A documentary about teens finding inspiration in the words of a legendary playwright was voted the favorite by audiences at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival.
“Giving Voice,” which follows high school performers in the August Wilson Monologue Competition in New York City, was given the Festival Favorite Award, the Sundance Institute announced Tuesday.
The award was decided by audience ballots across all programs of the festival, which concluded Sunday.
“This film is a compelling and inspiring portrait of six remarkable young people as they discover their power,” soon-to-retire festival director John Cooper said in a statement. “We’re thrilled that it resonated with audiences at this particular exciting moment in our culture, where we see the next generation of leaders, artists, and change-makers stepping out, speaking up, and finding their voice.”
“Giving Voice,” directed by James D. Stern and Fernando Villena, screened in Sundance’s Documentary Premieres section.
Two movies were runners-up in the audience voting.
One, “Boys State,” follows a group of Texas teens in a mock-government event. Directed by husband-and-wife filmmakers Jesse Moss and Amanda McBaine, it won the Grand Jury Prize in the U.S. Documentary competition.
The other, “On the Record,” is the controversial documentary by Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering that investigated sexual assault within the world of hip-hop music, focusing in part on Drew Dixon’s accusations of rape against mogul Russell Simmons. The movie, also playing in the Documentary Premieres section, made headlines before the festival when its main backer, Oprah Winfrey, backed out of the production, taking a distribution deal with Apple+ TV with her. On Monday, HBO Max said it had acquired the film.
Seven more movies were also contenders. In alphabetical order, they are:
• “Binti,” a comedy-drama from Belgium about a spirited 12-year-old video blogger (Bebel Tshiani Baloji) finding friends while struggling with her father (played by hip-hop star Baloji) as undocumented immigrants in Antwerp. The Kids program film was written and directed by Frederike Migom.
• “Crip Camp,” which chronicled a 1970s summer camp for kids with disabilities — and how many of those campers became activists in the fight for disabled persons’ rights. The U.S. Documentary Audience Award winner was directed by Nicole Newnham and Jim LeBrecht.
• “The Fight,” an inside look at the work of American Civil Liberties Union lawyers going to court against the Trump administration over the travel ban, abortion rights, immigrant rights and the citizenship question on the U.S. census. Directors Elyse Steinberg, Josh Kriegman and Eli Depres won a Special Jury Award for social impact filmmaking with the U.S. Documentary entry.
• “The Reason I Jump” (United Kingdom), which followed the lives of nonspeaking autistic people. Directed by Jerry Rothwell, it won the World Cinema Documentary Audience Award.
• “Softie,” a documentary from Kenya that profiles photojournalist Boniface Mwangi, as he weighs country versus family while he considers running for office. Director Sam Soko, along with Mita Aung-Thwin and Ryan Mullins, won a World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award for editing.
• “Uncle Frank,” about an 18-year-old woman (Sophie Lillis) in 1973, taking a road trip from New York to South Carolina with her uncle (Paul Bettany) with an unexpected third person: Frank’s lover, Walid (Peter Madcissi). The movie, written and directed by Alan Ball (writer of “American Beauty”) and produced by Amazon Studios, screened in the festival’s Premieres section.
• “Welcome to Chechnya,” about Chechen activists working to confront violence against LGBTQ people in the closed Russian republic. Director David France’s documentary was picked up by HBO just before the festival. Tyler H. Walk’s work won a U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for editing.