'Burden' & 'The Sentence' Win the Audience Awards at Sundance 2018
by Alex Billington
January 27, 2018
The official awards for the 2018 Sundance Film Festival were announced tonight at a ceremony in Park City. We've been patiently waiting to see who won the awards at Sundance this year, and now we know - it's not any of the films we expected. This seems to be one of the oddest sets of winners in years, but that's the way it goes. The big Audience Award winners are: Burden, a story about a former Klansman being taken in by a Reverend starring Garrett Hedlund & Forest Whitaker, from director Andrew Heckler; The Sentence, a documentary by Rudy Valdez; and Search, the computer screen film (read my review) directed by Aneesh Chaganty. Other major winners include filmmakers Desiree Akhavan, Sara Colangelo, Christina Choe, Reed Morano, Reinaldo Marcus Green, Bing Liu, Derek Doneen, and Gustav Möller. View the full list from 2018.
Here's the full release of winners with synopsis info next to each. The 2018 festival wraps up this weekend.
2018 SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL JURY AWARDS:
The U.S. Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic was presented to: The Miseducation of Cameron Post (Director: Desiree Akhavan, Screenwriters: Desiree Akhavan, Cecilia Frugiuele, Producers: Cecilia Frugiuele, Jonathan Montepare, Michael B. Clark, Alex Turtletaub) — 1993: after being caught having sex with the prom queen, a girl is forced into a gay conversion therapy center. Based on Emily Danforth's acclaimed and controversial coming-of-age novel. Cast: Chloë Grace Moretz, Sasha Lane, Forrest Goodluck, John Gallagher Jr., Jennifer Ehle.
The U.S. Grand Jury Prize: Documentary was presented to: Kailash (Director: Derek Doneen, Producers: Davis Guggenheim, Sarah Anthony) — As a young man, Kailash Satyarthi promised himself that he would end child slavery in his lifetime. In the decades since, he has rescued more than eighty thousand children and built a global movement. This intimate and suspenseful film follows one man’s journey to do what many believed was impossible.
The World Cinema Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic was presented to: Butterflies / Turkey (Director & Screenwriter: Tolga Karaçelik, Producers: Tolga Karaçelik, Diloy Gülün, Metin Anter) — In the Turkish village of Hasanlar, three siblings who neither know each other nor anything about their late father, wait to bury his body. As they start to find out more about their father and about each other, they also start to know more about themselves.
The World Cinema Grand Jury Prize: Documentary was presented to: Of Fathers and Sons / Germany, Syria, Lebanon, Qatar (Director: Talal Derki, Producers: Ansgar Frerich, Eva Kemme, Tobias N. Siebert, Hans Robert Eisenhauer) — Talal Derki returns to his homeland where he gains the trust of a radical Islamist family, sharing their daily life for over two years. His camera focuses on Osama and his younger brother Ayman, providing an extremely rare insight into what it means to grow up in an Islamic Caliphate.
The Directing Award: U.S. Dramatic was presented to: Sara Colangelo, for her film The Kindergarten Teacher (Director & Screenwriter: Sara Colangelo, Producers: Talia Kleinhendler, Osnat Handelsman-Keren, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Celine Rattray, Trudie Styler) — When a Staten Island kindergarten teacher discovers what may be a gifted five year-old student in her class, she becomes fascinated and obsessed with the child-- spiraling downward on a dangerous and desperate path in order to nurture his talent. Cast: Maggie Gyllenhaal, Parker Sevak, Rosa Salazar, Anna Barynishikov, Michael Chernus, Gael Garcia Bernal.
The Directing Award: U.S. Documentary was presented to: Alexandria Bombach for her film On Her Shoulders (Director: Alexandria Bombach, Producers: Hayley Pappas, Brock Williams) — Nadia Murad, a 23-year-old Yazidi, survived genocide and sexual slavery committed by ISIS. Repeating her story to the world, this ordinary girl finds herself thrust onto the international stage as the voice of her people. Away from the podium, she must navigate bureaucracy, fame and people's good intentions.
