Sundance Spotlight: 2016 Sundance Feature Film Awards Announced

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The 2016 Sundance Film Festival runs from January 21st through the 31st in Park City, Utah. The festival is a destination for both up-and-coming and veteran filmmakers, and has earned a reputation as a showcase for some of the most critically acclaimed and Oscar-worthy films of the year. This year, out of the 12,793 submissions they received, the committee has selected just over 200 feature length and short films to play at the festival. From all of this, there is sure to be plenty of studio deals, bidding wars, trailers, clips and news — and we’re here to give you a daily wrap up of all the big developments from Park City. (And don’t forget to check out our exclusive party and event grid!)

Grand Jury Prizes and Audience Awards were handed out to the top films and three more big deals were made as the Film Festival of 2016 came to a close.


2016 SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL FEATURE FILM AWARDS

The U.S. Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic
THE BIRTH OF A NATION
Synopsis: Set against the antebellum South, this story follows Nat Turner, a literate slave and preacher whose financially strained owner, Samuel Turner, accepts an offer to use Nat’s preaching to subdue unruly slaves. After witnessing countless atrocities against fellow slaves, Nat devises a plan to lead his people to freedom.
Director: Nate Parker
Cast: , , , , , Nate Parker

The U.S. Grand Jury Prize: Documentary
WEINER
Synopsis:With unrestricted access to Anthony Weiner’s New York City mayoral campaign, this film reveals the human story behind the scenes of a high-profile political scandal as it unfolds, and offers an unfiltered look at how much today’s politics is driven by an appetite for spectacle.
Directors: ,

The World Cinema Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic
SAND STORM
Synopsis: When their entire lives are shattered, two Bedouin women struggle to change the unchangeable rules, each in her own individual way.
Director:
Cast: , , Jalal Masrwa, ,

The World Cinema Grand Jury Prize: Documentary
SONITA
Synopsis: If 18-year-old Sonita had a say, Michael Jackson and Rihanna would be her parents and she’d be a rapper who tells the story of Afghan women and their fate as child brides. She finds out that her family plans to sell her to an unknown husband for $9,000.
Director:

The Audience Award: U.S. Documentary
JIM: THE JAMES FOLEY STORY
Synopsis: The public execution of American conflict journalist James Foley captured the world’s attention, but he was more than just a man in an orange jumpsuit. Seen through the lens of his close childhood friend, Jim: The James Foley Story moves from adrenaline-fueled front lines and devastated neighborhoods of Syria into the hands of ISIS.
Director: Brian Oakes

The Audience Award: U.S. Dramatic
THE BIRTH OF A NATION
Synopsis: Set against the antebellum South, this story follows Nat Turner, a literate slave and preacher whose financially strained owner, Samuel Turner, accepts an offer to use Nat’s preaching to subdue unruly slaves. After witnessing countless atrocities against fellow slaves, Nat devises a plan to lead his people to freedom.
Director: Nate Parker
Cast: Aja Naomi, King, , , , , Nate Parker

The Audience Award: World Cinema Documentary
SONITA
Synopsis: If 18-year-old Sonita had a say, Michael Jackson and Rihanna would be her parents and she’d be a rapper who tells the story of Afghan women and their fate as child brides. She finds out that her family plans to sell her to an unknown husband for $9,000.
Director:

The Audience Award: World Cinema Dramatic
BETWEEN SEA AND LAND
Synopsis: Alberto, who suffers from an illness that binds him into a body that doesn’t obey him, lives with his loving mom, who dedicates her life to him. His sickness impedes him from achieving his greatest dream of knowing the sea, despite one being located just across the street.
Director: Carlos del Castillo
Cast: Javier Saenz, Jorge Cao, Manolo Cruz, Mile Vergara, Vicky Hernandez, Viviana Serna

The Audience Award: NEXT
FIRST GIRL I LOVED
Synopsis: Seventeen-year-old Anne just fell in love with Sasha, the most popular girl at her L.A. public high school. But when Anne tells her best friend, Clifton—who has always harbored a secret crush on her—he does his best to get in the way.
Director:
Cast: Brianna Hildebrand, , , , ,

The Directing Award: U.S. Documentary
Roger Ross Williams for LIFE, ANIMATED
Synopsis: Owen Suskind, an autistic boy who could not speak for years, slowly emerged from his isolation by immersing himself in Disney animated movies. Using these films as a roadmap, he reconnects with his loving family and the wider world in this emotional coming-of-age story.

