Stories of strong women and global activists dominate at 2018 Sundance Film Festival awards

‘The Miseducation of Cameron Post,’ a story of a teen enduring a ‘gay conversion’ camp, is the top winner at festival’s end.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Jason Mantzoukas, who stars in festival feature The Long Dumb Road, hosts the 2018 Sundance Film Festival Awards Night, Saturday, January 27, 2018.

A teen lesbian sent to “pray away the gay,” a reformed member of the Ku Klux Klan, a crusader against child slavery and a family struggling against an unfair prison sentence were front and center in the winners at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival.

“The Miseducation of Cameron Post,” director Desiree Akhavan’s drama about a girl sent to a Christian “gay conversion” camp, took the Grand Jury Prize in the U.S. Dramatic competition.

Chloë Grace Moretz, the film’s star, dedicated the award “to all the LGBT survivors of sexual conversion therapy.” Such therapy on minors is legal in 41 states, including Utah.

The Audience Award for U.S. Dramatic films went to director-writer Andrew Heckler’s “Burden,” based on the true story of a South Carolina man (played by Garrett Hedlund) who left the Ku Klux Klan with the help of a black minister (played by Forest Whitaker).

“I’ve been after this project for 20 years. I wrote the first draft in 1998,” Heckler said. He dedicated the award to Mike Burden and the others depicted in the film, whose courage in the face of multigenerational racism “could really change the world if we just pay attention.”

“Kailash,” director Derek Doneen’s profile of Nobel Peace Prize recipient Kailash Satyarthi, won the Grand Jury Prize in the U.S. Documentary competition.

“For the documenatary filmmakers in this room, you know you have to give part of yourselves to make a movie, and it’s not fun and it’s not easy,” Doneen said. “But we believe in the power of story.”

The Audience Award for U.S. Documentary went to Rudy Valdez for “The Sentence,” in which he filmed his family after his sister, Cindy Shank, was given a 15-year mandatory-minimum sentence for conspiracy because a court ruled she knew that an ex-boyfriend had dealt in drugs.

A tearful Valdez said that when his sister was sentenced, “I decided I wasn’t going to wait any longer for someone to give me a voice.” Valdez in particular thanked the Sundance audiences for staying through the Q&A sessions, asking hard questions and asking how they could help. “You are the fighters. We are all the fighters. It’s in all of us,” he said.

Several of the awards went to movies about strong women characters — a theme that resonated with Sundance films in the wake of the #MeToo movement.

Sara Colangelo won the U.S. Dramatic Directing Prize for “The Kindergarten Teacher,” which starred Maggie Gyllenhaal as an educator who becomes obsessed with a talented student (Parker Sevak). The Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award was given to Christina Choe for “Nancy,” about a woman (Andrea Riseborough) who catfishes a couple by posing as their long-lost daughter.

And the Directing Prize on the U.S. Documentary side went to Alexandria Bombach for “On Her Shoulders,” an inside portrait of Nadia Murad, a survivor of the Yazidi genocide and sexual assaults in northern Iraq who has given over her life to advocating for her people.

The awards ceremony capped a festival that saw fewer big deals than last year, when breakout titles like “Call Me By Your Name,” “Mudbound” and “The Big Sick” scored multimillion sales and went on to Oscar nominations. A lack of such standout films prompted some to call this year’s Sundance a disappointment — though it’s more the case that the festival’s risk-taking movies were a harder sell for risk-averse distributors.

The biggest deal, as of Friday, was a reported $10 million sale of the Midnight title “Assassination Nation,” to Neon and a new distribution company, AGBO. HBO Films paid a reported $6 million for rights to Jennifer Fox’s sex-abuse drama “The Tale.” The midlife drama “Puzzle,” starring Kelly Macdonald, went to Sony Pictures Classics for $5 million. Bleecker Street and 30 West teamed up to pay a reported $4 million for the biographical drama “Colette,” and the festival’s opening-night film, the urban drama “Blindspotting,” was picked up by Lionsgate for $3 million.