The Directing Award: World Cinema Dramatic was presented by Michael J. Werner to: Ísold Uggadóttir, for her film And Breathe Normally / Iceland, Sweden, Belgium (Director and screenwriter: Ísold Uggadóttir, Producers: Skúli Malmquist, Diana Elbaum, Annika Hellström, Lilja Ósk Snorradóttir, Inga Lind Karlsdóttir) — At the edge of Iceland’s Reykjanes peninsula, two women’s lives will intersect – for a brief moment – while trapped in circumstances unforeseen. Between a struggling Icelandic mother and an asylum seeker from Guinea-Bissau, a delicate bond will form as both strategize to get their lives back on track. Cast: Kristín Thóra Haraldsdóttir, Babetida Sadjo, Patrik Nökkvi Pétursson.
The Directing Award: World Cinema Documentary was presented to: Sandi Tan, for her film Shirkers (Director & Screenwriter: Sandi Tan, Producers: Sandi Tan, Jessica Levin, Maya Rudolph) — In 1992, teenager Sandi Tan shot Singapore's first indie road movie with her enigmatic American mentor Georges – who then vanished with all the footage. Twenty years later, the 16mm film is recovered, sending Tan, now a novelist in Los Angeles, on a personal odyssey in search of Georges' vanishing footprints.
The Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award: U.S. Dramatic was presented to: Christina Choe, for her film Nancy (Director & Screenwriter: Christina Choe, Producers: Amy Lo, Michelle Cameron, Andrea Riseborough) — Blurring lines between fact and fiction, Nancy becomes increasingly convinced she was kidnapped as a child. When she meets a couple whose daughter went missing thirty years ago, reasonable doubts give way to willful belief – and the power of emotion threatens to overcome all rationality. Cast: Andrea Riseborough, J. Smith-Cameron, Steve Buscemi, Ann Dowd, John Leguizamo.
A U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Outstanding First Feature was presented to: Monsters and Men (Director & Screenwriter: Reinaldo Marcus Green, Producers: Elizabeth Lodge Stepp, Josh Penn, Eddie Vaisman, Julia Lebedev, Luca Borghese) — This interwoven narrative explores the aftermath of a police killing of a black man. The film is told through the eyes of the bystander who filmed the act, an African-American police officer and a high-school baseball phenom inspired to take a stand. Cast: John David Washington, Anthony Ramos, Kelvin Harrison Jr., Chanté Adams, Nicole Beharie, Rob Morgan.
A U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Excellence in Filmmaking was presented to: I Think We're Alone Now (Director: Reed Morano, Screenwriter: Mike Makowsky, Producers: Fred Berger, Brian Kavanaugh-Jones, Fernando Loureiro, Roberto Vasconcellos, Peter Dinklage, Mike Makowsky) — The apocalypse proves a blessing in disguise for one lucky recluse – until a second survivor arrives with the threat of companionship. Cast: Peter Dinklage, Elle Fanning.
A U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Achievement in Acting was presented to: Benjamin Dickey, for Blaze (Director: Ethan Hawke, Screenwriters: Ethan Hawke, Sybil Rosen, Producers: Jake Seal, John Sloss, Ryan Hawke, Ethan Hawke) — A reimagining of the life and times of Blaze Foley, the unsung songwriting legend of the Texas Outlaw Music movement; he gave up paradise for the sake of a song. Cast: Benjamin Dickey, Alia Shawkat, Josh Hamilton, Charlie Sexton.
A U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Creative Vision was presented to: Hale County This Morning, This Evening (Director: RaMell Ross, Screenwriter: Maya Krinsky, Producers: Joslyn Barnes, RaMell Ross, Su Kim) — Composed of intimate and unencumbered moments of people in a community, this film is constructed in a form that allows the viewer an emotive impression of the Historic South - trumpeting the beauty of life and consequences of the social construction of race, while simultaneously a testament to dreaming.
A U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Social Impact was presented to: Crime + Punishment (Director: Stephen Maing) — Over four years of unprecedented access, the story of a brave group of black and Latino whistleblower cops and one unrelenting private investigator who, amidst a landmark lawsuit, risk everything to expose illegal quota practices and their impact on young minorities.
A U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Storytelling was presented to: Three Identical Strangers (Director: Tim Wardle, Producer: Becky Read) — New York,1980: three complete strangers accidentally discover that they're identical triplets, separated at birth. The 19-year-olds’ joyous reunion catapults them to international fame, but also unlocks an extraordinary and disturbing secret that goes beyond their own lives - and could transform our understanding of human nature forever.
A U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Breakthrough Filmmaking was presented to: Minding the Gap (Director: Bing Liu, Producer: Diane Quon) — Three young men bond together to escape volatile families in their Rust Belt hometown. As they face adult responsibilities, unexpected revelations threaten their decade-long friendship.
