Sundance Film Festival top awards go to: ‘Dina,’ ‘I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore,’ ‘Last Men in Aleppo’
Audience nods go to: ‘Chasing Coral,‘ ‘Crown Heights,’ ‘Joshua: Teenager vs. Superpower,’ ’I Dream in Another Language,’ ‘Gook’
After 10 days, 119 feature films and three feet of snow, an evening of humor and humanity marked the 2017 Sundance Film Festival’s Awards Ceremony, with host Jessica Williams emceeing and jurors presenting 27 prizes for feature filmmaking in Park City.
Honorees, named in total below, range from sharp comedies to provocative and timely documentaries and represent new achievements in global independent storytelling. Human stories prevailed across categories, with Grand Jury Prizes awarded to “Dina” (U.S. Documentary), “Last Men in Aleppo” (World Documentary), “I don’t feel at home in this world anymore.” (U.S. Dramatic) and “The Nile Hilton Incident” (World Dramatic). “Chasing Coral,” showcased in the Festival’s environmental program The New Climate, won an Audience Award in the U.S. Documentary category.
John Cooper, Director of the Sundance Film Festival, said, “This has been one of the wildest, wackiest and most rewarding Festivals in recent memory. From a new government to the independently organized Women’s March on Main, to power outages, a cyberattack and snow at record levels, the work of our artists rose above it all and challenged and changed us these last 10 days. I am most proud that, through it all, we have formed a community that is bound tighter by the art we make and the ideas we support.”
The U.S. Grand Jury Prize: Documentary
“Dina” / U.S.A. (Directors: Dan Sickles, Antonio Santini) — An eccentric suburban woman and a Walmart door-greeter navigate their evolving relationship in this unconventional love story.
The U.S. Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic
“I don’t feel at home in this world anymore.” / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Macon Blair) — When a depressed woman is burglarized, she finds a new sense of purpose by tracking down the thieves, alongside her obnoxious neighbor. But they soon find themselves dangerously out of their depth against a pack of degenerate criminals. Cast: Melanie Lynskey, Elijah Wood, David Yow, Jane Levy, Devon Graye.
The World Cinema Grand Jury Prize: Documentary
“Last Men in Aleppo” / Denmark, Syria (Director: Feras Fayyad) — After five years of war in Syria, Aleppo’s remaining residents prepare themselves for a siege. Khalid, Subhi and Mahmoud, founding members of The White Helmets, have remained in the city to help their fellow citizens—and experience daily life, death, struggle and triumph in a city under fire.
The World Cinema Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic
“The Nile Hilton Incident” / Sweden, Germany, Denmark (Director and screenwriter: Tarik Saleh) — In Cairo, weeks before the 2011 revolution, Police Detective Noredin is working in the infamous Kasr el-Nil Police Station when he is handed the case of a murdered singer. He soon realizes that the investigation concerns the power elite, close to the President’s inner circle. Cast: Fares Fares, Mari Malek, Mohamed Yousry, Yasser Ali Maher, Ahmed Selim, Hania Amar.
The Audience Award: U.S. Documentary
“Chasing Coral” / U.S.A. (Director: Jeff Orlowski) — Coral reefs around the world are vanishing at an unprecedented rate. A team of divers, photographers and scientists set out on a thrilling ocean adventure to discover why and to reveal the underwater mystery to the world.
The Audience Award: U.S. Dramatic
“Crown Heights” / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Matt Ruskin) — When Colin Warner is wrongfully convicted of murder, his best friend, Carl King, devotes his life to proving Colin’s innocence. Adapted from This American Life, this is the incredible true story of their harrowing quest for justice. Cast: Lakeith Stanfield, Nnamdi Asomugha, Natalie Paul, Bill Camp, Nestor Carbonell, Amari Cheatom.
The Audience Award: World Cinema Documentary
“Joshua: Teenager vs. Superpower” / U.S.A. (Director: Joe Piscatella) — When the Chinese Communist Party backtracks on its promise of autonomy to Hong Kong, teenager Joshua Wong decides to save his city. Rallying thousands of kids to skip school and occupy the streets, Joshua becomes an unlikely leader in Hong Kong and one of China’s most notorious dissidents.
