As the 2023 Sundance Film Festival winds down, it’s natural to reflect on the impactful, emotional, and inspiring times that we’ve all shared. We’re swapping must-see watchlists and unforgettable stories of early mornings, late nights, and buzzing theaters. One of our favorite ways of marking the incredible work of our filmmakers and artists is by revealing our Festival Award winners.
Our 2023 jurors and audiences have voted and just now at The Ray Theater in Park City, Utah, the winners were announced. The spirit in the theater was of collective joy and excitement for everything that this year’s cohort has accomplished. Swells of applause, shouts, and tears erupted every time a winner was announced. Sundance Institute’s CEO Joana Vicente echoed this feeling in her opening remarks:
“This year’s Festival has been an extraordinary experience. The artists that comprise the 2023 Sundance Film Festival have demonstrated a sense of urgency and dedication to excellence in independent film. Today’s award winners highlight our programs’ most impressive achievements in the current moment of cinematic arts. I hope you will join me in congratulating our winners, as well as thanking all artists across sections for sharing their stories with the Sundance community.”
The award winners all called on each other to be bridge builders and allies within the entertainment industry within their short speeches. They uplifted the volunteers of the Festival and welled with emotion thinking about the last 10 days of discovery and connection. Laughter, elated cursing, and love was the theme of the morning and the full 2023 Festival.
Below find the complete list of the winners of the Audience Awards alongside Grand Jury and Special Jury Prizes for films in the U.S. Dramatic, U.S. Documentary, World Dramatic, and World Documentary Competitions, NEXT, and the Short Film program. You’ll also find the jury’s citation for each win, really bringing home the emotional power of these films and their creators.
Want to make sure you see the award-winning films this weekend? Make sure you get tickets for all award screenings right now! And don’t forget that you get access to all short films programs and indie episodic programming in the 2023 lineup with your Explorer Pass.
Congratulations to all of our award winners as well as our full slate of 2023 Festival filmmakers. This year has been a resounding success and could not have happened without you!
GRAND JURY PRIZES
The U.S. Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic was presented to A.V. Rockwell for A Thousand and One
Jury citation: Never have I seen a life so similar to my own rendered with such nuance and tenderness. I walked out of the theater and wept in front of people I barely know because this film reached into my gut and pulled from it every emotion I’ve learned to mask in these spaces. As a jury we know how impossible it is to make work that is real, full of pain, and fearless in its rigorous commitment to emotional truth born of oppressive circumstances. It is our honor to award the U.S. Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic to A Thousand and One.
The U.S. Grand Jury Prize: Documentary was presented to Joe Brewster and Michèle Stephenson for Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project
Jury citation: This film focuses on a singular, unapologetic voice, and through her story it captures the experience of the collective. The strong directorial vision illuminates the joy and the raw reality of the Black experience. Also it is fucking funny. The U.S. Grand Jury Prize: Documentary goes to Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project.
The World Cinema Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic was presented to Charlotte Regan for Scrapper
Jury citation: A charming and empathetic film full of integrity and life. Scrapper is a poignant study on grief and how the protagonist attempts to shrink her world. Through a child’s eyes, we observe abandonment, detachment and coldness, delivered with love, humor and warmth. The jury was drawn by the honest and sincere performances, strong direction, playful cinematography, and impressive script. The authenticity and command of place and space by the filmmaker and her insistence in creating a world where pain and joy align perfectly delivered a story full of heart and soul. The World Cinema Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic goes to Scrapper.
The World Cinema Grand Jury Prize: Documentary was presented to Maite Alberdi for The Eternal Memory
Jury citation: This film opened our hearts by bringing us closer to the meaning of life and death, and the element that threads sense into all of it – love. Through a simple yet complex portrayal of a confinement, it brings us to the lives of these fascinating characters who make us wiser and more loving the longer we stay with them. The World Cinema Grand Jury Prize: Documentary goes to The Eternal Memory.
