The 2017 Sundance Film Festival was easily one of it’s best with some very timely films that resounded with audiences. The ten days flew by along with the 119 feature films, not to mention the snow, and it ended with Jessica Williams hosting the 27 filmmaking awards.
The big award winners were a love story unlike most, A Syrian documentary along with a murder and crime mystery thriller.
It seems so long ago that Nate Parker’s “Birth of a Nations” was the winner of the U.S. Grand Jury Prize.
UPDATED 9:20 PM MST
Williams introduces Larry Wilmore, known for his role as host of Comedy Central’s critically acclaimed The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore.
Wilmore: “Jessica Williams everybody! I am so honored to be here. There are so many amazing films.
“I do want to say, to all my Muslim brothers and sisters, even though i grew up Catholic, today i am a Muslim. Tomorrow i have to go to the airport so i’ll be Catholic again. But today… At a time when our world seems to be getting darker, uglier and more dangerous. This movie manages to be just beautiful…”
U.S. Grand Jury Prize: Documentary
Dina, directed by Dan Sickles and Antonio Santini
The directors are visibly moved, walking slowly and dazedly.
Santini: “When Dan and me started to edit, Dan’s dad passed away and we drove to Maryland to see him. At this funeral was a woman named Dina, who was crazy enough to speak up. The same year Dan’s mother also passed away. Dan had the courage to invite me to pursue this story.”
Sickles: “This is the weirdest sensation I have no spit in my mouth and I think I’m simultaneously pissing my pants. The greatness sometimes hides in the crevices we don’t pay attention to and in the people walking amongst us that we don’t see. It’s such a privilege to do what we do. I get to work with this guy every single day of my life. The person who deserves the most thanks for this is Dina herself and Scott her husband. The person who deserves the most thanks is Dina Buno and Scott levine. Two of the bravest people you’ll ever meet.
Santini: “Dina is a woman born and called different, called retarded, stabbed almost to death. And we wanted to make a film that celebrates our differences.”
For the final award of the evening, Williams introduces Peter Dinklage, known forThe Station Agent, as well as his role as Tyrion Lannister in HBO’s Game of Thrones.
Dinklage takes a handheld mic: “I’m not able to use the podium, so I will sing a song…no, no. Often when you have a film you don’t have time to see other films. So it’s so great to see so many incredible films. It’s been a great week with my jurors. Gael is the only person who can complain about the air conditioning and make is sound gorgeous. He called himself a snowflake?”
Now for the award: “The world is falling apart. We are treating others not as we would treat soursgvels. We are at a breaking point, and it’s a brilliant and hilarious ride. A wholly original tumble down the rabbit hole.”
U.S. Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic
I don’t’ feel at home in this world anymore, directed by Macon Blair
Blair: “It’s surreal to be here. My mom and my dad had a small part in this movie, and last week dad had people over to protest in D.C., and here there was a rally too. These things made me hopeful amid all the craven bullshit going on. All this fucking nonsense. These things are probably not going to affect me that much, but for the folks it will, i’m with you. Thank you so much, this is a huge honor.”
Jessica Williams: “Now it’s time to party. Let’s get effed up. Kidding. Not kidding. See you later!”
UPDATED 9:11 PM MST
Jessica Williams returns to the stage and introduces Susan Lacy, executive producer of American Masters on PBS and a director for HBO Documentary Films.
Lacy: “There’s no greater evidence that we’re living in a golden age of documentary filmmaking than the 16 films we had the privilege to screen this week. Each is brilliant in its own way. Without taking sides, this film takes us inside a complex and urgent story. For its provocative cinematography and sure-handed immersive style…”
Directing Award: U.S. Documentary
The Force, directed by Peter Nicks
Nicks: “Wow. This journey began a long time ago. I have to thank foremost my mom and dad, may he rest in peace. For raising me, I put them through a real rough sledding, and I always told myself I’d keep pushing. I couldn’t have made this film without a lot of people supporting me. I always told myself keep pushing. I fell in love with storytelling. Inspired by The Wire, a style that drew me in and i wanted to emulate. ITS and PBS… we have to give it up to everyone in this room supporting public television. It’s remarkable support that helped get this film made. The most important part of this crew is not here and that’s Linda Davis and . This is an amazing honor. I have to thank Sundance Institute who supported this project along the way. Thank you very much.”