Meanwhile, the streaming services Netflix and Amazon, who bid big in the past few years, stayed on the sidelines, though both will be expected to pick through the merchandise after the festival.

The award winners get one last hurrah at screenings Sunday, the festival’s final day.


Here are the award winners for the 2018 Sundance Film Festival:

U.S. Dramatic

(Jeong Park | courtesy Sundance Institute) Chloë Grace Moretz (right, with Forrest Goodluck and Sasha Lane) stars as a teen sent to a "gay conversion" facility, in Desiree Akhavan's "The Miseducation of Cameron Post," which will screen in the U.S. Dramatic competition of the 2018 Sundance FIlm Festival.

Grand Jury Prize • “The Miseducation of Cameron Post,” directed by Desiree Akhavan.

Audience Award • “Burden,” directed by Andrew Heckler.

Directing Prize • Sara Colangelo, “The Kindergarten Teacher.”

Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award • Christina Choe, “Nancy.”

Special Jury Prizes • for acting, Benjamin Dickey in “Blaze”; for excellence in filmmaking, “I Think We’re Alone Now,” directed by Reed Morano; for outstanding first feature, “Monsters and Men,” directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green.

U.S. Documentary

(Courtesy of Sundance Insitute | photo by Derk Doneen) Kailash Satyarthi appears in "Kailash" by Derek Doneen, an official selection of the U.S. Documentary Competition at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival.

Grand Jury Prize • “Kailash,” directed by Derek Doneen.

Audience Award • “The Sentence,” directed by Rudy Valdez.

Directing Prize • Alexandria Bombach, “On Her Shoulders.”

Special Jury Prizes • for storytelling, “Three Identical Strangers,” directed by Tim Wardle; for breakthrough filmmaking, “Minding the Gap,” directed by Bing Liu; for creative vision, “Hale County This Morning, This Evening,” directed by RaMell Ross; for social impact, “Crime + Punishment,” directed by Stephen Maing.

World Cinema Dramatic

(Courtesy Sundance Institute) Three siblings (from left: Tolga Tekin, Bartu Küçükçağlayan, and Tuğçe Altuğ) meet for the first time in Tolga Karacelik's Turkish film "Butterflies," which will screen in the World Cinema Dramatic Competition of the 2018 Sundance Film Festival.

Grand Jury Prize • “Butterflies” (Turkey), directed by Tolga Karacelik.

Audience Award • “The Guilty” (Denmark), directed by Gustav Möller.

Directing Prize • Ísold Uggadóttir, “And Breathe Normally” (Iceland/Sweden/Belgium).

Special Jury Prizes • For ensemble acting, “Dead Pigs” (China); screenwriting, Julio Chavezmontes and Sebastián Hofmann, “Time Share (Tiempo Compartido)” (Mexico); for acting, Valeria Bertuccelli, “The Queen of Fear” (Argentina/Denmark).

World Cinema Documentary

(Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Kahtan Hasson and Talal Derki) A still from "Of Fathers and Sons" by Talal Derki, an official selection of the World Cinema Documentary Competition at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival.

Grand Jury Prize • “Of Fathers and Sons” (Germany/Syria/Lebanon), directed by Talal Derki.

Audience Award • “This Is Home” (U.S.), directed by Alexandra Shiva.

Directing Prize • Sandi Tan, “Shirkers” (U.S.)

Special Jury Prizes • for editing, Maxim Pozdorovkin and Matvey Kulakov for “Our New President” (Russia/U.S.); for cinematography, Peter Indergand and Maxim Arbugaev, “Genesis 2.0” (Switzerland); for collaboration, Stephen Loveridge and M.I.A., “Matangi / Maya / M.I.A.” (Sri Lanka/United Kingdom/U.S.).