The NEXT Innovator Prize was announced as a tie, and was presented to two films:
Night Comes On (Director: Jordana Spiro, Screenwriters: Jordana Spiro, Angelica Nwandu, Producers: Jonathan Montepare, Alvaro R. Valente, Danielle Renfrew Behrens) — Angel LaMere is released from juvenile detention on the eve of her 18th birthday. Haunted by her past, she embarks on a journey with her 10 year-old sister that could destroy their future. Cast: Dominique Fishback, Tatum Hall, John Earl Jelks, Max Casella, James McDaniel.
We the Animals (Director: Jeremiah Zagar, Screenwriters: Daniel Kitrosser, Jeremiah Zagar, Producers: Jeremy Yaches, Christina D. King, Andrew Goldman, Paul Mezey) — Us three, us brothers, us kings. Manny, Joel and Jonah tear their way through childhood and push against the volatile love of their parents. As Manny and Joel grow into versions of their father and Ma dreams of escape, Jonah, the youngest, embraces an imagined world all his own. Cast: Raul Castillo, Sheila Vand, Evan Rosado, Isaiah Kristian, Josiah Gabriel.
2018 SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL AUDIENCE AWARDS:
The Audience Award: U.S. Dramatic, Presented by Acura was presented to: Burden (Director & Screenwriter: Andrew Heckler, Producers: Robbie Brenner, Jincheng, Bill Kenwright) — After opening a KKK shop, Klansman Michael Burden falls in love with a single mom who forces him to confront his senseless hatred. After leaving the Klan and with nowhere to turn, Burden is taken in by an African-American reverend, and learns tolerance through their combined love and faith. Cast: Garrett Hedlund, Forest Whitaker, Andrea Riseborough, Tom Wilkinson, Usher Raymond.
The Audience Award: U.S. Documentary, Presented by Acura was presented to: The Sentence (Director: Rudy Valdez, Producers: Sam Bisbee, Jackie Kelman Bisbee) — Cindy Shank, mother of three, is serving a 15-year sentence in federal prison for her tangential involvement with a Michigan drug ring years earlier. This intimate portrait of mandatory minimum drug sentencing's devastating consequences, captured by Cindy's brother, follows her and her family over the course of ten years.
The Audience Award: World Cinema Dramatic was presented to: The Guilty / Denmark (Director: Gustav Möller, Screenwriters: Gustav Möller, Emil Nygaard Albertsen, Producer: Lina Flint) — Alarm dispatcher Asger Holm answers an emergency call from a kidnapped woman; after a sudden disconnection, the search for the woman and her kidnapper begins. With the phone as his only tool, Asger enters a race against time to solve a crime that is far bigger than he first thought. Cast: Jakob Cedergren, Jessica Dinnage, Johan Olsen, Omar Shargawi.
The Audience Award: World Cinema Documentary was presented to: This Is Home / U.S.A., Jordan (Director: Alexandra Shiva, Producers: Lindsey Megrue, Alexandra Shiva) — This is an intimate portrait of four Syrian families arriving in Baltimore, Maryland and struggling to find their footing. With eight months to become self-sufficient, they must forge ahead to rebuild their lives. When the travel ban adds further complications, their strength and resilience are put to the test.
The Audience Award: NEXT, Presented by Adobe was presented to: Search (Director: Aneesh Chaganty, Screenwriters: Aneesh Chaganty, Sev Ohanian, Producers: Timur Bekmambetov, Sev Ohanian, Adam Sidman, Natalie Qasabian) — After his 16-year-old daughter goes missing, a desperate father breaks into her laptop to look for clues to find her. A thriller that unfolds entirely on computer screens. Cast: John Cho, Debra Messing.
Congrats to all of 2018's winners! In all honesty, these are some of the oddest Sundance awards in years. I don't know many people who loved The Miseducation of Cameron Post (most thought it was okay), so how did it win Grand Jury? Doesn't make sense. Even the Audience Awards winners didn't seem to have much buzz. So be it, but just so many odd surprises with all of these winners. I loved a lot of films at Sundance this year, but almost none of them ended up winning an award. There's usually a few that sneak in, and those would be: Search, Minding the Gap and The Guilty. I'm happy to see these films recognized, but the rest of the winners are so odd and completely unexpected. As always, these are only Sundance awards and not the only good films to see from the fest. See last year's winners here. Recap all of our Sundance 2018 coverage.