FESTIVAL FAVORITE AWARD
Selected by audience votes from the feature films that screened at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival, the Festival Favorite Award was presented to Radical
The Audience Award: U.S. Documentary, Presented by Acura was awarded to Beyond Utopia
The Audience Award: U.S. Dramatic, Presented by Acura was awarded to The Persian Version
The Audience Award: World Cinema Dramatic, Presented by United Airlines was awarded to Shayda
The Audience Award: World Cinema Documentary, Presented by United Airlines was awarded to 20 Days in Mariupol
The Audience Award: NEXT, Presented by Adobe was awarded to KOKOMO CITY
JURY AWARDS FOR DIRECTING, SCREENWRITING & EDITING
The Directing Award: U.S. Documentary was presented to Luke Lorentzen for A Still Small Voice
Jury citation: This film is a deep dive into grief and the complications of mourning. It has a rigorous and unflinching lens that holds steadfast to the cinematic language the director chose for the film. The Directing Award: U.S. Documentary goes to Luke Lorentzen, A Still Small Voice.
The Directing Award: U.S. Dramatic was presented to Sing J. Lee for The Accidental Getaway Driver
Jury citation: The jury was bowled over by this director’s singular vision that merged the grit of a Western crime film and the poetic imagery of Asian New Wave. This hybridized approach revealed the complexities of existing between cultures and evoked an enormous amount of empathy for its protagonist and the true story underneath it from this jury. The Directing Award: U.S. Dramatic goes to Sing J. Lee, The Accidental Getaway Driver.
The Directing Award: World Cinema Documentary was presented to Anna Hints for Smoke Sauna Sisterhood
Jury citation: A transcendental story of women that bring us into their bodies, their traumas and their healing. Tales of patriarchy that we have rarely seen on screen come together with cinematic beauty, humor, wisdom and refreshing self-awareness. The directing award goes to Anna Hints, Smoke Sauna Sisterhood.
The Directing Award: World Cinema Dramatic was presented to Marija Kavtaradze for Slow
Jury citation: In this untraditional love story, we follow the journey of two individuals who pose the question: what is desire? Marija Kavtaradze’s expert direction guides her audiences to discover their own answer, which delightfully shifts as each act provokes greater interrogation. Kavtaradze is a poet and an expert weaver, intertwining scenes of provocative movement with more quiet, insightful moments rich in dialogue. It combines to deliver a drama that resonates long after the film ends; a tenderness that lingers in the minds and hearts of viewers. The Directing Award: World Cinema Dramatic goes to Marija Kavtaradze, Slow.
The Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award: U.S. Dramatic was presented to Maryam Keshavarz for The Persian Version
Jury citation: We were impressed by the craft of this screenplay that wove together the lives of a fractured family over multiple generations with humor, candor, affection, and verve before surprising us all with the revelation of a family secret that healed past wounds. The Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award: U.S. Dramatic goes to Maryam Keshavarz, The Persian Version.
The Jonathan Oppenheim Editing Award: U.S. Documentary was presented to Daniela I. Quiroz for Going Varsity in Mariachi
Jury citation: A joyful edit that carries the heart of the characters while still exploring difficult and sensitive issues in a delicate and beautiful way. We deeply care for our heroes and the spirit of life on the border. The Jonathan Oppenheim Editing Award: U.S. Documentary goes to Editor, Daniela I. Quiroz, Going Varsity in Mariachi.
SPECIAL JURY AWARDS
A U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award: Ensemble was presented to the cast of Theater Camp
Jury citation: Creativity does not have to be a torturous, solitary endeavor–it often rarely is. A film is made with a community and those that celebrate that invite new communities to the worlds they have built. As a jury of theater nerds who felt welcomed back to a place that feels like home it is our pleasure to award the U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award: Ensemble to the cast of Theater Camp.
A U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award: Creative Vision was presented to the creative team of Magazine Dreams
Jury citation: This immersive film’s relentless tension achieved through the rigorous marriage of light, camera movement, sound, and an overwhelming performance left us all disturbed, yet riveted. It will reverberate through audiences to much debate. The U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award: Creative Vision goes to the creative team of Magazine Dreams.