Williams introduces Jody Hill, co-creator of two HBO series, Eastbound and Down and Vice Principals.
Hill: “From the script to the final edit, directing is all about choice. It’s a series of decisions that affect the film. She directs a film that’s extremely watchable and fiercely independent.”
Directing Award: U.S. Dramatic
Beach Rats, directed by Eliza Hittman
Hittman: “I just want to say thank you to Sundance Institute for supporting this script and supporting me in a very vulnerable moment in my life. They took me in and nurtured me. I want to thank my incredible team for supporting me. I am so honored to be called a director. I think there is nothing more taboo in this country than a woman with ambition. I’m going to work my way through a system that is completely discriminatory towards women. Hollywood, I’m coming for you.”
UPDATED 9:02 PM MST
Jessica Williams returns to introduce the U.S. Dramatic jury, including Jacqueline Lyanga, director of AFI Fest; Jeannine Oppewall, a renowned production designer and four-time Academy Award nominee whose most recent film is Warren Beatty’s Rules Don’t Apply; and Gael Garcia Bernal, who won the 2016 Golden Globe Award for his leading role in Mozart in the Jungle.
Bernal: “Hey. Yeah. it’s always nice to see you. Thank you for this invitation. I’m from mexico and from Latin America. I’m a tropical bird who freezes in air conditioning. But not in the mountains. I’m light as a snowflake. But in the air conditioning I freeze. Today especially i’m from Iraq, Iran, Syria, and I’m from many other countries as well. It’s so obvious that we’re so interdependent and interconnected and with everything we do and every moment we share with each other. In Peru there’s a ceremony, and what they tell you is to think about the mountain where you come from. And that’s also another person’s mountain as well. When you think of that in a subtle and concentrated way, you find yourself at the center of the world. I invite you on behalf of my family in Mexico, my Argentinian family, and my Colombian family, to come to Mexico. You’ll like it. Really. Okay.”
Bernal presents: “We see many images in the news, on youtube, everywhere, about war. But the world depicted in this film gives us an insight into the numbness of the battlefield. All with a very human camera.”
U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award Cinematography
The Yellow Birds, cinematography by Daniel Landin
Landin isn’t here, but via video message, says: “I’m back in London now. I want to say thank you. I’m very honored to receive this award. We had difficult schedules but the vindication is to work with a director with a vision. It feels like a real filmmaker’s film. Have a great night. Thank you.”
Lyanga: “Sundance is a place where we come, it’s exciting to see all these new great films, and to discover new talent. We chose to honor the work of a new actor.”
U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Breakthrough Performance
Chanté Adams for Roxanne Roxanne
Director Michael Larnell accepts on Adams’ behalf: “We cast her eight days before we prepared to shoot. She killed it and did everything we asked for. She’s one to watch. Thank you.”
Oppewall: “This has been a very intense experience for me. I’ve never been here before. I saw over 30 films, not just the ones in my category. I can’t believe how much great material i saw. It was a brave choice of material directed with deep feeling for a special variety of religious experience in America. About the love a young nun wants to find in the church.”
U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Breakthrough Director
Novitiate, directed by Maggie Betts
Betts accepts via video message: “I’m so sad not to be there but so incredibly thankful and grateful to Sundance. I’ve had the most amazing experience. This is icing on the cake. I’m deeply grateful so thank you.”
Garcia Bernal: “I forgot. I want to invite Bridget to Mexico. Yeah. Oh my god. It’s the air conditioning.”
“A comedy, it can go in many different directions. But it requires a very good script to keep the danger in a dangerous comedy. How fantastic it is to give the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award: U.S. Dramatic to…”
Ingrid Goes West, written by Matt Spicer and David Branson Smith
“Oh my god. I’m going to freak out right now. Thank you so much to the jurors, Dave Smith, the actors, my cast and crew. I’d like to dedicate this award to three incredible women, without whom this wouldn’t be possible. Aubrey Plaza, my Mom, who raised three kids while working and going to school at night and my girlfriend Sarah for supporting me and being my rock for these to years.”
Smith: I’ve been trying to tell stories my whole life and to have the first thing I’ve put in the world win, this means so much. Thank you.”
