LIVE: 2020 Sundance Film Festival Awards Updates


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A scene from the 2020 Sundance Film Festival Awards Ceremony at Basic Recreation Fieldhouse © 2020 Sundance Institute | Photo by Jemal Countess

Updated 9:19 P.M. MT

Isabella Rossellini presented the U.S. Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic to Lee Isaac Chung for Minari. Chung double-checked the awards card really had his name on it. He also thanked Plan B and A24. “We didn’t have much time, but I said, ‘Hey, I think this story’s urgent.’ They believed when I didn’t believe.He also thanked his “wonderful cast, who took my script and made it alive.”

Updated 9:16 P.M. MT

E. Chai Vasarhelyi presented the U.S. Grand Jury Prize: Documentary to Boys State, directed by Jesse Moss and Amanda McBaine “for its mastery of craft, dignified treatment of participants, and engaging insight into the way we live in right now.”

Amanda McBaine said, “We came here in 1998. I was in love with [making movies] then, and I’m in love with it now. Jesse and I have been working together a long time. We’re also married—that also for a long time. This is the first time we’ve directed together.”

Jesse chimed in: “Why did we wait so long?” He thanked everyone and was so excited that they were able to make “a film about civil discourse in a moment where we profoundly, profoundly need it.”

Updated 9:13 P.M. MT

An emotional, overwhelmed Radha Blank could barely get words out as she accepted the Directing Award: U.S. Dramatic for The 40-Year-Old Version. She kept saying how unprepared she was for the award and how she never thought she would win. “I’m so glad I wore clean underwear,” she joked. As she regained her composure, she sent a message to other dreamers: “To anybody who feels that there’s an expiration on a passion, f*** that shit. If it’s in you to be a rapper, a parent, a director in your 40s, do that shit.”

Updated 9:11 P.M. MT

For her prison documentary Time, director Garrett Bradley shared the moment of winning the Directing Award: U.S. Documentary with the subject of her film, Fox Rich, who’s spent the last 21 years fighting for her husband’s release from a 60-year prison sentence. She FaceTimed Fox, telling her, “I didn’t mean to put you on the spot.” Said Fox (after a loud “woo!”), “We love you, Garrett Bradley!”

Updated 9:08 P.M. MT

Ethan Hawke awarded the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award: U.S. Dramatic to Edson Oda for Nine Days. Said Hawke, “Every film starts on the page. With text and subtext. It’s rare to find a highly conceptual premise with big ideas that is simultaneously philosophical, poetic, and delivers both depth of character and a visceral emotional payoff. Even more rare is a script where the caliber of writing is so high, that when Walt Whitman is evoked it is both earned and of a piece.”

Oda thanked the Sundance Film Festival and Sundance Institute’s Feature Film Program, which helped him complete his film. “Thanks so much for everything,” he said, out of breath. “It’s just amazing.”

Updated 9:07 P.M. MT

Juror Rodrigo Garcia awarded the U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Neorealism to Never Rarely Sometimes Always, directed by Eliza Hittman. He explained, “When I first saw this film, I really admired it, and as the days went by, the admiration crystallized into a bitter envy.” He said that this “quietly powerful film [tells] a story of ordinary people confronting socioeconomic difficulties, sidestepping sentimentality to achieve searing cultural urgency.”

Updated 9:04 P.M. MT

The Special Jury Award for Auteur Filmmaking went to Josephine Decker for Shirley. Decker, who was home with her baby, gave her acceptance speech via video: “Wow, I think this is not an award for me, I think auteur just means you worked with incredible people. I also want to say thank you to the spirit of Shirley Jackson, who is the true auteur.”

Updated 9:00 P.M. MT

Juror Ethan Hawke explained, “I’ve been here a lot, and I’ve never won an award.” He said that being on the jury this year was a tough job, because “there are so many more people that deserve awards that aren’t going to get them.”