A U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award: Acting was presented to Lio Mehiel for Mutt
Jury citation: We were charmed, seduced, and compelled by this fresh new performer as we watched them navigating the intimate complexities of their everyday life and relationships in his search for acceptance. We award the U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award: Acting to Lio Mehiel, Mutt.
A U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award: Clarity of Vision was presented to The Stroll
Jury citation: It demonstrates an intimate look from the people who have the lived experience. It shows why it is important for the people who are members of the community to be at the helm of their stories. The U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award: Clarity of Vision goes to The Stroll.
A U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award: Freedom of Expression was presented to Bad Press
Jury citation: An essential story that is being told at a critical time featuring Indigenous people confronting their own power structures. It shines a light on the fact that even though freedom of expression is enshrined in the constitution, none of us can take it for granted. And it has the best ending line of any documentary. “My name is angel. And there’s a rainbow!” The U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award: Freedom of Expression award goes to Bad Press.
A World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award: Creative Vision was presented to Fantastic Machine
Jury citation: For sending us on a journey to realize that the invention of image was perhaps one of the most important turning points of our recent history, reshaping radically our inner structure and sense of identity. In a time where everyone is the creator of their own narrative, through image, the film forces, everyone, even us filmmakers, to take a step back and reflect upon our intentions regarding the images we want to put out into the world. It is an artful, hilarious and terrifying homage to the importance of critical thinking. The World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award: Creative Vision goes to Fantastic Machine.
A World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award: Vérité Filmmaking was presented to Against the Tide
Jury citation: In a time where we are inundated with climate change headlines that seems to not be leading to much change, here is a film that places us in the point of view of two unforgettable protagonists. Their lives, hardships and humor reflect those of billions of people that are most affected by global warming and who are seeing their livelihoods being threatened in its essence. It reminds of the power of verite filmmaking to transport us into the lives of people who might be so distant from us and experience the challenges of their life circumstances first hand. The World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award: Verite Filmmaking goes to Against the Tide.
A World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award: Creative Vision was presented to Sofia Alaoui for Animalia
Jury citation: In this original story of a woman making her way through a living and breathing landscape, we experience a world turned upside down, of humans in collision with nature and an uncovering of supernatural forces. We were delighted to discover in Sofia Alaoui’s first feature a subversive voice that tackles and interrogates the universe in what is ultimately a journey to simply discover oneself. The World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award: Creative Vision goes to Sofia Alaoui, Animalia.
A World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award: Cinematography was presented to Lílis Soares for Mami Wata
Jury citation: Through each frame, Lilis Soares’ expert lens mesmerized the jury. The richness of the black and white images, combined with the intricate and intimate camerawork of both the performances and natural landscape, elevated this folkloric tale to an intoxicating, visual experience. The World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award: Cinematography goes to Lílis Soares, Mami Wata.
A World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award: Best Performance was presented to Rosa Marchant for When It Melts
Jury citation: For delivering a piercing and resonant performance that haunted the jury for days. She employed a poetic nuance and complexity throughout her interpretation of the role, belying experience well beyond her years. This is an actor to follow and the jury looks forward to watching her command more screens. The World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award: Best Performance goes to Rosa Marchant, When it Melts.
NEXT INNOVATOR AWARD PRESENTED BY ADOBE
The NEXT Innovator Award presented by Adobe was presented to KOKOMO CITY
Jury citation: For taking the traditional “talking heads” documentary structure and opening it up with the use of camera, sound, editing techniques, and imagery to create a dazzling journey with a fluidity that is entirely new. For a groundbreaking presentation of the lives of black trans women sex-workers in black and white, for taking us into their bedrooms and sharing in their incredible vulnerability as we hear their stories, all the while listening with her camera in a way that is electric and alive. For examining the injustice of a world that relegates so many women to a second-class citizenship and the oppressive nature of gender roles for everyone. For making perhaps the funniest movie Sundance has ever shown, and reminding us that the life or death struggle of these women is best understood in their defiant use of humor as a weapon.