UPDATED 8:51 PM MST
Jessica Williams returns to the stage. “The Audience Award is super special. On an election level that’s sort of the award that Hillary Clinton won.” Exhales. “Not over it.” She introduces the U.S. Documentary jury, including French filmmaker Diego Bunuel, who is host of the National Geographic series Don’t Tell My Mother; as well as Robert Greene, a filmmaker, writer, and editor who won a special jury award at last year’s Sundance Film Festival for his film Kate Plays Christine; and Julie Goldman, who is one of the most acclaimed producers working today. Julie executive produced Weiner, which won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival, and Life Itself, which is currently nominated for the Academy Award.
Greene: “I speak for the jury when i say this was an incredible honor. I love documentaries, we love documentaries.”
Goldman presents via video: “Battling the odds with fierce determination and charismatic grip. The subjects lift us off our feet.”
U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for inspirational filmmaking
STEP, directed by Amanda Lipitz
Another big team climbs up on stage. Lipitz: “To all of the girls watching in baltimore. We never thought we’d be here. Having the girls here for those four days, Sundance truly changed their life. They went back to Baltimore with their heart filled with confidence and love. So thank you for giving them that. Being a young woman in America today is not easy. These girls show that nothing is impossible when you surround yourself with a group of powerful women so let’s keep doing that. Thank you so much.”
Bunuel: “There seems to be a unifying theme. You may not hear it in my accent but I’m French. We’re up next. I hope we’ll be able to do better. No guarantees there. The jury also wanted to recognize the team work going into making documentaries.” Bunuel presents:
U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Editing
Unrest, edited by Kim Roberts and Emiliano Battista
Direct Jennifer Brea accepts: “Thank you so much. I’m so thrilled to accept this award on behalf of our entire team. When I first envision a film about our community, few believed it was possible. The cinematic possibilities weren’t immediately obvious. It was in the edit that I was able to find my voice That alchemy between me and my team has been one of the most profound of my life. Want to thank our entire team. All of our many supporters and I particularly want to thank Debbie Hoffman, who is still making movies and all the filmmakers around the world with disabilities. In this moment you are here, you are heard, and you are seen. Thank you.”
Greene: “This next award means a lot to me. But first I wanted to tell a little story. I’m in this weird bubble and I sent a text to two Muslim filmmakers. One said, “keep our friend in mind because he just arrived in JFK and was detained.” I didn’t know what to do, we’re trapped and have obligations to be here. It feels strange to be in this room, though it’s a great group of people. What can we do? We can keep telling stories. There are three stories about Syria. So give it up, and keep trying. This is a weird platform to say something, but we’re all pretty shaken.”
Greene introduces “a stunning cinematic confession”:
U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Storytelling
Strong Island, directed by Yance Ford
“You’ll [have to] forgive me, I lost my voice the second day I got here. I’d like to thank Sundance for allowing us to participate in this festival. I congratulate all my colleagues in this competition. I hope you’ll forgive me for being brief because I do want to say something. Thanks team. I hope you are watching in Denmark. Thank you to my sister who is my hero and my partner, Amanda, who is my love. None of these people have forgot what Strong Island was about. To quote Elie Wiesel, ‘neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim; silence encourages the tormentor, not the tormentor.’ We must interfere now. My brother would be appalled to witness what happened today at our nation’s airports. Sometimes we must interfere. That moment is now. When we leave this place we must interfere, disrupt, and prevent our nation from folding in on itself. We must stand as pillars of fire in the darkness. The time is now. Summon your courage. Gather your cameras. America needs us now more than ever. Thank you.”
“In a world of post-truth, doublespeak, and alternative facts, the jury decided to create the Orwell Award to recognize a film that reveals the truth at a time when the truth is no longer a commodity.
The Orwell Award
ICARUS, directed by Bryan Fogel
Fogel: “Wow, the Orwell award. May there be other Orwell awards at Sundance over the next four years. I have an amazing team. Thank you so much. This movie is dedicated to Grigory Rodchenkov, the whistle blower who had the courage to come forward, risk his life, and tell the truth. I hope there are more out there who will take extraordinary risks to tell the truth. I hope you get to see the film and take pride in Grigory’s courage. Thank you so much.”
UPDATED 8:32 PM MST
Jessica returns to introduce Barbara Kopple, “one of our most celebrated filmmakers for four decades,” and Taylor Sheridan, an actor, writer and director, who wrote the screenplay for Sicario and directed Wind River.
