The 2023 Sundance Film Festival Award Winners Announced
This year’s award-winning films brought audiences intimately into the stories of Iranian women, trans sex workers, a single mother with a child in foster care, the war in Ukraine, an elementary school in a Mexican border town, the struggle with Alzheimer’s disease, escaping North Korea, the loss of a parent as a young child, a vital black poet, and so much more. Award recipients make up 15 countries, including the United States, India, Ukraine, Chile, Sweden, Estonia, the United Kingdom, Nigeria, Lithuania, France, Australia, Belgium, Germany, China, and Canada. Their work exemplifies the creative excellence across the program and the represent best of independent film. All award winners from this year’s Festival are listed below. Please join us in congratulating our winners, as well as all films from the 2023 Sundance Film Festival, for sharing their stories with us. The award-winning films will screen in person and via the online Festival platform on Saturday, January 28, and Sunday, January 29. Tickets for all award-screening films are available beginning at 1:00 p.m. MT today.
Grand Jury Prizes Go To A Thousand and One (U.S. Dramatic), Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project (U.S. Documentary), The Eternal Memory (World Cinema Documentary), and Scrapper (World Cinema Dramatic); NEXT Innovator Award Presented by Adobe Goes To KOKOMO CITY. Radical Won the Festival Favorite Award and left audience amazed at the talent on display.
The Persian Version (U.S. Dramatic) and Beyond Utopia (U.S. Documentary) Win Audience Awards Presented by Acura Shayda (World Cinema Dramatic) and 20 Days in Mariupol (World Cinema Documentary) Win Audience Awards Presented by United Airlines
The Sundance Film Festival, a program of the nonprofit Sundance Institute, returned back in person and across the country online for 2023. Whether you gathered in theaters or are joining us from home, the Festival offers the opportunity to be a part of the discovery of stories and artists that will inspire and entertain us for years to come. The 2023 Sundance Film Festival jurors and audiences have voted with the awards announced today during an event at The Ray Theatre in Park City and updated on Sundance Film Festival's official social accounts. The award-winning films will screen in person and via the online Festival platform on Saturday, January 28, and Sunday, January 29. Tickets for all award-screening films are available beginning at 1:00 p.m. MT today.
The jury and audience-awarded prizes amplify the fearless and dynamic stories across sections, with Grand Jury Prizes awarded to A Thousand and One (U.S. Dramatic), Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project (U.S. Documentary), Scrapper (World Cinema Dramatic), and The Eternal Memory (World Cinema Documentary), and the NEXT Innovator Award presented by Adobe was awarded to KOKOMO CITY.
Voted on by the audience, Radical was granted the Festival Favorite Award. Audience Awards for films in competition were presented by Acura to The Persian Version (U.S. Dramatic) and Beyond Utopia (U.S. Documentary), and presented by United Airlines to Shayda (World Cinema Dramatic) and 20 Days in Mariupol (World Cinema Documentary).
KOKOMO CITY won the audience award for NEXT. “This year’s Festival has been an extraordinary experience,” said Joana Vicente, Sundance Institute CEO. “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.”
"In addition to acknowledging our artists, I want to thank this year’s jurors for their time and thoughtful consideration,” added Kim Yutani, Sundance Film Festival Director of Programming. “Their efforts help contextualize our artists' work beyond the Festival program and elevate their stories to new audiences around the globe. The winners themselves represent a diverse mix of bold storytelling, thought-provoking reflections, and critical representations of our world today.”
The awards announcement marks a key point of the 2023 Festival, where 111 feature-length and 64 short films — selected from 15,856 submissions — have been presented in Park City, Salt Lake City, and at the Sundance Resort, while over 75% of the feature films, plus Shorts and Indie Episodics, are available via the Festival’s online platform through Sunday, January 29.
This year’s jurors were: Jeremy O. Harris, Eliza Hittman, and Marlee Matlin for U.S. Dramatic Competition; W. Kamau Bell, Ramona Diaz, and Carla Gutierrez for U.S. Documentary Competition; Shozo Ichiyama, Annemarie Jacir, and Funa Maduka for World Cinema Dramatic Competition; and Karim Amer, Petra Costa, and Alexander Nanau for World Cinema Documentary Competition; Madeleine Olnek for the NEXT competition section; Destin Daniel Cretton, Marie-Louise Khondji, and Deborah Stratman for the Short Film Program Competition.
Feature film award winners in previous years include: Nanny, The Exiles, CODA, Summer Of Soul (...Or, When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised), Flee, Hive, Minari, Boys State, Epicentro, Yalda, A Night for Forgiveness, 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.
