters representative to make an impact at the Sundance Film Festival.

Actor William Mapother (English, Class of ’87) had a starring role in the science fiction drama Another Earth, which won the 2011 festival’s Alfred P. Sloane Prize. The annual award is for an outstanding feature film focusing on science or technology as a theme, or depicting a scientist, engineer, or mathematician as a major character. The film also won a Special Jury Prize in the U.S. Dramatic category for co-writers Mike Cahill and Brit Marling.

Visiting Assistant Professor Danielle Beverly went to Sundance this year with Rebirth, one of only eight films selected for the festival’s new Documentary Premieres category. Beverly, who began teaching at Notre Dame last semester, spent the last nine years working as the movie’s field producer. Directed by Jim Whitaker, Rebirth chronicles the lives of five New Yorkers in the years after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, interspersed with footage from 14 time-lapse cameras trained on the site where World Trade Center once stood.

In recent years, Class of ’89 alumnus Patrick Creadon, a government and international studies major, also directed two documentaries selected to compete at Sundance. His 2006 film Wordplay focused on The New York Times Crossword Puzzle Editor Will Shortz and his dedicated fans. Creadon’s next film, I.O.U.S.A., explored America’s national debt. Film critic Roger Ebert named I.O.U.S.A one of the five best documentaries of 2008.

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Peter D. Richardson photo by Hunter Richards.

Originally published by Kate Cohorst at on February 03, 2011.