Kopple: “I wanted to let you know, and this is totally dating myself, i was at the first Sundance film festival. I was on the jury. It was really small. I was with pennebaker, wiseman and maysles. We were picked up every morning and we looked at documentaries. Suddenly at the end there were all these people we didn’t know about. And Harvey Milk won that year.” Kopple announces:
Audience Award: World Cinema Documentary
Joshua: Teenager vs. Superpower, directed by Joe Piscatella
Piscatella: “Whoa. Thank you. These films aren’t made without an amazing team” and thanks his producers. “My hope for this film is that you people will be able to see it and take Joshua’s story to inspire people to stand up in their country when their government is oppressing them.”
Audience Award: World Cinema Dramatic
Sueño en otro idioma (I Dream in Another Language), directed by Ernesto Contreras
Contreras: “This award is significant on so many levels. But mostly it’s about acceptance. Let’s let our voices be heard.”
The audience takes a look at a montage of nominees in the U.S. Documentary and Dramatic competitions.
Kopple is back to present:
Audience Award: U.S. Documentary
Chasing Coral, directed by Jeff Orlowski
Orlowski, flanked by his team of collaborators, subjects and producers: “It is an honor to be here among talented filmmakers. I’m a newcomer to this community. Kudos to all of you. We’ve got the most amazing team in the world. Thank you guys so much. This project has been a joy to work on. Can we have a shout out for science? I don’t want this to be political because climate change should not be politicized. If you know anybody that’s skeptical of climate change, just show them this movie, please. We’ve seen the devastation happening to our planet. We don’t want to make these films. It’s something we feel we have to do. Show it to people who need to hear this message.”
The huge Chasing Coral team takes a while to file off stage. Sheridan introduces:
Audience Award: U.S. Dramatic
Crown Heights, directed by Matt Ruskin
“This all started for me five years ago when I hear and incredible story on This American Life by Anya Bourg. I thought it would make an incredibly worthwhile film. I want to thank everyone who helped me bring this film to life. I want to thank the Institute, their input was invaluable during this process Thank you very much.”
UPDATED 8:24 PM MST
Jessica returns to stage to announce the World Cinema Dramatic Jury, including Nai An, the producer of multiple films by Lou Ye, including Spring Fever; Athina Tsangari, a celebrated director with two films—Attenberg and Chevalier—that were chosen as Greece’s submissions to the Academy Awards; and Sonia Braga, a world-renowned actress who started her career in Brazil. She was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for her performance in Kiss of the Spider Woman.
Athina: “It was really invigorating. It makes sense to watch these films in this festival, especially with what’s going on around us. Cinema is a resistance zone. And i’m proud to be part of this. Also we didn’t write long speeches, we’re very minimal.”
World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award for Cinematography
Axolotl Overkill, cinematography by Manu Dacosse
Manu isn’t present, but sends thank you via video message: “I want to thank the jury and my German team who really helped me. Have a nice evening and enjoy your party.”
Sonia Braga: “It’s great to be back after all these years. I missed the place. And to be allowed to be a part of this wonderful group of people. It makes me a happier person and makes me love movies more than ever. Something special happens here.” Braga announces:
World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award for Cinematic Vision
Free and Easy, directed by Jun Geng
Through a translator, Geng says: “It’s amazing It’s truly amazing for me. Honestly this is a very long journey – I flew 13 hours from a similar freezing cold from China. This is my lucky day and I’m grateful to the jury members and to all of you. I’d also like to thank my family, production team and crew members for the freedom of expression in filmmaking.”
World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award for Screenplay
Pop Aye, written by Kirsten Tan
Tan isn’t present, but sends a video greeting: “Thank you very much for the jury award, thank you for the jury members and the amazing Sundance team. This is a historic win for our tiny, tiny country. Ultimately we’ll realize we’re not all that different. I’ll try to bridge walls now more than ever. Thank you.”
Directing Award: World Cinema Dramatic
God’s Own Country, directed by Francis Lee
Lee: “I made a little film about where i grew up and where my dad is a sheep farmer. He’s be very glad I think. All i wanted to do was play here. So that’s been really cool. I want to thank the BFI gave me a lot of money to mess around with sheep. Thank you.”
