All good things must come to an end they say, and so has the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. After 10 days and 128 feature films, the 2020 Sundance Film Festival’s Awards Ceremony took place tonight, with jurors presenting 28 prizes for feature filmmaking. Honorees, named in total below, represent new achievements in global independent storytelling. Bold, intimate, and humanizing stories prevailed across categories, with Grand Jury Prizes awarded to Minari (U.S. Dramatic), Boys State (U.S. Documentary), Epicentro (World Cinema Documentary) and Yalda, a Night for Forgiveness (World Cinema Dramatic).
“At Sundance, we believe art can break through noise and polarization. In volatile times like these, democracy and storytelling aren’t separate – they’re inextricably linked,” said Keri Putnam, Sundance Institute’s Executive Director. “Congratulations to each and every one of tonight’s winners, and to all the extraordinary artists who joined us at the Festival.
“As my final Festival as director comes to a close, it has been the honor of a lifetime to stand with these artists, and to see their work meet audiences for the first time,” said John Cooper, Sundance Film Festival Director.
Putnam also announced Tabitha Jackson as the incoming Director during the ceremony; that news release is available here.
The awards ceremony marked the culmination of the 2020 Festival, where 128 feature-length and 74 short films — selected from more than 15,100 submissions — were showcased in Park City, Salt Lake City and Sundance, Utah, alongside work in the Indie Episodic category, panels, music and New Frontier.
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 jurors were Rodrigo Garcia, Ethan Hawke, Dee Rees, Isabella Rossellini, Wash Westmoreland, Kimberly Reed, Rachel Rosen, Courtney Sexton, E. Chai Vasarhelyi, Noland Walker, Haifaa Al Mansour, Wagner Moura, Alba Rohrwacher, Eric Hynes, Rima Mismar, and Nanfu Wang. Gregg Araki was the sole NEXT juror.
Feature film award winners in previous years include: Clemency, One Child Nation, Honeyland, The Souvenir, The Miseducation of Cameron Post, I don’t feel at home in this world anymore., Weiner, Whiplash, Fruitvale Station, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Twenty Feet from Stardom, Searching for Sugarman, The Square, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, Cartel Land, The Wolf Pack, The Diary of a Teenage Girl, Dope, Dear White People, The Cove and Man on Wire.
Of the 28 prizes awarded tonight to 25 films – comprising the work of 29 filmmakers – 12 (48%) were directed by one or more women; 10 (40%) were directed by one or more people of color; and 2 (8%) were directed by a person who identifies as LGBTQ+.
2020 Sundance Film Festival Feature Film Awards
The U.S. Grand Jury Prize: Documentary was presented to: Jesse Moss and Amanda McBaine, for Boys State / U.S.A. Directors: Jesse Moss, Amanda McBaine, Producers: Amanda McBaine, Jesse Moss.
The U.S. Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic was presented to: Lee Isaac Chung, for Minari / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Lee Isaac Chung, Producers: Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Christina Oh. Cast: Steven Yeun, Han Yeri, Youn Yuh Jung, Will Patton, Alan Kim, Noel Kate Cho.
The World Cinema Grand Jury Prize: Documentary was presented to: Hubert Sauper, for Epicentro / Austria, France, U.S.A. Director and screenwriter: Hubert Sauper, Producers: Martin Marquet, Daniel Marquet, Gabriele Kranzelbinder, Paolo Calamita.
The World Cinema Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic was presented to: Massoud Bakhshi, for Yalda, a Night for Forgiveness / Iran, France, Germany, Switzerland, Luxembourg (Director and screenwriter: Massoud Bakhshi, Producers: Jacques Bidou, Marianne DuMoulin. Cast: Sadaf Asgari, Behnaz Jafari, Babak Karimi, Fereshteh Sadr Orafaee, Forough Ghajebeglou, Fereshteh Hosseini.
The Audience Award: U.S. Documentary, Presented by Acura was presented to: Nicole Newnham and Jim LeBrecht, for Crip Camp / U.S.A. Directors: Nicole Newnham, Jim LeBrecht, Producers: Sara Bolder, Jim LeBrecht, Nicole Newnham.
The Audience Award: U.S. Dramatic, Presented by Acura was presented to: Lee Isaac Chung, for Minari / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Lee Isaac Chung, Producers: Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Christina Oh.
The Audience Award: World Cinema Documentary was presented to: Jerry Rothwell, for The Reason I Jump / United Kingdom. Director: Jerry Rothwell, Producers: Jeremy Dear, Stevie Lee, Al Morrow — Based on the book by Naoki Higashida this immersive film explores the experiences of nonspeaking autistic people around the world.
