‘CODA’ and ‘Summer of Love’ win big at Sundance
Oppenheim Award makes ceremony debut
A dramatic feature about the only member of a family who can hear and a documentary about a forgotten 1969 music festival stole the hearts of viewers and swept the top honors Tuesday night during the 2021 Sundance Film Festival award ceremony.
Sian Heder’s “CODA,” a slice of life drama about a girl who finds herself torn between pursuing her love of music and her fear of abandoning her deaf parents and brother, won the U.S. Dramatic Grand Jury Prize.
“CODA,” which is an acronym for “children of deaf adults,” featured a script that was 40% sign language, and also took home the U.S. Dramatic Audience Award, as well as the U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Ensemble Cast for work by Emilia Jones, Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, Eugenio Derbez and deaf actors Troy Kotsur, Daniel Durant and Marlee Matlin.
In addition, Heder also received the U.S. Dramatic Directing Award.
“I want to try to sign and talk at the same time, but it’s hard,” Heder said while accepting the award via livestream with Kotsur and Matlin. “This movie was just an incredible experience to make. Thank you Sundance, and thank you to my actors. I love you guys.”
The U.S. Documentary Grand Jury Prize was presented to Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson’s “Summer Of Soul (…Or, When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised).” The film, which also garnered the U.S. Documentary Audience Award, brings to light the Harlem Cultural Festival, which celebrated African American music, culture, Black pride and unity in 1969, the same year as Woodstock.
Thompson discovered the festival’s footage stored in a basement, unseen for more than 50 years, and interviewed attendees and artists, which included Gladys Knight and Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr. about their experience.
“I’m so overwhelmed right now,” Thompson said in his acceptance speech he streamed from his car. “Just as a creator and storyteller, my purpose and goal was to not drop the ball and make my people proud of me. This is beyond dreams coming true.”
“CODA” and “Summer of Love” are two of the 73 feature films and 50 short films that Sundance selected from more than 14,000 submissions from around the world.
Complementing the U.S. categories, the World Cinema Documentary Grand Jury Prize award went to filmmaker Jonas Poher Rasmussen for “Flee” and the World Cinema Dramatic Grand Jury Prize was presented to Blerta Basholli for “Hive.”
“Flee” follows the plight of Amin, who built a successful career after arriving in Denmark as an unaccompanied gay minor from Afghanistan. “Hive” depicts the trials of a businesswoman whose husband winds up missing in the war in Kosovo.
“Hive” also received the World Cinema Dramatic Audience Award, and Basholli was presented with the World Cinema Dramatic Directing Award.
In addition, this year’s Waldo Salt U.S. Dramatic Screenwriting Award, which recognizes outstanding screenwriting in a film, was presented to Ari Katcher and Ryan Welch for “On the Count of Three,” a comedy about two friends, two guns and a pact.
The ceremony also included a new award, the Jonathan Oppenheim U.S. Documentary Editing Award, named after the late Jonathan Oppenheim, was presented to Kristina Motwani and Rebecca Adorno for “Homeroom.” The film follows the Oakland High School class of 2020 against the backdrop of a rapidly changing world.
The awards ceremony took place virtually and was hosted by actor and comedian Patton Oswalt.
See the full list of winners below.
Prior to the ceremony, Sundance Institute CEO Keri Putman and Festival Director Tabitha Jackson offered a few words of gratitude to their staff, participants and volunteers.
“This has been a singular festival for a singular moment,” Putnam said. “We’ve been able to elevate independent art and celebrate a wonderful slate of films by gathering in new ways, ways that worked thanks to adventurous audiences everywhere, eager to connect and engage with the work and with one another. Watching people come together to connect and discuss exciting new work has been incredibly rewarding — and a resounding confirmation that great independent storytelling inspires rich conversation.”
Jackson emphasized this year’s festival was made possible by the power of filmmakers and their works.
“It has been a privilege to help this work meet new audiences and enter the culture with such fanfare, especially now, when breaking through the noise is harder than ever,” she said.
GRAND JURY PRIZES
• The U.S. Grand Jury Prize: Documentary — Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson for “Summer Of Soul (…Or, When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised)”
• The U.S. Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic — Siân Heder for “CODA”
• The World Cinema Grand Jury Prize: Documentary — Jonas Poher Rasmussen for “Flee”
• The World Cinema Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic — Blerta Basholli for “Hive”
• The Audience Award: U.S. Documentary — Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson for Summer Of Soul (…Or, When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised)
• The Audience Award: U.S. Dramatic— Siân Heder for “CODA”
• The Audience Award: World Cinema Dramatic — Blerta Basholli for “Hive”
• The Audience Award: World Cinema Documentary — Rintu Thomas and Sushmit Ghosh for “Writing With Fire”
• The Audience Award: NEXT — Marion Hill for “Ma Belle My Beauty”
DIRECTING, SCREENWRITING and EDITING AWARDS
• The Directing Award: U.S. Documentary — Natalia Almada for “Users”
• The Directing Award: U.S. Dramatic — Siân Heder for “CODA”
• The Directing Award: World Cinema Documentary — Hogir Hirori for “Sabaya”
• The Directing Award: World Cinema Dramatic — Blerta Basholli for “Hive”
• The Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award: U.S. Dramatic — Ari Katcher and Ryan Welch for “On the Count of Three”
• The inaugural Jonathan Oppenheim Editing Award: U.S. Documentary — Kristina Motwani and Rebecca Adorno for “Homeroom”
SPECIAL JURY AWARDS
• U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Ensemble Cast — the cast of “CODA”
• U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Best Actor — Clifton Collins Jr. for “Jockey”
• U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award: Emerging Filmmaker — Parker Hill and Isabel Bethencourt for “Cusp”
• U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award: Nonfiction Experimentation — Theo Anthony for “All Light, Everywhere”
• World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award: Vérité Filmmaking — Camilla Nielsson for “President”
• World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award: Impact for Change — Rintu Thomas and Sushmit Ghosh for “Writing With Fire”
• World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award: Acting — Jesmark Scicluna in “Luzzu”
• World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award: Creative Vision — Baz Poonpiriya for “One for the Road”
NEXT INNOVATOR PRIZE
• The NEXT Innovator Prize — Dash Shaw for “Cryptozoo”
SHORT FILM AWARDS
• The Short Film Grand Jury Prize — “Lizard”
• The Short Film Jury Award: U.S. Fiction — “The Touch of the Master’s Hand”
• The Short Film Jury Award: International Fiction — “Bambirak”
• The Short Film Jury Award: Nonfiction — “Don’t Go Tellin’ Your Momma”
• The Short Film Jury Award: Animation — “Souvenir Souvenir”
• A Short Film Special Jury Award for Acting — “Wiggle Room”
• A Short Film Special Jury Award for Screenwriting — “The Criminals”
EARLIER SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL AWARDS
• The 2021 Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize, presented to an outstanding feature film about science or technology — “Sons of Monarchs.” The filmmakers received a $20,000 cash award from Sundance Institute with support from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.
• The Sundance Institute | Amazon Studios Producers Award for Nonfiction — Nicole Salazar for “Philly D.A.”
• The Sundance Institute | Amazon Studios Producers Award for Fiction — Natalie Qasabian for “Run.”
• The Sundance Institute | Adobe Mentorship Award for Editing Nonfiction — Juli Vizza
• The Sundance Institute | Adobe Mentorship Award for Editing Fiction — Terilyn Shropshire
• The Sundance Institute | NHK Award — Meryman Joobeur for “Motherhood”
For information, visit sundance.org.
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