World Cinema Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic
The Nile Hilton Incident, directed by Tarik Saleh
Saleh: “Sundance is by far the best festival in the world. I want to thank my team, my partner, and my daughter, and you Fares because you’re the best fucking actor in the world. I want to share an anecdote that happened to me today. I’m always kept in the room in the airport especially after 9/11. They’ve always been polite to me. But something special happened to me today, because i forgot my passport in LA in the hotel. I thought i was not going to make it here. I told the security guy that i have a film in Sundance and have to be at the awards show tonight. And he said i’m going to make sure you’re on that plane. It’s not the majority that voted for him, i’m just going to say that.”
UPDATE 8:02 PM MST
Jessica Williams is back on stage and introduces Bridget Everett to announce the NEXT Audience Award.
“Hello Sundance. It’s so cool to be here.” Everett opens her cloak to show Barry Manilow T-shirt and glittery fanny pack. “This is Barry! Sometimes you have to bring your family with you. I’ve met so many beautiful and inspiring people. Before I came out here I got to meet Gael Garcia Bernal and the blood hasn’t come back to my thighs yet. He’s so beautiful he twinkles like one of those people in Twilight. I want to thank all the people who kept us apart until now.”
NEXT Audience Award Presented by Adobe goes to:
Gook, directed by Justin Chon
“Sorry for my Justin Bieber hair. I ran out of hairspray. At every screening during the festival I’ve talked about diversity and a lot of it’s really been just talk. I feel the most effective way I can make a difference is for me to create, so this is my two cents to the community of creators. I’m in awe that I’m even here. This is the pinnacle of independent filmmaking. Thank you for allowing us to showcase our film here.”
Jessica announces the World Cinema Documentary jury, including Carl Spence, who served as director of the Seattle Film Festival. Also on the jury are Marina Stavenhagen, a screenwriter and film promoter, as well as Lynette Wallworth, an acclaimed Australian artist and filmmaker.
“This has been a wonderful week, we thank you very much Sundance FIlm festival for this amazing selection of films,” Stavenhagen says. “Want to celebrate the talent and diversity of the filmmakers at the festival. We firmly believe that film and art should speak on behalf of those who have no voice.”
Marina Stavenhagen announces…
World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award for Excellence in Cinematography
Machines, cinematography by Rodrigo Trejo Villanueva
Director Rahul Jain accepts the award on behalf of Rodrigo.
“Rodrigo, this is for you. I wish you were here my brother. Am I allowed to go political here? The smell in the detention center at the airport is very unlike here. It’s not fun. You feel like a rat. Now many people are going to have to smell the smell of fear. This has been stupefying being here. When you go to a place to learn about a place that is far from your sphere of influence, it says something about you. I don’t think a filmmaker can ask for anything more from a festival. Thank you.”
Carl Spence introduces…
World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award for Commanding Vision:
Motherland, directed by Ramona S. Diaz
“Thank you. My goodness Commanding vision,” Diaz says. “Tonight I’m thinking of the women who gave us access to their lives. They trusted us and I’m thinking of them tonight. I’ma product of Sundance through and through. Thank you so much. It wouldn’t have been possible without my two comrades in arms, two women.” (Editor and DP)
Lynette Wallworth: “Some of these filmmakers challenged history, and whose history we’re allowed to know.” She presents:
World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award for Masterful Storytelling
RUMBLE: The Indians Who Rocked The World, directed by Catherine Bainbridge and Alfonso Maiorana
Bainbridge: “We’d like to give the talking to our exec producer and my husband, Ernest Webb, who guided this whole journey. We want to give a shout out to all the indigenous experts and historians and musicians involved in making this film. It was not just us.”
Stavenhagen returns to the podium. “A fully realized and honest portrait that reframes and uncovers history, finding missing fragments to tell the real story of Winnie Mandela.” Stavenhagen announces:
Directing Award: World Cinema Documentary
WINNIE, directed by Pascale Lamche
Lamche: “I could swear this is wrong. I literally can’t believe this. I have to say that my partner Peter with whom i began this whole thing, who ten years ago said to me, he was the one tangled up in that wire and holed up in solitary confinement for six months as a kid. He told me that the film you need to make about south africa is about Winnie Mandela. He died during the making of this film. So this is for Peter and Winnie and for those who know that history is not made by great men. Thank you very much Sundance. Every film here is fantastic and I just can’t believe we’ve won this. Thank you very much”
Wallworth returns to the podium: “We didn’t have to debate. This extraordinary film lifted us and carried us and dropped us into a place unlike any other film. A wholly accomplished work of art with powerful cinematography and heroes who exhibit humanity and bravery and impossible circumstances. It matches the commitment of the filmmakers with the courage of those who have become first responders.” Wallworth announces:
World Cinema Grand Jury Prize: Documentary
Last Men in Aleppo, directed by Steen Johannessen and Firas Fayyad
Fayyad: ““Two years. Brave cinematographer. We are Syrian. We are not ashamed. We do our best to fight for the freedom of speech, for humanity, for justice. We do our best to change for the best. I trust the people in the U.S. can change, and fight like we fight. Before i came to Sundance i was telling my close friend, the fish eyes helped to change everything. Because we believe in each other we will stand for each other. We need justice, and justice, and justice.”
