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Sundance 2019: It’s A Wrap—Top Prizes At Sundance Go To “Clemency” And “One Child Nation”

All told, 28 awards were handed out at the Sundance Film Festival Awards Ceremony in Park City for 23 films comprising the work of 27 filmmakers last night. Diversity and female filmmakers were the big winners, with 13 films directed by one or more women, eight by one or more people of color and one by a person identifying as LGBTQI+.

Here are some highlights:

Alfre Woodard and Alex Castillo appear in Clemency, by Chinonye Chokwu, an official selection of the U.S. Dramatic Competition at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. Courtsey of Sundance Institute | photo by Eric Branco.

Director Chinonye Chukwu won the Grand Jury Prize for “Clemency” in the US Dramatic Competition: The powerful film examines the spirit of a prison warden tasked to carry out executions at a maximum security prison. When Bernadine Williams (Alfre Woodard) strikes up a unique bond with death-row inmate Anthony Woods (Aldis Hodge), she’s forced to confront the complex—and often contradictory—relationship between good intentions, unrequited desires and what it means to be sanctioned to kill.

Director Nanfu Wang, director Jialing Zhang and producer Carolyn Hepburn attend the World Premiere of One Child Nation, by Nanfu Wang and Jialing Zhang, an official selection of the US Documentary Competition at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. © 2019 Sundance Institute | photo by Weston Bury.

“One Child Nation” won US Grand Jury Prize in the US Documentary Competition. The non-fiction feature examines how a filmmaker, after becoming a mother, uncovers the untold history of China’s one-child policy and the generations of parents and children forever shaped by this social experiment. “One Child Nation” is also helmed by two women, co-directors Nanfu Wang and Jialing Zhang.

Tom Burke and Honor Swinton Byrne appear in The Souvenir, by Joanna Hogg, an official selection of the World Cinema Dramatic Competition at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Agatha A. Nitecka.

The World Cinema Grand Jury Prize: Documentary went to “Honeyland”, from directors Ljubomir Stefanov, Tamara Kotevska and producer Atanas Georgiev. The doc follows the last female bee-hunter in Europe who must save the bees and restore natural balance after nomadic beekeepers break Honeyland’s basic rule (take half of the honey, but leave half to the bees),

The World Cinema Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic was awarded to “The Souvenir” from director and screenwriter Joanna Hogg (who also produced alongside Luke Schiller). The feature looks at a shy film student who begins finding her voice as an artist while navigating a turbulent relationship with a charismatic but untrustworthy man. The New York-based distributor A24 purchased the romantic drama back in December before the festival began (and are already working on a sequel).

Director Alma Har’el, who won Special Jury Award for Vision and Craft for her film “Honey Boy,” expressed her admiration for being included in year’s progressive crop of films. Accepting the award, Har’el stated, “I’m really proud to be here in a year when 44% of the directors are women. We’re here, we’re ready, stop sending us to shadow fucking white men.”

More highlights include: Audience Award: U.S. Documentary for “Knock Down the House” from director Rachel Lears; U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Editing was awarded for “APOLLO 11” from director Todd Douglas Miller, and Audience Award: U.S. Dramatic, for “Brittany Runs A Marathon” from director and screenwriter Paul Downs Colaizzo. 

Meanwhile, sales at Sundance continue with New Line acquiring Gurinder Chadha’s “Blinded by the Light” for $15 million, a coming-of-age drama set to the music of Bruce Springsteen.

Look out for these films on streamers and in theaters throughout the rest of 2019. A full list of winners from last night’s award show can be found at sundance.org/blogs/news/2019-sundance-film-festival-awards-announced

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