The NEXT wave of cinema is the profound use of comedy for serious subject matter, and for bringing us all together with laughter, in a hope that the love we come to feel for the people in this film can result in a larger social transformation. The NEXT Innovator Award goes to KOKOMO CITY directed by D. Smith.
SHORT FILM AWARDS PRESENTED BY SHUTTERSTOCK
Jury prizes for short filmmaking were awarded to:
The Short Film Grand Jury Prize presented by Shutterstock was awarded to When You Left Me On That Boulevard
Jury citation: From the first moment, we were fully on board for this rowdy ride. An uproarious take on extended family, irreverence and tradition with incredible attunement to details and frame. This directorial feat of freshness is our enthusiastic choice for the Sundance Grand Jury Short Film Prize goes to When You Left Me On That Boulevard
The Short Film Jury Award: U.S. Fiction presented by Shutterstock was awarded to Rest Stop
Jury citation: An exquisite song of the ordinary. We were struck by this unhurried portrayal of itinerancy and estrangement. To this deeply American story, we give the Best US Fiction Short Film Award to Rest Stop.
The Short Film Jury Award: International Fiction presented by Shutterstock was awarded to The Kidnapping of the Bride
Jury citation: An elegant telling of a relationship caught between worlds. Directed with a honed sense of the ever-shifting dynamics and limits of gender and culture, this film reoriented us, drawing from the power of what’s felt and what’s left unsaid. The Best Intl Fiction Short Film Award goes to The Kidnapping of the Bride.
The Short Film Jury Award: Animation presented by Shutterstock was awarded to The Flying Sailor
Jury citation: This beautiful portrait of both an instant and a life lifted us out of our seats and took us on an emotional, innovative and explosive ride. The Best Animation Short Film Award goes to The Flying Sailor.
The Short Film Jury Award: Non-Fiction presented by Shutterstock was awarded to Will You Look At Me
Jury citation: A complex personal journey of a son accepting his mother’s refusal. Enchanting, unpretentious images accompany an unflinching soundtrack to portray both a private self and universal misunderstanding. The Best Non-Fiction Short Film Award goes to Will You Look at Me.
A Short Film Special Jury Award, International: Directing presented by Shutterstock was awarded to AliEN0089
Jury citation: A frightening tale blending online gaming, contemporary politics, and genre elements to create a striking horror story. We give a Short Film Special Jury Award for Directing to AliEN0089.
A Short Film Special Jury Award, U.S: Directing presented by Shutterstock was awarded to The Vacation
Jury citation: An ingenious reinvention of the chamber-drama as a vehicle for neighborhood dreamers and schemers. For its comic timing and assured direction, we give a Short Film Special Jury Award for Directing to The Vacation.
PREVIOUSLY GRANTED 2023 SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL AWARDS
The 2023 Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize, presented to an outstanding feature film about science or technology, was presented to The Pod Generation. The filmmakers received a $20,000 cash award from Sundance Institute with support from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.
The Sundance Institute | Amazon Studios Producers Award for Nonfiction went to Jess Devaney for It’s Only Life After All (Premieres).
The Sundance Institute | Amazon Studios Producers Award for Fiction went to Kara Durrett for The Starling Girl (U.S. Dramatic Competition).
The Sundance Institute | Adobe Mentorship Award for Nonfiction went to Mary Manhardt, and the Sundance Institute | Adobe Mentorship Award for Fiction went to Troy Takaki.
The Sundance Institute | NHK Award went to Olive Nwosu for Lady.
Sundance Institute | Stars Collective Imagination Awards went to Tamara Shogaolu for their project 40 Acres, Navid Khonsari, Vassiliki Khonsari, and Andres Perez-Duarte for their project BLOCK PARTY BODEGA, and Vanessa Keith for their project Year 2180.