He told the story of playing a student in Dead Poets Society, and the scene when Robin Williams has the class tear pages out of books, because “when you’re grading art, you’ve lost the plot. Art is about telling the truth.” He said it was a huge challenge to “grade the art” of the competition category and finished by saying, “To those who didn’t win, you won by being here. And to those who won, you fucking damn well deserve it.”

He presented a U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Ensemble Cast to Charm City Kings. “Sometimes on set, a collective imagination is born when all players are so completely immersed in their shared vision it is impossible to separate one performance from another.”

The director, Angel Manuel Soto, accepted the award, saying, “F*** me! Is this real? Shit! Sorry!” He went on to say, “I never thought a kid from Puerto Rico would be here. … There’s a Baltimore in every part of the world. And these kids are real. In every state, in every country, there’s a kid who has a dream. This is for them.”

He finished off strong: “Holy shit. Thank you.”

Updated 8:53 P.M. MT

The U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Innovation in Nonfiction Storytelling was awarded to Kirsten Johnson for her film Dick Johnson Is Dead because it braved “profound emotional truths through playful and inventive filmmaking.” Johnson said, “I’ve been in the community a long time and it’s been so moving tonight to see who’s has come up on this stage that didn’t used to come up on this stage. … People didn’t know they could have faith in some of us, but I think tonight is evidence of the faith that can be had in all of us.”

Updated 8:50 P.M. MT

The U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Editing went to Tyler H. Walk for Welcome to Chechnya. Joked Walk in his speech, “I’m really nervous. I’m an editor. I don’t talk to people.” He went on to thank the “heroes of this film… I hope that this elevates their story a step forward and that everyone is allowed to love whoever the hell they want.”

Updated 8:48 P.M. MT

The Documentary Special Jury Award for Social Impact Filmmaking was awarded to Elyse Steinberg, Josh Kriegman, and Eli Despres for The Fight. Director Elyse Steinberg was so excited and out of breath: “We’re so grateful, so honored—Josh, what else am I forgetting?” Director Eli Despres interjected: “Thanks to Magnolia and Topic for picking up this film!”

Updated 8:47 P.M. MT

Juror Rachel Rosen awarded the U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Emerging Filmmaker to Arthur Jones for Feels Good Man. She explained that the film impressed the jury by “employing warmth and humanity to illuminate multiple perspectives on a troubling topic.”

As Jones accepted, he said, “As the subject of Feels Good Man, Matt Furie, would say, “This is really a twist in my noodles, man.’”

Updated 8:44 P.M. MT

Audience Award: U.S. Dramatic presented Patricia Clarkson joked, “Did you know everyone tonight here gets an Acura?” The award went to Minari, directed by Lee Isaac Chung.

Said Chung, “This has been an amazing journey for us. I’m so honored to be in the company of all you filmmakers. The audiences have been so amazing. A lady at a screening today gave me a caramel she made. People have been coming up to me and talking about their grandmothers and families. We’re a long way from the Ozarks, from that trailer home.”

Updated 8:40 P.M. MT

The Audience Award: U.S. Documentary went to Crip Camp, directed by Nicole Newnham and Jim LeBrecht. “This has been a long-held dream,” said director Nicole Newnham. “It started 50 years ago at Jim’s summer camp. Their story of just trying to have the right to live a chosen life would end up resulting in the ADA being passed and the rule being changed.” She finished by saying, “This story is arriving in the world too late but in a really critical time.”

Director Jim LeBrecht said that people have described his film as “a love letter to the disabled community.” His response? “It is. And I’m so proud to be up here and so proud to be a part of this community I love so much.”

Updated 8:34 P.M. MT

Fernanda Valadez accepted the Audience Award: World Cinema Dramatic for Identifying Features (Sin Señas Particulares) and joked, “I never imagined myself winning an audience award—the film is dark—but I’m really, really grateful.”