The Audience Award: World Cinema Dramatic
“Sueño en otro idioma” (“I Dream in Another Language”) / Mexico, Netherlands (Director: Ernesto Contreras, Screenwriter: Carlos Contreras) — The last two speakers of a millennia-old language haven’t spoken in 50 years, when a young linguist tries to bring them together. Yet hidden in the past, in the heart of the jungle, lies a secret concerning the fate of the Zikril language. Cast: Fernando Álvarez Rebeil, Eligio Meléndez, Manuel Poncelis, Fátima Molina, Juan Pablo de Santiago, Hoze Meléndez.
The Audience Award: NEXT
“Gook” / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Justin Chon) — Eli and Daniel, two Korean American brothers who own a struggling women’s shoe store, have an unlikely friendship with 11-year-old Kamilla. On the first day of the 1992 L.A. riots, the trio must defend their store—and contemplate the meaning of family, their personal dreams and the future. Cast: Justin Chon, Simone Baker, David So, Curtiss Cook Jr., Sang Chon, Ben Munoz.
The Directing Award: U.S. Documentary
Peter Nicks for his film “The Force” / U.S.A. (Director: Peter Nicks) — This cinema verité look at the long-troubled Oakland Police Department goes deep inside their struggles to confront federal demands for reform, a popular uprising following events in Ferguson and an explosive scandal.
The Directing Award: U.S. Dramatic
Eliza Hittman for her film “Beach Rats” / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Eliza Hittman) — An aimless teenager on the outer edges of Brooklyn struggles to escape his bleak home life and navigate questions of self-identity, as he balances his time between his delinquent friends, a potential new girlfriend, and older men he meets online. Cast: Harris Dickinson, Madeline Weinstein, Kate Hodge.
The Directing Award: World Cinema Documentary
Pascale Lamche, for her film “WINNIE” / France (Director: Pascale Lamche) — While her husband served a life sentence, paradoxically kept safe and morally uncontaminated, Winnie Mandela rode the raw violence of apartheid, fighting on the front line and underground. This is the untold story of the mysterious forces that combined to take her down, labeling him a saint, her, a sinner.
The Directing Award: World Cinema Dramatic
Francis Lee, for his film “God’s Own Country” / United Kingdom (Director and screenwriter: Francis Lee) — Springtime in Yorkshire: isolated young sheep farmer Johnny Saxby numbs his daily frustrations with binge drinking and casual sex, until the arrival of a Romanian migrant worker, employed for the lambing season, ignites an intense relationship that sets Johnny on a new path. Cast: Josh O’Connor, Alec Secareanu, Ian Hart, Gemma Jones.
The Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award: U.S. Dramatic
Matt Spicer and David Branson Smith, for their film “Ingrid Goes West” / U.S.A. (Director: Matt Spicer, Screenwriters: Matt Spicer, David Branson Smith) — A young woman becomes obsessed with an Instagram “influencer” and moves to Los Angeles to try and befriend her in real life. Cast: Aubrey Plaza, Elizabeth Olsen, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Wyatt Russell, Billy Magnussen.
U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Inspirational Filmmaking
“STEP” / U.S.A. (Director: Amanda Lipitz) — With dreams of becoming the first in their families to attend college, a group of seniors from an inner-city Baltimore girls high school strives to make their step dance team a success against a backdrop of social unrest in a troubled city.
U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Storytelling
“Strong Island” / U.S.A., Denmark (Director: Yance Ford) — Examining the violent death of the filmmaker’s brother and the judicial system that allowed his killer to go free, this documentary interrogates murderous fear and racialized perception, and re-imagines the wreckage in catastrophe’s wake, challenging us to change.
U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Editing
Editors Kim Roberts and Emiliano Battista for “Unrest” / U.S.A. (Director: Jennifer Brea) — When Harvard PhD student Jennifer Brea is struck down at 28 by a fever that leaves her bedridden, doctors tell her it’s “all in her head.” Determined to live, she sets out on a virtual journey to document her story—and four other families’ stories—fighting a disease medicine forgot.
U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award: The Orwell Award
“ICARUS” / U.S.A. (Director: Bryan Fogel) — When Bryan Fogel sets out to uncover the truth about doping in sports, a chance meeting with a Russian scientist transforms his story from a personal experiment into a geopolitical thriller involving dirty urine, unexplained death and Olympic Gold—exposing the biggest scandal in sports history.
