The Sundance Film Festival, a program of the non-profit 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 were announced recently during an event at The Ray Theatre in Park City and updated on Sundance Film Festival’s official social accounts.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award: Freedom of Expression was presented to Bad Press / U.S.A (Directors: Rebecca Landsberry-Baker, Joe Peeler, Producers: Conrad Beilharz, Garrett F. Baker, Tyler Graim) — When the Muscogee Nation suddenly begins censoring its free press, a rogue reporter fights to expose her government’s corruption in a historic battle that will have ramifications for all of Indian country. World Premiere.
A World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award: Creative Vision was presented to Fantastic Machine / Sweden, Denmark (Directors and Producers: Axel Danielson, Maximilien Van Aertryck) — From the first camera to 45 billion cameras worldwide today, the visual sociologist filmmakers widen their lens to expose both humanity’s unique obsession with the camera’s image and the social consequences that lay ahead. World Premiere.
A World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award: Verite Filmmaking was presented to Against the Tide / India (Director and Producer: Sarvnik Kaur, Producer: Koval Bhatia) — Two friends, both Indigenous fishermen, are driven to desperation by a dying sea. Their friendship begins to fracture as they take very different paths to provide for their struggling families. World Premiere.
A World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award: Creative Vision was presented to Sofia Alaoui for Animalia / France, Morocco, Qatar (Director and Screenwriter: Sofia Alaoui, Producers: Margaux Lorier, Toufik Ayadi, Christophe Barral) — A young, pregnant woman finds emancipation as aliens land in Morocco. Cast: Oumaïma Barid, Mehdi Dehbi, Fouad Oughaou. World Premiere.
A World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award: Cinematography was presented to Lílis Soares for Mami Wata / Nigeria (Director and Screenwriter: C.J. “Fiery” Obasi, Producer: Oge Obasi) — When the harmony in a village is threatened by outside elements, two sisters must fight to save their people and restore the glory of a mermaid goddess to the land. Cast: Evelyne Ily, Uzoamaka Aniunoh, Kelechi Udegbe, Emeka Amakeze, Rita Edochie, Tough Bone. World Premiere.
A World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award: Best Performance was presented to Rosa Marchant for When It Melts / Belgium (Director and Screenwriter: Veerle Baetens, Screenwriter: Maarten Loix, Producers: Bart Van Langendonck, Ellen Havenith, Jacques-Henri Bronckart) — Many years after a sweltering summer that spun out of control, Eva returns to the village she grew up in with an ice block in the back of her car. In the dead of winter, she confronts her past and faces up to her tormentors. Cast: Charlotte De Bruyne, