Sundance Film Festival Award Winners
As the Sundance Film Festival handed out awards Saturday night, the big winners included a drama centered on a death-row execution; a documentary about China’s one-child policy; a drama featuring young undocumented migrants as the heroes; and the story of a beekeeper in Macedonia.
During the 2019 Festival Awards, held at the Snyderville Basin Fieldhouse, the Grand Jury Prize for a U.S. dramatic Feature went to “Clemency” staring Alfre Woodard as a prison warden facing the psychological toll of carrying out years of death-row executions.
The director and writer of the film, Chinonye Chukwu accepted the award with an impassioned speech to the audience.
“I wrote this because I wanted audiences, I wanted us, I wanted myself to connect with the ecosystem of humanity connected to incarceration. So, we as a society can stop defining people by their worst possible acts. That we can end mass incarceration and dismantle the prison industrial complex and through our societies in true justice, and mercy and freedom which is all tied to our joy inside that nobody can ever incarcerate or execute.”
The Grand Jury honor for a U.S. Documentary went to “One Child Nation.” Film-maker Nanfu Wange delved into the secrets of China’s one-child policy and those affected by it.
A multiple winner from the night was “Honeyland” about a beekeeper in Macedonia who struggles to preserve her livelihood, and the delicate balance of nature. The film not only won the Grand Jury Prize for World Documentary but was honored for its Cinematography and received a Special Award for “Impact For Change.”
The Grand Jury Prize for a World Cinema Drama went to “Souvenir” about a young woman trying to find her voice as an artist and working through a dangerous relationship.
The Next program at Sundance had one big winner. The film “The Infiltrators” about a group of Dreamers infiltrating a for-profit detention center, wont the Audience Award. It also was given an Innovator Award from Juror Laurie Anderson.
The co-director, Alex Rivera, said the credit belongs to the undocumented activists behind the film.
“When you do documentary, you’re always a bit of a vampire. You’re living off, in some sense, someone else’s story and trying to represent it and re-tell it and bring life to a story that is already being lived. So this story rests on the imagination of the undocumented activists who are really trying to teach us what America is. There’s one vision of America which is that you’re born here, because you happen to come out of your mama you’re an American. That’s one America, but the characters in our film teach us of a different America where if you fight to be here, if you bleed to be here, if you cross a desert to be here, if you cross an ocean to be here that’s why you get to be an American. We learn from them, so thank them.”
Honors also went out to films chosen by the festival-goers. The Audience Awards for U.S. Documentary went to “Knock Down the House” about a group of upstart political challengers including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The U.S. Drama “Brittany Runs a Marathon” about a woman taking charge of her life by running; the World Documentary “Sea of Shadows” about the environmental crisis facing the world’s smallest whale; and the World Drama “Queen of Hearts” which showed the tragic consequence as a woman seduces her teen stepson.
The Directing Award for U.S. Documentary went to Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert for “American Factory” the story of culture clash as a Chinese billionaire opens a new factory in Ohio with American workers.
Reichert said they made a small film with big ambitions.
“We Hope it can serve to turn down some of the steam between the two great economic superpowers right now. I don’t need to say who they are. We also hope that our film can really speak to working people who really make the world run and are most of us on this planet, working class people. We hope to be part of building a platform for working people to see themselves as protagonists in their story. To see themselves and to support their fight for agency and a strong voice in the future of all of us that we have to build.”
The Directing Award for a U.S. Drama went to Joe Talbot for “The Last Black Man in San Francisco”. Talbot also received a Special Jury Award for Creative Collaboration.
Another multiple winner was the Narrative film “Share” the story of a girl who has gone viral on some illicit cell-phone videos. The film got a Screenwriting Award for Pippa Bianco, who also directed, and an acting award for star Rhianne Barreto.