U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Best Cinematography
Director of Photography Daniel Landin for “The Yellow Birds” / U.S.A. (Director: Alexandre Moors, Screenwriters: David Lowery, R.F.I. Porto) — Two young men enlist in the army and are deployed to fight in the Iraq War. After an unthinkable tragedy, the returning soldier struggles to balance his promise of silence with the truth and a mourning mother’s search for peace. Cast: Tye Sheridan, Jack Huston, Alden Ehrenreich, Jason Patric, Toni Collette, Jennifer Aniston.
U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Breakthrough Performance
Chanté Adams, in “Roxanne Roxanne” / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Michael Larnell) — The most feared battle MC in early-’80s NYC was a fierce teenager from the Queensbridge projects with the weight of the world on her shoulders. At age 14, hustling the streets to provide for her family, Roxanne Shanté was well on her way to becoming a hip-hop legend. Cast: Chanté Adams, Mahershala Ali, Nia Long, Elvis Nolasco, Kevin Phillips, Shenell Edmonds.
U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Breakthrough Director
Maggie Betts, for her film “Novitiate” / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Maggie Betts) — In the early 1960s, during the Vatican II era, a young woman training to become a nun struggles with issues of faith, sexuality and the changing church. Cast: Margaret Qualley, Melissa Leo, Julianne Nicholson, Dianna Agron, Morgan Saylor.
World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award for Excellence in Cinematography
Cinematographer Rodrigo Trejo Villanueva for “Machines” / India, Germany, Finland (Director: Rahul Jain) — This intimate, observant portrayal of the rhythm of life and work in a gigantic textile factory in Gujarat, India, moves through the corridors and bowels of the enormously disorienting structure, taking the viewer on a journey of dehumanizing physical labor and intense hardship.
World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award for Commanding Vision
“Motherland” / U.S.A., Philippines (Director: Ramona S. Diaz) — Taking us into the heart of the planet’s busiest maternity hospital, the viewer is dropped like an unseen outsider into the hospital’s stream of activity. At first, the people are strangers. As the film continues, it’s absorbingly intimate, rendering the women at the heart of the story increasingly familiar.
World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award for Masterful Storytelling
“RUMBLE: The Indians Who Rocked The World” / Canada (Directors: Catherine Bainbridge, Alfonso Maiorana) — This powerful documentary about the role of Native Americans in contemporary music history featuring some of the greatest music stars of our time exposes a critical missing chapter, revealing how indigenous musicians helped shape the soundtracks of our lives and, through their contributions, influenced popular culture. Cast: Robbie Robertson, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Martin Scorsese, Tony Bennett, Steven Tyler, Iggy Pop.
World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award for Cinematography
Cinematographer Manu Dacosse for “Axolotl Overkill “/ Germany (Director and screenwriter: Helene Hegemann) — Mifti, age 16, lives in Berlin with a cast of characters including her half-siblings; their rich, self-involved father; and her junkie friend Ophelia. As she mourns her recently deceased mother, she begins to develop an obsession with Alice, an enigmatic, and much older, white-collar criminal. Cast: Jasna Fritzi Bauer, Arly Jover, Mavie Hörbiger, Laura Tonke, Hans Löw, Bernhard Schütz.
World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award for Cinematic Vision
“Free and Easy” / Hong Kong (Director: Jun Geng, Screenwriters: Jun Geng, Yuhua Feng, Bing Liu) — When a traveling soap salesman arrives in a desolate Chinese town, a crime occurs, and sets the strange residents against each other with tragicomic results. Cast: Xu Gang, Zhang Zhiyong, Xue Baohe, Gu Benbin, Zhang Xun, Yuan Liguo.
World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award for Screenplay
Screenwriter Kirsten Tan for “Pop Aye” / Singapore, Thailand (Director and screenwriter: Kirsten Tan) — On a chance encounter, a disenchanted architect bumps into his long-lost elephant on the streets of Bangkok. Excited, he takes his elephant on a journey across Thailand in search of the farm where they grew up together. Cast: Thaneth Warakulnukroh, Penpak Sirikul, Bong.
The awards ceremony marked the culmination of the 2017 Festival, where 119 feature-length and 68 short films — selected from 13,782 submissions — were showcased in Park City, Salt Lake City and Sundance, Utah, alongside new episodic work, panels, music and New Frontier. The ceremony was live-streamed; video is available at youtube.com/sff.
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