The Audience Award: World Cinema Dramatic was presented to: Fernanda Valadez, for Identifying Features (Sin Señas Particulares) / Mexico, Spain. Director: Fernanda Valadez, Screenwriters: Fernanda Valadez, Astrid Rondero, Producers: Astrid Rondero, Fernanda Valadez, Jack Zagha, Yossy Zagha.
The Audience Award: NEXT, Presented by Adobe was presented to: Heidi Ewing, for I Carry You With Me / U.S.A., Mexico Director: Heidi Ewing, Screenwriters: Heidi Ewing, Alan Page Arriaga, Producers: Mynette Louie, Heidi Ewing. Cast: Armando Espitia, Christian Vázquez, Michelle Rodríguez, Ángeles Cruz, Arcelia Ramírez, Michelle González.
The Directing Award: U.S. Documentary was presented to: Garrett Bradley, for Time / U.S.A. Director: Garrett Bradley, Producers: Lauren Domino, Kellen Quinn, Garrett Bradley.
The Directing Award: U.S. Dramatic was presented to: Radha Blank, for The 40-Year-Old Version / U.S.A. Director and screenwriter: Radha Blank, Producers: Lena Waithe, Jordan Fudge, Radha Blank, Inuka Bacote-Capiga, Jennifer Semler, Rishi Rajani. Cast: Radha Blank, Peter Y. Kim, Oswin Benjamin, Reed Birney, Imani Lewis, TJ Atoms.
The Directing Award: World Cinema Documentary was presented to: Iryna Tsilyk, for The Earth Is Blue as an Orange / Ukraine, Lithuania. Director: Iryna Tsilyk, Producers: Anna Kapustina, Giedrė Žickytė.
The Directing Award: World Cinema Dramatic was presented to: Maïmouna Doucouré, for Cuties / France Director and screenwriter: Maïmouna Doucouré, Producer: Zangro. Cast: Fathia Youssouf, Médina El Aidi-Azouni, Esther Gohourou, Ilanah Cami-Goursolas, Myriam Hamma, Maïmouna Gueye.
The Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award: U.S. Dramatic was presented to: Edson Oda, for Nine Days / U.S.A. Director and screenwriter: Edson Oda, Producers: Jason Michael Berman, Mette Marie Kongsved, Matthew Lindner, Laura Tunstall, Datari Turner. Cast: Winston Duke, Zazie Beetz, Benedict Wong, Bill Skarsgård, Tony Hale, David Rysdahl. Dolby Institute Fellowship
A U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Ensemble Cast was presented to: the cast of Charm City Kings, for Charm City Kings / U.S.A. Director: Angel Manuel Soto, Screenwriters: Sherman Payne, Chris Boyd & Kirk Sullivan, Barry Jenkins, Producers: Caleeb Pinkett, Clarence Hammond, Marc Bienstock. Cast: Jahi Di’Allo Winston, Meek Mill, Will Catlett, Teyonah Parris, Donielle Tremaine Hansley, Kezii Curtis.
A U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award: Auteur Filmmaking was presented to: Josephine Decker, for Shirley / U.S.A. Director: Josephine Decker, Screenwriter: Sarah Gubbins, Producers: Christine Vachon, David Hinojosa, Sue Naegle, Sarah Gubbins, Jeffrey Soros, Simon Horsman. Cast: Elisabeth Moss, Michael Stuhlbarg, Odessa Young, Logan Lerman.
A U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award: Neo-Realism was presented to: Eliza Hittman, for Never Rarely Sometimes Always / U.S.A. Director and screenwriter: Eliza Hittman, Producers: Adele Romanski, Sara Murphy. Cast: Sidney Flanigan, Talia Ryder, Théodore Pellerin, Ryan Eggold, Sharon Van Etten.
A U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Editing was presented to: Tyler H. Walk, for Welcome to Chechnya / U.S.A. Director: David France, Producers: Alice Henty, David France, Askold Kurov, Joy A. Tomchin.
A U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Innovation in Non-fiction Storytelling was presented to: Kirsten Johnson, for Dick Johnson Is Dead / U.S.A. Director: Kirsten Johnson, Screenwriters: Nels Bangerter, Kirsten Johnson, Producers: Katy Chevigny, Marilyn Ness.
A U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Emerging Filmmaker was presented to: Arthur Jones, for Feels Good Man / U.S.A. Director: Arthur Jones, Producers: Giorgio Angelini, Caryn Capotosto, Aaron Wickenden.