The Directing Award: U.S. Dramatic
and for SWISS ARMY MAN
Synopsis: Hank, a hopeless man stranded in the wild, discovers a mysterious dead body. Together the two embark on an epic journey to get home. As Hank realizes the body is the key to his survival, this once-suicidal man is forced to convince a dead body that life is worth living.
Cast: , ,

The Directing Award: World Cinema Documentary
Michal Marczak for ALL THESE SLEEPLESS NIGHTS
Synopsis: What does it mean to be awake in a world that seems satisfied to be asleep? Kris and Michal push their experiences of life and love to a breaking point as they restlessly roam the city streets in search of answers, adrift in the euphoria and uncertainty of youth.

The Directing Award: World Cinema Dramatic
Felix van Groeningen for BELGICA
Synopsis: In the midst of Belgium’s nightlife scene, two brothers start a bar and get swept up in its success. Cast: , Helene De Vos, ,

The Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award: U.S. Dramatic
Chad Hartigan for MORRIS FROM AMERICA
Synopsis: Thirteen-year-old Morris, a hip-hop loving American, moves to Heidelberg, Germany, with his father. In this completely foreign land, he falls in love with a local girl, befriends his German tutor-turned-confidant, and attempts to navigate the unique trials and tribulations of adolescence.
Director: Chad Hartigan
Cast: , , , , ,

A U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Editing
Penny Lane and Thom Stylinski for NUTS!
Synopsis:
The mostly true story of Dr. John Romulus Brinkley, an eccentric genius who built an empire with his goat-testicle impotence cure and a million-watt radio station. Animated reenactments, interviews, archival footage, and one seriously unreliable narrator trace his rise from poverty to celebrity and influence in 1920s America.
Director:

A U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for For Social Impact Filmmaking
TRAPPED
Synopsis: American abortion clinics are in a fight for survival. Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) laws are increasingly being passed by states that maintain they ensure women’s safety and health, but as clinics continue to shut their doors, opponents believe the real purpose of these laws is to outlaw abortion.
Director: Dawn Porter

A U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Writing
KATE PLAYS CHRISTINE
Synopsis: This psychological thriller follows actor Kate Lyn Sheil as she prepares to play the role of Christine Chubbuck, a Florida television host who committed suicide on air in 1974. Christine’s tragic death was the inspiration for Network, and the mysteries surrounding her final act haunt Kate and the production.
Director:

A U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Vérité Filmmaking
THE BAD KIDS
The Bad Kids / U.S.A. (Directors: Keith Fulton, Lou Pepe) — At a remote Mojave Desert high school, extraordinary educators believe that empathy and life skills, more than academics, give at-risk students command of their own futures. This coming-of-age story watches education combat the crippling effects of poverty in the lives of these so-called “bad kids.”

A U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award
AS YOU ARE
Synopsis: As You Are is the telling and retelling of a relationship between three teenagers as it traces the course of their friendship through a construction of disparate memories prompted by a police investigation.
Director:
Cast: , , , Mary Stuart Masterson, Owen Campbell,

A U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Breakthrough Performance
for SPA NIGHT
Synopsis: Los Angeles’s Korean spas serve not only as meeting places but also as a bridge between past and future for generations of immigrant families. Spa Night explores one Korean American family’s dreams and realities as each member struggles with the overlap of personal desire, disillusionment, and sense of tradition.
Director:
Cast: Haerry Kim, Ho Young Chung, Joe Seo, Linda Han, Tae Song, Youn Ho Cho

A U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Individual Performance
in THE INTERVENTION
Synopsis: A weekend getaway for four couples takes a sharp turn when one of the couples discovers the entire trip was orchestrated to host an intervention on their marriage.
Director: Clea DuVall
Cast: , , Clea DuVall, , ,

A U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Individual Performance
in MORRIS FROM AMERICA
Synopsis:
Thirteen-year-old Morris, a hip-hop loving American, moves to Heidelberg, Germany, with his father. In this completely foreign land, he falls in love with a local girl, befriends his German tutor-turned-confidant, and attempts to navigate the unique trials and tribulations of adolescence.
Director: Chad Hartigan
Cast:
, , , , ,

A World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award for Debut Feature
Heidi Brandenburg and Mathew Orzel for TWO WORLDS COLLIDE
Synopsis: An indigenous leader resists the environmental ruin of Amazonian lands by big business. As he is forced into exile and faces 20 years in prison, his quest reveals conflicting visions that shape the fate of the Amazon and the climate future of our world.

