Sundance Awards: 'Minari' Wins Grand Jury Prize

Courtesy of Sundance
'Minari'

Top documentary honors went to Jesse Moss and Amanda McBaine's 'Boys State,' which was bought by Apple at the market for a whopping $12 million — a record sum for a doc at a festival.

Lee Isaac Chung’s coming-of-age film Minari claimed the U.S. Dramatic Grand Jury prize at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. The A24 film, about a 7-year-old Korean-American boy whose life is turned upside down when his father decides to move their family to rural Arkansas, also landed the U.S. Dramatic Audience Award.

As the festival handed out its trophies Saturday night in Park City, women filmmakers became perhaps the even bigger story. In a year that saw female helmers making significant strides at the indie-minded film festival, women won several top directing prizes. Rahda Blank nabbed the U.S. Dramatic Directing Award for her feature helming debut, The 40-Year-Old Version. "Have I been drinking and shit?" asked a visibly surprised Blank, who also stars in the film. "A director in her 40s? Do that shit!" Similarly, Garrett Bradley won the U.S. Documentary Directing Award for her film Time, which centers on Fox Rich, an indomitable matriarch who struggles to keep her family together while fighting for the release of her incarcerated husband. (Bradley held up her phone to tell Rich about the win on FaceTime.) Likewise, Cuties director Maimouna Doucoure won the World Cinema Dramatic Directing Award and summed up the mood of the night when she said, "Ladies, just believe, and we will become."

Director Amanda McBaine also scored big when her Boys State landed the Grand Jury Prize in the U.S. Documentary Competition (she directed the film with Jesse Moss). Boys State also proved to be one of the biggest sales of the festival as Apple bought the effort, which chronicles an experimental program in which Texas teens form a representative government, for a whopping $12 million — a record sum for a doc at a festival.

Nicole Newnham and Jim Lebrecht took home the U.S. Documentary Audience Award for Crip Camp, which the Obamas’ Higher Ground produced. The film came into the festival with distribution from Netflix. Both Boys State and Crip Camp would appear poised for Oscar 2021 recognition after their Sundance showing. The fest has become a particularly fertile breeding ground for Oscar doc nominees, with three films from last year's edition vying for four Academy Awards next week.

As is often the case at the Sundance awards ceremony, the night featured plenty of unscripted moments. When The Fight co-director Eli Despres took the stage after his film won the U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Social Impact Filmmaking, he blurted out, "Thank you to Magnolia and Topic Studios for buying this film for $10 million!" (The pic’s price tag had not previously been disclosed.)

Like the Oscars, Saturday’s ceremony, held at the Basic Recreation Fieldhouse, was hostless, with the evening moving along at a brisk pace. Viggo Mortensen kicked off the festivities by introducing a performance by the female-fronted punk band Skating Polly. In a sign of the female dominance to come, the first award was presented to Heidi Ewing’s I Carry You With Me as winner of the NEXT Audience Award. Moments later, Ewing returned to the stage to collect her second prize, the NEXT Innovator Award, for the border-crossing drama, which Sony Pictures Classics bought during the festival.

The World Cinema Dramatic Grand Jury Prize was awarded to Yalda, a Night for Forgiveness. The film's director Massoud Bakhshi couldn't attend the ceremony but thanked Sundance via a video message.

The evening also offered a spirited sendoff for outgoing festival director John Cooper, who passed the torch at the podium to Tabitha Jackson, who was named to the festival's top post during the ceremony. In a touching moment, Cooper was joined onstage by dancers as he belted out Donna Summer’s disco hit Last Dance.

A complete list of winners follows.

U.S. DRAMATIC COMPETITION

U.S. Dramatic Grand Jury Prize Award: Lee Isaac Chung for Minari

U.S. Dramatic Audience Award: Lee Isaac Chung for Minari

U.S. Dramatic Directing Award: Radha Blank for The 40-Year-Old Version

U.S. Dramatic Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award: Edson Oda for Nine Days

U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Auteur Filmmaking: Josephine Decker for Shirley

U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award: Neorealism: Eliza Hittman for Never Rarely Sometimes Always

Special Jury Award for Ensemble Cast: Charm City Kings

U.S. DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION

U.S. Documentary Grand Jury Prize Award: Jesse Moss, Amanda McBaine for Boys State

U.S. Documentary Audience Award: Nicole Newnham and Jim Lebrecht for Crip Camp

U.S. Documentary Directing Award: Garrett Bradley for Time

U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Social Impact Filmmaking: Elyse Steinberg, Josh Kriegman and Eli Despres for The Fight

U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for an Emerging Filmmaker: Arthur Jones for Feels Good Man

U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Editing: Tyler H. Walk for Welcome to Chechnya

U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Innovation in Nonfiction Storytelling: Kirsten Johnson for Dick Johnson Is Dead

WORLD CINEMA DRAMATIC COMPETITION

World Cinema Dramatic Grand Jury Prize: Massoud Bakhshi for Yalda, a Night for Forgiveness

World Cinema Dramatic Directing Award: Maimouna Doucoure for Cuties

World Cinema Dramatic Audience Award: Fernanda Valadez for Identifying Features (Sin Senas Particulares)

World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award for Best Screenplay: Fernanada Valadez Astrid Rondero for Identifying Features (Sin Senas Particulares)

World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award for Visionary Filmmaking: Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese for This Is Not a Burial, It's a Resurrection

World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award for Acting: Ben Whishaw for Surge

WORLD CINEMA DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION

World Cinema Documentary Grand Jury Prize: Hubert Sauper's Epicentro

World Cinema Documentary Audience Award: Jerry Rothwell for The Reason I Jump

World Cinema Documentary Directing Award: Iryna Tsilyk's The Earth Is Blue as an Orange

World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award for Creative Storytelling: Benjamin Ree for The Painter and the Thief

World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award for Cinematography: Mircea Topoleanu and Radu Ciorniciuc for Acasa, My Home

World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award for Editing: Mila Aung-Thwin, Sam Soko and Ryan Mullins for Softie

NEXT

Audience Award: Heidi Ewing's I Carry You With Me

Innovator Award: Heidi Ewing's I Carry You With Me

SPECIAL PRIZE

Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize Michael Almereyda for Tesla

SHORT FILM JURY AWARDS

Grand Jury Prize: Sofia Alaoui for So What If the Goats Die

U.S. Fiction: Terrance Daye for -Ship: A Visual Poem

International Fiction: Dylan Holmes Williams for The Devil’s Harmony

Non-Fiction: Matthew Killip for John Was Trying to Contact Aliens

Animation: Daria Kashcheeva for Daughter

Short Film Special Jury Award for Acting: Sadaf Asgari for Exam

Short Film Special Jury Award for Directing: Michael Arcos for Valerio’s Day Out