The 2023 Sundance Film Festival awards are: GRAND JURY PRIZES The U.S. Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic was presented to A.V. Rockwell for A Thousand and One / U.S.A. (Director and Screenwriter: A.V. Rockwell, Producers: Eddie Vaisman, Julia Lebedev, Lena Waithe, Rishi Rajani, Brad Weston) — Convinced it's one last, necessary crime on the path to redemption, unapologetic and free-spirited Inez kidnaps 6-year-old Terry from the foster care system. Holding on to their secret and each other, mother and son set out to reclaim their sense of home, identity, and stability in New York City. Cast: Teyana Taylor, Will Catlett, Josiah Cross, Aven Courtney, Aaron Kingsley Adetola. World Premiere. Available online.
Jury citation: Never have I seen a life so similar to my own rendered with such nuance and tenderness. I walked out of the theatre 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 / U.S.A. (Directors and Producers: Joe Brewster, Michèle Stephenson, Producer: Tommy Oliver) — Intimate vérité, archival footage, and visually innovative treatments of poetry take us on a journey through the dreamscape of legendary poet Nikki Giovanni as she reflects on her life and legacy. World Premiere. Available online.
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 / U.K. (Director and Screenwriter: Charlotte Regan, Producer: Theo Barrowclough) — Georgie is a dreamy 12-year-old girl who lives happily alone in her London flat, filling it with magic. Out of nowhere, her estranged father turns up and forces her to confront reality. Cast: Harris Dickinson, Lola Campbell, Alin Uzun, Ambreen Razia, Olivia Brady, Aylin Tezel. World Premiere. Available online.
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 / Chile (Director and Producer: Maite Alberdi, Producers: Juan de Dios Larraín, Pablo Larraín, Rocío Jadue) — Augusto and Paulina have been together for 25 years. Eight years ago, he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Both fear the day he no longer recognizes her. World Premiere. Available online.
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 / U.S.A (Director and Screenwriter: Christopher Zalla, Producers: Ben Odell, Eugenio Derbez, Joshua Davis) — In a Mexican border town plagued by neglect, corruption, and violence, a frustrated teacher tries a radical new method to break through his students’ apathy and unlock their curiosity, their potential… and maybe even their genius. Based on a true story. Cast: Eugenio Derbez, Daniel Haddad, Jenifer Trejo, Mia Fernanda Solis, Danilo Guardiola. World Premiere. Fiction. Available online.
AUDIENCE AWARDS The Audience Award: U.S. Documentary, Presented by Acura was awarded to Beyond Utopia / U.S.A. (Director: Madeleine Gavin, Producers: Jana Edelbaum, Rachel Cohen, Sue Mi Terry) — Hidden camera footage augments this perilous high-stakes journey as we embed with families attempting to escape oppression from North Korea, ultimately revealing a world most of us have never seen. World Premiere. Available online. The Audience Award: U.S. Dramatic, Presented by Acura was awarded to The Persian Version / U.S.A. (Director, Screenwriter, and Producer: Maryam Keshavarz, Producers: Anne Carey, Ben Howe, Luca Borghese, Peter Block, Corey Nelson) — When a large Iranian-American family gathers for the patriarch's heart transplant, a family secret is uncovered that catapults the estranged mother and daughter into an exploration of the past. Toggling between the United States and Iran over decades, mother and daughter discover they are more alike than they know. Cast: Layla Mohammadi, Niousha Noor, Kamand Shafieisabet, Bella Warda, Bijan Daneshmand, Shervin Alenabi. World Premiere. Available online.
The Audience Award: World Cinema Dramatic, Presented by United Airlines was awarded to Shayda / Australia (Director, Screenwriter, and Producer: Noora Niasari, Producer: Vincent Sheehan) — Shayda, a brave Iranian mother, finds refuge in an Australian women’s shelter with her 6-year-old daughter. Over Persian New Year, they take solace in Nowruz rituals and new beginnings, but when her estranged husband re-enters their lives, Shayda’s path to freedom is jeopardized. Cast: Zar Amir Ebrahimi, Osamah Sami, Leah Purcell, Jillian Nguyen, Mojean Aria, Selina Zahednia. World Premiere. Available online.
The Audience Award: World Cinema Documentary, Presented by United Airlines was awarded to 20 Days in Mariupol / Ukraine (Director and Producer: Mstyslav Chernov, Producers: Michelle Mizner, Raney Aronson-Rath, Derl McCrudden) — As the Russian invasion begins, a team of Ukrainian journalists trapped in the besieged city of Mariupol struggle to continue their work documenting the war’s atrocities. World Premiere. Available online.
The Audience Award: NEXT, Presented by Adobe was awarded to KOKOMO CITY / U.S.A. (Director and Producer: D. Smith, Producers: Harris Doran, Bill Butler) — Four Black transgender sex workers explore the dichotomy between the Black community and themselves, while confronting issues long avoided. World Premiere. Documentary. Available online.