Updated 8:32 P.M. MT

The Audience Award: World Cinema Documentary was awarded to Jerry Rothwell’s The Reason I Jump. Said Rothwell, “F***, this is amazing. A big thank you to everyone who worked on the film. And mostly to the young people who are in the film, who reminded me of a different way of being human.”

Updated 8:31 P.M. MT

Wagner Moura presented the World Cinema Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic to Yalda, a Night for Forgiveness, directed by Massoud Bakhshi, because it is “an unexpected film about the real meaning of forgiveness … that frames itself within the very media spectacle it critiques.”

The director said in his acceptance video: “We should try our best not to be indifferent observers, because we are all the same. We are all human beings. I strongly believe that we can change this world for the better, if only we believe in our shared humanity—and I believe that’s what Sundance is all about.”

Updated 8:30 P.M. MT

Maïmouna Doucouré accepted the Directing Award: World Cinema Dramatic for Cuties and revealed that the last time she was at the Festival, with her short Maman(s), a man told her producer he was surprised that a woman had made that film. “Today I want to say to this guy … that I’m here today more feminine than ever and I just won this wonderful prize at Sundance with my first feature film. As Oprah Winfrey says, ‘You become what you believe.’ Ladies, just believe, and we will become.”

Updated 8:26 P.M. MT

The World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award for Best Screenplay went to Fernanda Valadez and Astrid Rondero for Identifying Features (Sin Señas Particulares), “a heartbreaking story about motherhood and loss.”

Said Valdez, “I am really honored. This is a really small movie and we have to dedicate to all the people that live in Mexico [who are] in search of a real future and all the people that never stop looking for their loved ones.

Added Rondero, “Thanks for everyone who stood with us in our great journey. This is a dream come true for Fernanda and I.”

Updated 8:23 P.M. MT

The World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award for Visionary Filmmaking went to Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese for This Is Not a Burial, It's a Resurrection. As soon as juror Alba Rohrwacher announced the award, a delighted cry went up from the audiences. The director thanked everyone, saying he had “so much reverence for cinema because it saved my life.”

Updated 8:20 P.M. MT

The World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award for Acting went to Ben Whishaw for Surge. Whishaw, who couldn’t make it to the ceremony, said by video message, “I’m so amazed and so honored. Aneil [Karia], you’re a remarkable talent and I’m just thrilled we got to make this film together.”

Updated 8:18 P.M. MT

The World Cinema Grand Jury Prize: Documentary went to Epicentro, directed by Hubert Sauper. Said Sauper, “I dedicate this prize to the young prophet and children from Cuba. And to all the people who are fighting for their voices and their rights. So happy that we as filmmakers can give them their voices.”

Updated 8:16 P.M. MT

“For a filmmaker exercising an elegant sense of restraint,” said juror Eric Hynes as he presented the Directing Award: World Cinema Documentary to Iryna Tsilyk for The Earth Is Blue as an Orange. Tsilyk took the chance to say that the prize was so important for her country, Ukraine, which is at war—as depicted in her film. She said that she is so happy to have a chance to make a statement with her film: “Make love, make art, not war.”

Updated 8:14 P.M. MT

Juror Rima Mismar presented the World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award for Creative Storytelling to The Painter and the Thief for its “distinct approach to time and chronology and for adopting a structure that emanates two conjoined and constantly shifting perspectives.”

Updated 8:10 P.M. MT

The World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award for Cinematography went to Mircea Topoleanu and Radu Ciorniciuc for their “fluid and tenacious camerawork” in Acasa, My Home: “I really don’t know what to say, but, ‘Oh my God,’ said Ciorniciuc.

Updated 8:06 P.M. MT

Juror Rima Mismar presented the World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award for Editing to Softie “for its ability to communicate experience without sacrificing the specificity of its sociopolitical context.” Dancing up on to the stage, all director Sam Soko could say for a moment was “Oh my god.” He finished his speech with: “This world needs hope right now. We need to get our shit together. Believe, and trust, and love each other.”

