Nate von Zumwalt
A 28-year-old YouTuber. A hip-hop vocalist. A kid and his amateur skate vids.
Sundance Institute-supported filmmakers—a trio from wildly distinct backgrounds—swept the first-timer categories at the Film Independent Spirit Awards over the weekend. Breakout years for first-time feature filmmakers Bo Burnham, Boots Riley, and Bing Liu culminated in hardware at the year’s most recognized indie film awards ceremony.
Like their filmmaking exploits, the group’s individual journeys to this point have little in common. Burnham, the YouTuber turned musician/comedian, made a coming-of-age film that astounded critics and casual filmgoers with Eighth Grade, an emotionally raw portrait of middle school life. Riley, the longtime lead vocalist for The Coup, helmed what’s maybe the year’s most batshit crazy comedy (Sorry to Bother You) that threads the needle between hysterical and all-too-real. And Liu, whose decade-old skate videos formed the scaffolding for his singular slice of Rust Belt Americana, showed a dexterity for nonfiction that promises to shine for years to come.
Congratulations to all of this year’s Sundance-supported Spirit Awards winners. Check them out below.
Joe Bini, You Were Never Really Here
BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
Won’t You Be My Neighbor? (Directors: Morgan Neville; Producer: Caryn Capotosto, Nicholas Ma)
BEST FIRST FEATURE
Sorry to Bother You (Director: Boots Riley; Producers:Nina Yang Bongiovi, Jonathan Duffy, Charles D. King, George Rush, Forest Whitaker, Kelly Williams)
BEST FIRST SCREENPLAY
Bo Burnham, Eighth Grade
TRUER THAN FICTION AWARD
Bing Liu, Minding the Gap