The winners of last night’s jury and audience awards for the 2016 Sundance Film Festival bore only an incidental relationship to what the festival actually boiled down to for many if not most of the attendees. 

The only serious home run was Kenneth Lonergan‘s Manchester-By-The-Sea, but it wasn’t award-eligible as it was shown in the premiere section.

Before anyone had even seen Nate Parker‘s The Birth of a Nation it was all but assured an award from the jury or the audience or both. Everyone felt the clamor and knew that Birth was the movie to support in order to demonstrate their humanism and compassion, and to proclaim that they weren’t in league with the OscarsSoWhite crowd back in Los Angeles. Yes, Parker tried very hard and put his heart into every shot and frame, but at best it’s an okay, at times mediocre film, hindered by an idealized attitude about Nat Turner and too much paint on the canvas.

As’s Owen Gleiberman noted a couple of days ago, The Birth of a Nation is basically an Ed Zwick or a Ron Howard film, but it wouldn’t have won at Sundance if Zwick or Howard had actually directed it.


U.S. Dramatic Grand Jury Prize: The Birth of a Nation

U.S. Documentary Grand Jury Prize: =Weiner (HE endorsement as best doc of the festival)

U.S. Documentary Directing Award: Roger Ross Williams, Life, Animated (a compassionate, well organized portrait of a 20something autistic guy trying to evolve into adulthood — very nicely done, if somewhat irritating for the issues it ignores).

U.S. Dramatic Directing Award: The Daniels (Daniel Scheinart, Daniel Kwan), Swiss Army Man (a film that everyone and I mean everyone thought was appalling).

World Cinema Grand Jury Prize, Dramatic: Sand Storm (heard good things, meant to see it, didn’t/couldn’t)

World Cinema Grand Jury Prize, Documentary: Sonita (didn’t hear one fucking word about this film during the entire festival)


U.S. Dramatic Audience Award: The Birth of a Nation

U.S. Documentary Audience Award: Jim (respected it but it’s not tough or candid enough, and so I didn’t love it)

World Cinema Audience Award, Dramatic: Between Sea and Land (nobody said a word to me about this…nobody).

World Cinema Audience Award, Documentary: Sonita (come again?)

Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award: Chad Hartigan, Morris From America (I mostly heard “decent to meh” from those who saw it so I scratched it).

NEXT Audience Award: First Girl I Loved.

U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Prize: As You Are

U.S. Dramatic Breakthrough Performance Award: Joe Seo, Spa Night (nobody said squat about this, and I’d chosen to ignore it anyway).

U.S. Dramatic Individual Performance Award: Craig Robinson, Morris From America.

U.S. Dramatic Individual Performance Award: Melanie Lynskey, The Intervention.

U.S. Documentary Editing Award: NUTS!

U.S. Documentary Social Impact Filmmaking Award: Trapped

U.S. Documentary Writing Award: Kate Plays Christine.

I don’t care very much about the rest of the awards. Too many to list. I honestly don’t think they’ll matter very much in the greater scheme.