At Sundance, the momentum behind Ryan Coogler's debut feature about the last days in the life of Oscar Grant proved strong enough to propel the film to the festival's top Grand Jury Prize for an American narrative film, despite what at least one critic called "little prefestival buzz."

Coogler's drama, produced by Forest Whitaker and picked up by the Weinstein Co. for $2.5 million last week, had already brought home the festival's Audience Award when the Grand Jury win was announced Saturday night. As he presented the award, former 20th Century Fox chairman Tom Rothman told the filmmakers, "This will not be the last time you guys walk to a podium."

In his acceptance speech, Coogler thanked Sundance, the Grant family and the SF Film Society before all but promising to bring it back to the Bay Area for more early screenings:

Over at the the New York Times, meanwhile, Brooks Barnes notes the film had very little buzz going into Park City, which we suppose is true if you don't count the years of court trials and protests that followed the early morning shooting on New Year's Day in 2009. Even though Grant's killer, BART Police officer Johannes Mehserle was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in a sentencing that took place in Los Angeles in 2010, Hollywood doesn't always have the attention span for that sort of thing.

Previously: All Fruitvale coverage on SFist
All Oscar Grant coverage on SFist