The opening night film of the virtual 2021 Sundance Film Festival, CODA, dominated the festival’s awards on Tuesday evening, winning the Grand Jury Prize, Audience Award, Directing Award for Siân Heder and a Special Jury Prize for Ensemble Acting for its cast. The film was picked up over the weekend by Apple for a record-setting $25M.
CODA, which stands for Child of Deaf Adults, tells the story of a high school girl (played by Emilia Jones) who the only hearing member of her family. While working on her family’s fish trawler in the early hours, she dreams of being a singer and struggles with the thought of leaving her family who has relied on her for her entire life. Read our review here.
“This has been a singular Festival for a singular moment,” said Sundance Institute CEO Keri Putnam. “We’ve been able to elevate independent art and celebrate a wonderful slate of films by gathering in new ways, ways that worked thanks to adventurous audiences everywhere, eager to connect and engage with the work and with one another. Watching people come together to connect and discuss exciting new work has been incredibly rewarding – and a resounding confirmation that great independent storytelling inspires rich conversation.”
Veteran actor Clifton Collins Jr. picked up the jury prize for acting for his performance in the film Jockey, as an aging jockey ready to be put out to pasture when a young man claiming to be his son enters his life. Jockey was picked up by Sony Pictures Classics the day before its Sundance premiere.
The Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award went to Ari Katcher and Ryan Welch for Jerrod Carmichael’s On the Count of Three (review) about two friends who make a suicide pact. In their acceptance speech, Katcher thanked “everyone who loved the film and everyone who fucking hated it.”
The World Cinema Dramatic Competition was dominated by Hive, which won all three main awards: the grand jury prize, audience award, and directing award for Blerta Basholli. The film follows a single mother struggling to survive after her husband disappeared during the war in Kosovo.
In documentaries, Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson’s Summer of Soul (or When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised) was a double winner, taking the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award for U.S. Documentary film. In World Documentary, Jonas Poher Rasmussen’s Flee (review) was the Grand Jury Prize winner. Through animation, it tells the story of a successful academic who is getting married to his long-time boyfriend. A secret he has been hiding for 20 years threatens to ruin the life he has built. The film was picked up by NEON this weekend.
A new yearly award for documentary editing was added named after Jonathan Oppenheim and went to Kristina Motvani and Rebecca Adorno for Homeroom (review).
This year’s jurors, invited in recognition of their accomplishments in the arts, technical craft and visionary storytelling, deliberated extensively before presenting awards from the stage; this year’s feature film jurors were Julie Dash, Cynthia Erivo, Hanya Yanagihara, Ashley Clark, Joshua Oppenheimer, Lana Wilson, Zeynep Atakan, Isaac Julien, Daniela Vega, Kim Longinotto, Mohamed Saïd Ouma, and Jean Tsien. Kate and Laura Mulleavy served as co-jurors for NEXT. Shorts jurors were Raúl Castillo, Tacita Dean and Inge de Leeuw.
Here is the full list of winners of the 2021 Sundance Film Festival Awards.
U.S. DRAMATIC COMPETITION
Grand Jury Prize: CODA (dir. Siân Heder)
Audience Award: CODA (dir. Siân Heder)
Directing: Siân Heder for CODA
Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award: On the Count of Three (Ari Katcher and Ryan Welch)
Special Jury Award for Acting: Clifton Collins Jr. for Jockey
Special Jury Award for Best Ensemble: The cast of CODA
U.S. DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION
Grand Jury Prize: Summer of Soul or When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised (dir. Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson)
Audience Award: Summer of Soul or When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised (dir. Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson)
Jonathan Oppenheim Directing Award: Users (dir. Natalia Almada)
Special Jury Award for Emerging Filmmaker: Cusp (dirs. Parker Hill and Isabel Bethencourt) – review
Jonathan Oppenheim Editing Award: Homeroom (Kristina Motvani and Rebecca Adorno, editors)
Special Jury Award for Non-Fiction Experimentation: All Light, Everywhere (dir. Theo Anthony)
WORLD CINEMA DRAMATIC COMPETITION
Grand Jury Prize: Hive (dir. Blerta Basholli)
Audience Award: Hive (dir. Blerta Basholli)
Directing Award: Hive (dir. Blerta Basholli)
Special Jury Award for Creative Vision: One For the Road (dir. Baz Poonprirya)
Special Jury Award for Acting: Jesmark Scicluna for Luzzo
WORLD CINEMA DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION
Grand Jury Prize: Flee (dir. Jonas Poher Rasmussen)
Audience Award: Riding with Fire (dirs. Rintu Thomas and Sushmit Ghosh)
Directing Award: Sabaya (dir. Hogir Hirori)
Special Jury Award for Vérité Filmmaking: President (dir. Camilla Nielsson)
Special Jury Award for Impact for Change: Riding with Fire (dirs. Rintu Thomas and Sushmit Ghosh)
Audience Award: Ma Belle, My Beauty (dir. Marion Hill)
Innovator Award: Cryptozoo (dir. Dash Shaw and Jane Samborski, animation director) – review
Short Film Special Jury Award: Acting
Deanna Gibson for Wiggle Room
Short Film Special Jury Award: Screenwriting
Serhat Karaaslan, The Criminals
Short Film Special Jury Award: Animation
Souvenir Souvenir (dir. Bastien Dubois)
Short Film Special Jury Award: Non-fiction
Don’t Go Tellin’ Your Mama (dirs. Topaz Jones and Rubberband.)
Short Film Special Jury Award: International Fiction
Bambirak (Zamarin Wahdat)
Short Film Special Jury Award: U.S. Fiction
Touch of the Master’s Hand (dir. Gregory Barnes)
Short Film Grand Jury Award
Lizard (dir. Akinola Davies Jr.)
Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize: Alexis Gambis for Son of Monarchs
Sundance Institute/Amazon Studios Producers Award for Narrative Features: Natalie Qasabian for Run
Sundance Institute/Amazon Studios Producers Award for Documentary Features: Nicole Salazar, Philly D.A.
Sundance Institute NHK Award: Meryam Joobeur for Motherhood
CODA image courtesy of Sundance Institute