Sundance Film Festival ends this year’s festival with awards ceremony |

Sundance Film Festival ends this year’s festival with awards ceremony

Filmmaker Nate Parker holds up his Sundance Film Festival U.S. Grand Jury Award for his film "Birth of a Nation," a biopic about slave Nat Turner. Parker's film also took home the U.S. Dramatic Audience Award. (Jake Shane/Park Record)

Rokhsareh Ghaem Maghami’s film on the plight of an 18-year-old female rapper from Afghanistan and Nate Parker’s biopic of Nat Turner and the events leading up to the 1831 Southhampton Insurrection were the big winners at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival.

Both films were presented with two awards during the festival’s awards ceremony at the Basin Recreation Fieldhouse Saturday night.

When Maghami accepted the World Cinema Grand Jury Prize for her documentary "Sonita" early in the evening, little did she know she would be back on the podium a second time a few minutes later to accept the Audience Award for World Cinema Documentary.

"Thank you so much. It’s an honor to be here and to have a prize," a surprised Maghami said on her first time up. "Thank you."

She had more to say during her next trip to the podium.

"The award was when I started working with Sonita everyday," Maghami said. "She awarded me with emotion. She was the daughter I never had. It’s great to be at Sundance. We are so happy. Thank you so much."

Likewise, Parker knew the responsibility of his film, especially when he deliberately christened it the same title as the 1915 racist propaganda film.

"Something being called an issue film succeeds when it touches people," Parker said during his first trip to the podium to accept the U.S. Dramatic Audience Award. "I’ve seen that people are open to change. I share this with you audience members who remembered to tear that thing. Thank you so much."

When he returned to the stage at the end of the evening for the Dramatic U.S. Grand Jury Prize, Parker gave his thanks to the Sundance Institute.

"Sundance is like a great summer camp experience with magical camp counselors," he said. "Making a film is a very difficult thing. Often you’re left on your own. Thank you Sundance for creating a platform for us to grow in spite of what Hollywood is doing sometimes."

This year marks the third time in Sundance Film Festival history that two films have won both the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award in their categories during the same year.

It also continues a four-year streak of at least one film winning both awards for its section, according to Sundance.

For a full list of winners, see the story (Sundance Film Festival wraps with awards)

Throughout the evening, director Taika Waititi kept things rolling with his dry and engaging delivery.

"I know what it’s like," he said almost one hour into the ceremony. "Someone wins. Things were going along to plan with your life, and someone with a depressing film gets ahead of you. Winners, congratulations, we hate you."

Speaking of winners, the other Grand Jury Prize recipients included Elyse Steinberg’s and Josh Kriegman’s "Weiner" for U.S. Documentary and Elite Zexer’s "Sand Storm" for World Cinema Dramatic.

Zexer, who held her trophy up and bounced about, couldn’t hide her excitement.

"I feel it’s been such a week of talking and talking and now that I have to say something, I’m speechless," she said. "I’m so happy it premiered here. I’m sorry my crew had to go home and not experience this with me. I couldn’t have done this without them."

Audience Awards included Brian Oakes’ "Jim: The James Foley Story," (U.S. Documentary), Carlos del Castillo’s "Between Land and Sea" (World Cinema Dramatic) and Keres Sanga’s "First Girl I Loved," which took home the NEXT Audience Award.

Actors were also recognized for their performances in the films. The U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Breakthrough Performance went to Joe Seo for Andrew Ahn’s "Spa Night," the U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Individual Performance was presented to Melanie Lynskey for Clea DuVall’s "The Intervention" and the U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Individual Performance went to Craig Robinson for "Morris from America," which was written and directed by Chad Hartigan.

"Thank you Chad Hartigan for trusting me with this role," Robinson said after leading a call-and-response cheer of "Sundance" with the audience.

He then thanked his parents and said he hoped they figured out the live stream of the awards, which was a shame because the stream had cut out due to a momentary power outage early in the evening and wasn’t restored until towards the end of the ceremony, according to Elizabeth Latenser, Sundance assistant director of media relations.

A full video is now viewable at .

Hartigan also had his time in the spotlight. The writer and filmmaker was presented the prestigious Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award for "Morris from America."

"Whoa, I was just back there celebrating with Craig, thinking that is that," Hartigan said. "This is incredible. I’d like to thank our producers. Wait a minute, this is for writing; I did that by myself. I wrote this movie and I sat down with an empty page and willed it into an existence. I’m just going to say thank you and go back to celebrating with Craig. Thank you very much."

For a full list of winners, see the story tiled "Sundance Film Festival Wraps with Awards." Visit for more information.

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