(Juan Sebastian Baron | courtesy Sundance Institute) John Cho plays a father who uses his daughter's laptop to find clues to track her after she goes missing, in Aneesh Chaganty's "Search," which will screen in the Next program of the 2018 Sundance Film Festival.

Audience Award • “Search,” directed by Aneesh Chaganty.

Next Innovator Award • “Night Comes On,” directed by Jordana Spiro; “We the Animals,” directed by Jeremiah Zagar. (tie)

Alfred P. Sloan Prize

Alfred P. Sloan Prize (previously announced) • “Search,” directed by Aneesh Chaganty, written by Chaganty and Sev Ohanian.

Short Film winners (previously announced)

(Lucia C. Pan | courtesy Sundance Institute) Francisca Iglesias Bouzón appears in Alvaro Gago's "Matria," which will screen in the Shorts programs of the 2018 Sundance Film Festival.

Short Film Grand Jury Prize • “Matria” (Spain), written and directed by Álvaro Gago.

Short Film Jury Award: U.S. Fiction • “Hair Wolf,” written and directed by Mariama Diallo.

Short Film Jury Award: International Fiction • “Would You Look at Her” (Macedonia), written and directed by Goran Stolevski.

Short Film Jury Award: Non-fiction • “The Trader (Sovdagari)” (Georgia), directed by Tamta Gabrichidze.

Short Film Jury Award: Animation • “Glucose,” written and directed by Jeron Braxton.

Short Film Special Jury Awards • “Emergency,” directed by Carey Williams and written by K.D. Dávila; “Fauve” (Canada), written and directed by Jérémy Comte; “For Nonna Anna” (Canada), written and directed by Luis De Filippis.

Slamdance Film Festival winners

Here are the award winners from the 2018 Slamdance Film Festival, announced Friday:

Narrative Feature Grand Jury Prize • “Rock Steady Row,” directed by Trevor Stevens.

Narrative Feature Honorable Mentions • “Fake Tattoos,” directed Pascal Plante; “Lovers,” directed by Niels Holstein Kaa.

Narrative Feature Audience Award • “Rock Steady Row,” directed by Trevor Steven; runner-up: “Charlie and Hannah’s Grand Night Out,” directed by Bert Scholiers.

Documentary Feature Grand Jury Prize • “Mr. Fish: Cartooning From the Deep End,” directed by Pablo Bryant.

Documentary Feature Honorable Mention • “MexMan,” directed by Josh Polon.

Documentary Feature Audience Award ª “Freedom For the Wolf,” directed by Rupert Russell; runner-up, “MexMan,” directed by Josh Polon.

Spirit of Slamdance Award • Wendy McColm, director of “Birds Without Feathers.”

Beyond Feature Audience Award • “My Name Is Myeisha,” directed by Gus Krieger; runner-up: “Funny Story,” directed by Michael Gallagher.

Slamdance Acting Award • Rhaechyl Walker, “My Name Is Myeisha.”

Documentary Short Grand Jury Prize • “Nueva Vida,” directed by Jonathan Seligson.

Documentary Short Honorable Mention • “The Last Man You Meet,” directed by Chris Bone.

Narrative Short Grand Jury Prize • “Rupture,” directed by Yassmina Karajah.

Narrative Short Honorable Mention • “Goodbye, Brookyn,” directed by Daniel Jaffe.

Experimental Shorts Grand Jury Prize • “Are You Tired of Forever,” directed by Caitlin Craggs.

Experimental Shorts Honorable Mention • “Silica,” directed by Pia Borg.

Animated Shorts Grand Jury Prize • “Interstitial,” directed by Shunsaku Hayashi.

Animated Shorts Honorable Mention • “Satellite Strangers,” directed by James Bascara.

CreativeFuture Innovation Award • “Railment,” directed by Shunsaku Hayashi.

The Russo Brothers Fellowship Award • “Rupture,” directed by Yassmina Karajah.