Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images
Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images
This year’s Sundance film fest left no one wanting. While in previous years there was all too often a focus on “edgy” fare, the kind that sometimes becomes a critical darling without attracting audiences, the variety of genres represented in and out of competition this year was wide and all-inclusive. And by that, we also mean that more than 50 % of the films were made by women. While Sundance has always been a leader in diversity when it comes to film festivals, this one is unprecedented.
We saw the opening night film After The Wedding, where Bart Freundlich directed an adaptation of Susanne Bier’s original starring his wife Julianne Moore. We laughed with and about Emma Thompson as the sharp-tongued British talk show host of Late Night and her new employee Mindy Kaling (who wrote and produced the film that is directed by Nisha Ganatra). We couldn’t help shedding a few tears during the screening of The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, Chiwetel Ejiofor's directorial debut. We delighted in Blinded By The Light – and were tempted to belt out the song along with Bruce Springsteen in a sort of ‘screening karaoke’ – about a boy in 80s London from director Gurinder Chadha of Bend it Like Beckham fame. We kept our eyes closed at times in Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile while watching Zac Efron doing his best Ted Bundy. And we were astonished at stories most of us had never heard about, like Official Secrets, about British spy Katherine Gunn who leaked Tony Blair’s scheme to involve the country (along with the US) in the illegal war against Iraq. There were biopics and war films and the documentary section covered everything from music to scandal to politics to sex and a combination of all of the above.
Aside from the films, there were other events: Blackhouse hosted a series of discussions, parties and panels (the most notable one with all-around talent writer/producer/director/actress Lena Waithe) and Sundance TV partnered again with the HFPA for the 2nd installment of live-streamed panel “Women Breaking Barriers” with Octavia Spencer, Kyra Sedgewick, Jenna Elfman and Cassian Elwes. There were female filmmaker brunches, minority filmmaker gatherings, composers breakfasts, VR experiences, and yes, a few swag suites who luckily gifted necessities like cold weather parkas and boots instead of glittery t-shirts and summer pants as was the norm a few years ago.
There was also music: the ASCAP Music Café showcased old and new talent with songwriter series and nonstop live performances, most notably Beulahbelle, Everlast, Mel Bryant & The Mercy Makers and Pete Molinari. But if you thought getting into these was difficult, you did not try the other main venue The Music Lodge: the crush outside almost kept us warm trying to see Arcade Fire on Saturday and New Orleans’ famous jazz band Preservation Hall (with special guests Reggie Watts and Win and Regine from Arcade Fire who decided to sit in) on Sunday. Salesforce and Louisiana Tourism brought a little taste of the South to Utah with the band who celebrated the launch of the documentary about their journey, A Tuba To Cuba. They each played two shows and Pres Hall threw in a mini-second line parade from the Town Lift to the Music Lodge on Sunday where the famous tuba was on display.
At the end festival darling, The Farewell starring Awkwafina went empty-handed. Clemency, the depressing story of a prison warden (Alfre Woodard) confronting her demons while sending yet another inmate on death row (Aldis Hodge) to his execution, won the US Dramatic Grand Jury Prize Award. In the World Cinema section, The Souvenir took the best dramatic prize and the Documentary Grand Jury Prize went to Honeyland, while One Child Nation was crowned best US documentary.
Not surprisingly the audience voted a little differently from the jury: the US documentary award here went to the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez doc Knock Down the House, the dramatic award to the likable Brittany Runs a Marathon.
A complete list of winners follows.
U.S. DRAMATIC COMPETITION
Dramatic Grand Jury Prize Award: Clemency, directed by Chinonye Chukwu
Dramatic Audience Award: Brittany Runs a Marathon, directed by Paul Downs Colaizzo
Dramatic Directing Award: The Last Black Man in San Francisco, directed by Joe Talbot
Dramatic Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award: Share, screenplay by Pippa Bianco
Dramatic Special Jury Award for Vision and Craft: Honeyboy, directed by Alma Har'el
Dramatic Special Jury Award for Creative Collaboration: The Last Black Man in San Francisco, directed by Joe Talbot
Dramatic Special Jury Award for Achievement in Acting: Rhianne Barreto, Share
U.S. DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION
Documentary Grand Jury Prize Award: One Child Nation, directed by Nanfu Wang and Jialing Zhang
Documentary Audience Award: Knock Down the House, directed by Rachel Lears
Documentary Directing Award: American Factory, directed by Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert
Documentary Special Jury Award for Moral Urgency: Always in Season, directed by Jacqueline Olive
Documentary Special Jury Award for an Emerging Filmmaker: Jawline, directed by Liza Mandelup
Documentary Special Jury Award for Editing: Apollo 11, edited by Todd Douglas Miller
Documentary Special Jury Award for Cinematography: Midnight Family, cinematographer Luke Lorentzen
WORLD CINEMA DRAMATIC COMPETITION
Dramatic Grand Jury Prize: The Souvenir, directed by Joanna Hogg
Dramatic Audience Award: Queen of Hearts, directed by May El-Toukhy
Dramatic Directing Award: The Sharks, directed by Lucia Garibaldi
Dramatic Special Jury Award: Monos, directed by Alejandro Landes
Dramatic Special Jury Award for Originality: We Are Little Zombies, directed by Makoto Nagahisa
Dramatic Special Jury Award for Acting: Krystyna Janda, Dolce Fine Giornata
WORLD CINEMA DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION
Documentary Grand Jury Prize: Honeyland, directed by Tamara Kotevska and Ljubomir Stefanov
Documentary Audience Award: Sea of Shadows, directed by Richard Ladkani
Documentary Directing Award: Cold Case Hammarskjold, directed by Mads Brugger
Documentary Special Jury Award for No Borders: Midnight Traveler, directed by Hassan Fazili
Documentary Special Jury Award for Impact for Change: Honeyland, directed by Tamara Kotevska and Ljubomir Stefanov
Documentary Special Jury Award for Cinematography: Honeyland, cinematographers Fejmi Daut, and Samir Ljuma