A U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Social Impact Filmmaking was presented to: Elyse Steinberg, Josh Kriegman, and Eli Despres, for The Fight / U.S.A. Directors: Elyse Steinberg, Josh Kriegman, Eli Despres, Producers: Elyse Steinberg, Josh Kriegman, Eli Despres, Maya Seidler, Peggy Drexler, Kerry Washington.
A World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award for Acting was presented to: Ben Whishaw, for Surge / United Kingdom Director: Aneil Karia, Screenwriters: Rupert Jones, Rita Kalnejais, Producers: Julia Godzinskaya, Sophie Vickers. Cast: Ben Whishaw, Ellie Haddington, Ian Gelder, Jasmine Jobson.
A World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award for Visionary Filmmaking was presented to: Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese, for This Is Not A Burial, It’s A Resurrection / Lesotho, South Africa, Italy. Director and screenwriter: Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese, Producers: Cait Pansegrouw, Elias Ribeiro. Cast: Mary Twala Mhlongo, Jerry Mofokeng Wa Makheta, Makhoala Ndebele, Tseko Monaheng, Siphiwe Nzima.
A World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award for Best Screenplay was presented to: Fernanda Valadez and Astrid Rondero, for Identifying Features (Sin Señas Particulares) / Mexico, Spain (Director: Fernanda Valadez, Screenwriters: Fernanda Valadez, Astrid Rondero, Producers: Astrid Rondero, Fernanda Valadez, Jack Zagha, Yossy Zagha). Cast: Mercedes Hernández, David Illescas, Juan Jesús Varela, Ana Laura Rodríguez, Laura Elena Ibarra, Xicoténcatl Ulloa.
A World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award for Creative Storytelling was presented to: Benjamin Ree, for The Painter and the Thief / Norway Director: Benjamin Ree, Producer: Ingvil Giske.
A World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award for Cinematography was presented to: Mircea Topoleanu and Radu Ciorniciuc, for Acasa, My Home / Romania, Germany, Finland (Director: Radu Ciorniciuc, Screenwriters: Lina Vdovii, Radu Ciorniciuc, Producer: Monica Lazurean-Gorgan) — In the wilderness of the Bucharest Delta, nine children and their parents lived in perfect harmony with nature for 20 years–until they are chased out and forced to adapt to life in the big city.
A World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award for Editing was presented to: Mila Aung-Thwin, Sam Soko, and Ryan Mullins, for Softie / Kenya (Director and screenwriter: Sam Soko, Producers: Toni Kamau, Sam Soko) — Boniface Mwangi is daring and audacious and recognized as Kenya’s most provocative photojournalist. But as a father of three young children, these qualities create tremendous turmoil between him and his wife Njeri. When he wants to run for political office, he is forced to choose: country or family?
The NEXT Innovator Prize was presented to: Heidi Ewing, for I Carry You With Me / U.S.A., Mexico (Director: Heidi Ewing, Screenwriters: Heidi Ewing, Alan Page Arriaga, Producers: Mynette Louie, Heidi Ewing) — An epic love story spanning decades is sparked by a chance encounter between two men in provincial Mexico. Based on a true story, ambition and societal pressure propel an aspiring chef to leave his soulmate and make the treacherous journey to New York, where life will never be the same. Cast: Armando Espitia, Christian Vázquez, Michelle Rodríguez, Ángeles Cruz, Arcelia Ramírez, Michelle González.
Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize
The 2020 Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize, presented to an outstanding feature film about science or technology, was presented to Tesla. 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 Documentary Features went to Diane Becker and Melanie Miller of Fishbowl Films, for Whirlybird.
The Sundance Institute
Amazon Studios Producers Award for Narrative Features went to Huriyyah Muhammad for Farewell Amor.
The Sundance Institute
Adobe Mentorship Award for Editing Documentary went to Carla Gutierez and the Sundance Institute
Adobe Mentorship Award for Editing Narrative went to Affonso Gonçalves.
The Sundance Institute
NHK Award went to Kirsten Tan, from Singapore, for her film Higher.
For information on the Sundance 2020 Short Film Awards.
Images courtesy of Sundance Institute and Thorsten Thielow; Boys State.
Carolyn is a Freelance Film Critic, Journalist, and Podcaster – and avid live tweeter. Member of the African American Film Critics Association (AAFCA), her published work can be found on But Why Tho, The Beat, Observer, and many other sites. As a critic, she believes her personal experiences and outlook on life, give readers and listeners a different perspective they can appreciate.