Johannessen: I just want to send my great thanks to our photographers in Aleppo. When you see the film you’ll see that they risk their lives many times. Want to send out a plea to some of you who are part of the American industry. We want to show this film here. I hope there’s someone out here who will help us get it out there.”
UPDATED 7:36 PM MST
Festival Director Cooper takes the stage.
He thanks the staff of the Sundance Film Festival. And the volunteers, 2,068 strong.
Now announcing the 100 Club, those volunteers who donated 100 hours of their time during the festival, as well as the annual Gayle Stevens Volunteer Award, given to a volunteer who has demonstrated a long-standing passion and commitment to the work of the Institute. This year’s award was given at the start of the Festival and it went to Marlene Thibault who has been a volunteer for 19 years.
“One more quick thank you to our jurors who brought open-minded dedication to this process,” Cooper says. “An inauguration. A woman’s march. Cyber attacks. Power outages. Snow at record levels. To power outages, to cyber attacks, we’ve all been changed. We’ve formed a community bound tighter by the artists we support. Our strength is in our numbers, our power is in our ideas.”
Cooper introduces Trevor Groth.
He announces the Winner of the Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize
Marjorie Prime, directed by Michael Almereyeda
Groth then announces the Short Film Award winners, which were announced earlier this week.
UPDATED 7:32 PM MST
Jessica Williams introduces Sundance Institute Executive Director Keri Putnam:
“Thank you. It’s been so wonderful to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with all of you in a creative community like this for these 10 days, really feeling the power of storytelling. As I’ve heard the news from outside Park City, I am more convinced than ever that Independent perspectives in film and documentary matter—because they bring humanity and dimension to our understanding of the world at a time when binary and divisive rhetoric and actions are too often prevailing. The founding values of Sundance Institute—upholding free expression, amplifying diverse voices, and affirming the power of artistic creativity to propel us forward—feel more important now than ever. I hope we’re going to take the amazing energy we felt at the March last Saturday, but also feel in theaters, and in the conversations I’ve had about the films – and take it out of the festival to advocate together for the culture we want to see.”
Putnam introduces the Sundance Institute Global Filmmaking Awards, which were announced earlier in the week.
The winners are:
From Iran, Massoud Bakhshi for Yalda.
From France, Maimouna Doucoure for Mignonnes.
From Brazil, Fernando Coimbra for The Hanged.
From Poland, Agnieszka Smoczynska for Deranged.
We also announced the Sundance Institute / NHK Award, which went to Babak Anvari, from the UK, for I Came By.
“The international award winners are such an important part of our community,” Putnam says. “I’d like to acknowledge the filmmakers from Muslim-majority countries that participated in this year’s festival.”
Putnam stops as the crowd stands and cheers.
“We know that closing our borders to these and other international artists will stop the flow of information so vital to the artistic community. Here’s to the artists who are here with us.”
Last Sunday, at the Sundance Institute / Amazon Studios Producer Awards, the award for documentary feature producer went to Joslyn Barnes for Strong Island.
The award for narrative feature producer went to Anish Savjani and Neill Kopp for I don’t feel at home in this world anymore.
I am so honored and proud to be part of this community.
UPDATED 7:26 MST
Voice of God introduces host Jessica Williams.
Jessica Williams takes the stage in a two-piece red and blue geometric-patterned outfit and updo, turning the stage into her own catwalk.
“Thanks Sundance for letting me stunt on y’all for a bit.