JURY AWARDS FOR DIRECTING, SCREENWRITING & EDITING
The Directing Award: U.S. Documentary was presented to Luke Lorentzen for A Still Small Voice / U.S.A. (Director and Producer: Luke Lorentzen, Producer: Kellen Quinn) — An aspiring hospital chaplain begins a yearlong residency in spiritual care, only to discover that to successfully tend to her patients, she must look deep within herself. World Premiere. Available online.
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 / U.S.A. (Director and Screenwriter: Sing J. Lee, Screenwriter: Christopher Chen, Producers: Kimberly Steward, Basil Iwanyk, Andy Sorgie, Brendon Boyea, Joseph Hiếu) — During a routine pickup, an elderly Vietnamese cab driver is taken hostage at gunpoint by three recently escaped Orange County convicts. Based on a true story. Cast: Hiệp Trần Nghĩa, Dustin Nguyen, Dali Benssalah, Phi Vũ, Gabrielle Chan. World Premiere. Available online.
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 / Estonia, France, Iceland (Director: Anna Hints, Producer: Marianne Ostrat) — In the darkness of a smoke sauna, women share their innermost secrets and intimate experiences, washing off the shame trapped in their bodies and regaining their strength through a sense of communion. World Premiere. Available online.
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 / Lithuania, Spain, Sweden (Director and Screenwriter: Marija Kavtaradze, Producer: Marija Razgute) — Dancer Elena and sign language interpreter Dovydas meet and form a beautiful bond. As they dive into a new relationship, they must navigate how to build their own kind of intimacy. Cast: Greta Grinevičiūtė, Kęstutis Cicėnas. World Premiere. Available online.
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 / U.S.A. (Director, Screenwriter, and Producer: Maryam Keshavarz, Producers: Anne Carey, Ben Howe, Luca Borghese, Peter Block, Corey Nelson) — When a large Iranian-American family gathers for the patriarch's heart transplant, a family secret is uncovered that catapults the estranged mother and daughter into an exploration of the past. Toggling between the United States and Iran over decades, mother and daughter discover they are more alike than they know. Cast: Layla Mohammadi, Niousha Noor, Kamand Shafieisabet, Bella Warda, Bijan Daneshmand, Shervin Alenabi. World Premiere. Available online. 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 / U.S.A. (Directors: Alejandra Vasquez, Sam Osborn, Producers: James Lawler, Luis A. Miranda, Jr., Julia Pontecorvo) — In the competitive world of high school mariachi, the musicians from the South Texas borderlands reign supreme. Under the guidance of coach Abel Acuña, the teenage captains of Edinburg North High School’s acclaimed team must turn a shoestring budget and diverse crew of inexperienced musicians into state champions. World Premiere. Available online.
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 / U.S.A. (Directors and Screenwriters: Molly Gordon, Nick Lieberman, Screenwriters: Noah Galvin, Ben Platt, Producers: Erik Feig, Samie Kim Falvey, Julia Hammer, Ryan Heller, Will Ferrell, Jessica Elbaum) — When the beloved founder of a run-down theater camp in upstate New York falls into a coma, the eccentric staff must band together with the founder's crypto-bro son to keep the camp afloat. Cast: Molly Gordon, Ben Platt, Noah Galvin, Jimmy Tatro, Patti Harrison, Ayo Edebiri. World Premiere. Available online.
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 theatre 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 / U.S.A. (Director and Screenwriter: Elijah Bynum, Producers: Jennifer Fox, Dan Gilroy, Jeffrey Soros, Simon Horsman) — An amateur bodybuilder struggles to find human connection as his relentless drive for recognition pushes him to the brink. Cast: Jonathan Majors, Haley Bennett, Taylour Paige, Mike O’Hearn, Harrison Page, Harriet Sansom Harris. World Premiere. Available online.
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 / U.S.A. (Director, Screenwriter, and Producer: Vuk Lungulov-Klotz, Producers: Alexander Stegmaier, Stephen Scott Scarpulla, Jennifer Kuczaj, Joel Michaely) Jury citation:— Over the course of a single hectic day in New York City, three people from Feña's past are thrust back into his life. Having lost touch since transitioning from female to male, he navigates the new dynamics of old relationships while tackling the day-to-day challenges of living life in between. Cast: Lío Mehiel, Cole Doman, MiMi Ryder, Alejandro Goic. World Premiere. Available online.
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 / U.S.A. (Directors: Kristen Lovell, Zackary Drucker, Producer: Matt Wolf) — The history of New York’s Meatpacking District, told from the perspective of transgender sex workers who lived and worked there. Filmmaker Kristen Lovell, who walked “The Stroll” for a decade, reunites her community to recount the violence, policing, homelessness, and gentrification they overcame to build a movement for transgender rights. World Premiere. Available online. 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.
For more information on Sundance and the winners: Visit: https://www.sundance.org/