A World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award for Cinematography
Pieter-Jan De Pue for THE LAND OF THE ENLIGHTENED
Synopsis: A group of Kuchi children in Afghanistan dig out old Soviet mines and sell the explosives to child workers in a lapis lazuli mine. When not dreaming of an Afghanistan after the American withdrawal, Gholam Nasir and his gang control the mountains where caravans are smuggling the blue gemstones.

A World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award for Editing
Mako Kamitsuna and John Maringouin for WE ARE X
Synopsis As glam rock’s most flamboyant survivors, X Japan ignited a musical revolution in Japan during the late ’80s with their melodic metal. Twenty years after their tragic dissolution, X Japan’s leader, Yoshiki, battles with physical and spiritual demons alongside prejudices of the West to bring their music to the world.
Director:

A World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award for Acting
Vicky Hernandez and in BETWEEN SEA AND LAND
Synopsis: Alberto, who suffers from an illness that binds him into a body that doesn’t obey him, lives with his loving mom, who dedicates her life to him. His sickness impedes him from achieving his greatest dream of knowing the sea, despite one being located just across the street.
Director:
Cast: , , , , Vicky Hernandez,

A World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award for Screenwriting
Ana Katz and for MI AMIGA DEL PARQUE
Synopsis: Running away from a bar without paying the bill is just the first adventure for Liz (mother to newborn Nicanor) and Rosa (supposed mother to newborn Clarisa). This budding friendship between nursing mothers starts with the promise of liberation but soon ends up being a dangerous business.
Cast: Ana Katz, , , , Malena Figo,

A World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award for Unique Vision and Design
for THE LURE
Synopsis: Two mermaid sisters, who end up performing at a nightclub, face cruel and bloody choices when one of them falls in love with a beautiful young man.
Cast: , , , , ,


DEALS

swiss-army-man

SWISS ARMY MAN

Synopsis: Hank, a hopeless man stranded in the wild, discovers a mysterious dead body. Together the two embark on an epic journey to get home. As Hank realizes the body is the key to his survival, this once suicidal man is forced to convince a dead body that life is worth living.
Category: U.S. Dramatic Competition
Directors/writers: ,
Cast: ,
Purchased by: A24

norman-lear

NORMAN LEAR: JUST ANOTHER VERSION OF YOU

Synopsis: How did a poor, Jewish kid from Connecticut bring us Archie Bunker and become one of the most successful television producers ever? brought provocative subjects like war, poverty, and prejudice into 120 million homes every week. He proved that social change was possible through an unlikely prism — laughter.
Category: Premieres
Directors: ,
Cast: , , ,
Purchased by: Music Box Films with PBS & American Masters Pictures; SVOD premiere on Netflix

16725_FRANK_LOLA_still1_MichaelShannon_ImogenPoots_byEricKoretz

FRANK & LOLA

Synopsis: A psychosexual noir love story—set in Las Vegas and Paris—about love, obsession, sex, betrayal, revenge and, ultimately, the search for redemption.
Category: Premieres
Director:
Cast: , , , , ,
Purchased by: Universal


ACQUISITION TALLY AS OF JANUARY 31, 2016:

A24: 2
American Masters Pictures: 1
Amazon: 5
Beta Cinema: 1
Blumhouse: 1
Brainstorm Media: 1
Fox Searchlight: 1
HBO: 1
IFC: 1
Lionsgate’s Summit Entertainment: 1
Magnolia Pictures: 2
Music Box Films: 1
Netflix: 6
The Orchard: 1
Oscilloscope Laboratories: 1
PBS: 1
Paramount Pictures: 1
Paramount Home Media: 1
Roadside Attractions: 1
Showtime: 1
Sony Pictures Classics: 2
Universal:
WWE Films: 1


See all of our preview posts for the , and catch up with our full coverage of the festival in our other Sundance Spotlights!

For a complete list of  festival films and details, visit sundance.org

Dino-Ray Ramos | Staff Writer
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