“Everybody welcome to the 2017 Sundance Film Awards. I am your host Jessica Williams and I am so excited to lead all of you in this awards ceremony this evening. I wrote all of these things down. What a journey it’s been for all of us. I really got swept up in the energy of this place and how beautiful it is. Mostly, I got wrapped up in how badly I wanted to do shrooms here. I’m not like a drug person. I can’t smoke weed casually. Because when i do i hear dogs that don’t exist. The lovely white people of Park City don’t need to see that version of me. I have done shrooms before. Recently I did them for the first time. I was nervous. My boyfriend MacGyver’d some shroom tea so I could have it at my leisure. Watching him do that, I was like that’s really hot. He gave me this cup of tea and I started sipping it slowly. I thought, ‘this feels good.’ I’m not afraid yet. I walked around on this property. I was walking alone through the woods touching the leaves and I thought, ‘Damn, we do think we own every land we land on.’ Then I ran into my boyfriend and he was like, ‘Do you want to go back to the room and listen to music?’ I was like, ‘Yeah, that sounds tight.’ We grabbed chips, turned on The Beach Boys, and cried. As we looked out into natch (nature).
“That’s really mostly what I’ve been thinking about since we got to Sundance. It’s insanely gorgeous. Apparently there is no snowboarding allowed in Deer Valley, there’s only skiing. Apparently snowboarding is the winter sport for peasants. Rude.
“One time a few days ago I saw Jon Hamm drinking a beer and watching a football game, It was one of the most sexually liberating experiences in my life. FYI there’s no place to find a tampon on Main Street. Body shamed a little bit. Not consciously by you guys.
“I guess there’s a lot of snow here. I got in an Uber – my boyfriend and I – he’s a white bae. I mostly date white baes. I fell in love with Leonardo DiCaprio.
“Half way up the hill both my white boyfriend and white driver got out of the car and I sat there while two white dudes pushed the car up the hill and I just sat there and thought this might be my reparations.
“I guess everybody blames the fact that they’re wasted on altitude sickness. But I see you. I know who you are.”
Jessica introduces Sundance Executive Director Keri Putnam.
UPDATED 6:40 PM MST
Hi everyone, and welcome to the live blog for the 2017 Sundance Film Festival Awards Ceremony. For the fifth consecutive year, we’re Eric Hynes, Jeremy Kinser, and Nate von Zumwalt, and we’ll be your eyes and ears for tonight’s festivities. We’re stationed to the right of the stage, astride the sea of folding chairs that await ticketholders. Once things get underway, we’ll be listening, typing and posting as fast as we can to give you a sense of what’s going on.
Once again the Awards Ceremony takes place at the Basin Recreation Fieldhouse at Kimball Junction, which is about a fifteen minute drive from Main Street in downtown Park City. Some of us remember when the ceremony took place at the MARC (formerly the Racquet Club), but the Festival has since outgrown that location. The Fieldhouse is a vast space, and tech folk are currently setting up multicolored track lights to give the hangar-like expanse some atmosphere. The stage this year is provocatively unadorned and two dimensional. Three LCD screens form the entirety of the backdrop, a single simple podium serving as the only object on a wide, narrow platform, and all other surfaces are black.
As the Festival comes to a close, it’s impossible not to acknowledge the larger context within which this year’s festival has taken place. The festival opened on Thursday, January 19, the day before President Donald Trump’s inauguration. On Saturday, January 21, as millions of people participated in the Women’s March on Washington and in cities around the world, a reported 8,000 people – locals and festival guests alike – gathered on Main Street in Park City to have their voices heard. And today, just as we’re about to celebrate the best new work from independent international artists, citizens are gathering at New York’s JFK, Los Angeles’ LAX, and other major airports to protest yesterday’s executive order putting a 30-day ban on new visas for people hailing from 7 countries, including those in possession of a U.S. green card. One of those countries, Syria, was the subject of three films in this year’s Festival: City of Ghosts, Last Men in Aleppo, and Cries From Syria. With so many film professionals traveling out of town and through international airports tomorrow, these unprecedented challenges will hasten our reunion with the fraught world outside of the Festival.
During the Women’s March on Saturday, Jessica Williams delivered a galvanizing speech, declaring, “I grew up thinking that the civil rights movement already happened, but this election was a wake up call.” Williams gives an attention-grabbing performance as a straight-shooting playwright in the comedy The Incredible Jessica James, which premiered January 27 as the festival’s Closing Night presentation. The actress, comedian, and former correspondent for The Daily Show is also this year’s host for the Awards Ceremony. Her credits include the HBO series Girls, as well as the films Hot Tub Time Machine 2 and People Places Things, which premiered at Sundance in 2015.