Updated 8:02 P.M. MT

Next up, High Art director Lisa Cholodenko made her way to the stage to present the NEXT Audience Award to Heidi Ewing for her film I Carry You With Me. Said Ewing, “I am so excited to be here for John Cooper’s quinceañera party. In 2012, at the Pizza Noodle on Main Street, my friends told me their life story and I had to figure out had to make a movie based on their life. We took our time and we’re so glad you like it. Thank you so much!

Juror Gregg Araki explained that he awarded I Carry You With Me for its “visual poetry, deeply felt emotion, and a star-making turn by its young lead actor.” Returning to the stage, Ewing said, “This story is about love without borders and seeing people for who they are”—and she shared the good news that it has been acquired by Sony Pictures Classics.

Updated 7:55 P.M. MT

A dance number like Cooper’s would be hard to follow, but Kim Yutani took the stage with a confident flair. “I was going to say some nice things about Cooper,” she said, “but in a way, I don’t think I have to after what we just saw.”

Nevertheless, she did: “Many filmmakers feel they were discovered by John Cooper. I feel I was discovered by John Cooper.” She thanked him for the “fatherlylike way” that he has supported the people around him—“but, like, a bitchy father.”

Kim then presented the list of Short Film Program Awards, which were given out in a separate ceremony earlier this week, including the Short Film Grand Jury Prize, which went to So What If the Goats Die directed by Sofia Alaoui. To see the rest of the award winners, check out the press release!

Updated 7:52 P.M. MT

Cooper took a moment to recognize the staff and volunteers who worked so hard to make the Festival possible—in particular, the recipient of the Gayle Stevens Volunteer Award, Devon Edwards, who has been a volunteer for six years. Then, getting emotional, Cooper said he was at a loss for words, so he decided to go with a lip-synch and choreographed dance routine to Donna Summer’s Last Dance instead of a farewell speech.

Updated 7:44 P.M. MT

The Festival's executive director, Keri Putnam, took the stage to announce the winners of a series of awards handed out earlier this week: Awards went to Higher, Whirlybird, Farewell Amor, Carla Guttierez, and Affonso Gonçalves (fiction), and the Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize: Michael Almereyda for Tesla.

Putnam also made a major announcement as the evening got under way: Tabitha Jackson, director of the Institute's Documentary Film Program, will succeed John Cooper as Festival director. Cooper has served in the role for the past 11 years, and has worked for Sundance Institute for the past 30 years.

Updated 7:26 P.M. MT

Viggo Mortensen stepped into the spotlight to introduce the opening act, a band called Skating Polly that performed for his Festival film, Falling: “Rock on!” The band brought a fierce energy to the stage with “Flyer,” off their album of the same name, and then cooled things off a bit with the piano ballad “A Little Late,” which is featured in Mortensen’s film.

Updated 7:00 P.M. MT

Hello everyone, and welcome to the live blog for the 2020 Sundance Film Festival Awards Ceremony. We are Hadley Griggs, Dana Kendall, Sharon Knolle, and Virginia Yapp, and we're here at the Basin Recreation Fieldhouse at Kimball Junction to bring you live updates throughout the evening. You can find us just to the left of the stage alongside members of the press, the Sundance.org social team, and staff photographers.

It's been a busy 10 days here in Park City, complete with the premieres of 118 feature films representing 27 countries and 44 first-time feature filmmakers, and of the 65 directors in all four competition categories, comprising 56 films, 46% are women, 38% are people of color, and 12% are LGBTQ+. Curious about the winners of our Short Film Awards, which were announced earlier this week? So What If the Goats Die won the Grand Jury Prize—see the full list of winners here.

And with that, sit tight—the show will begin soon.

Lead photo:

A scene from the 2020 Sundance Film Festival Awards Ceremony at Basic Recreation Fieldhouse © 2020 Sundance Institute | Photo by Jemal Countess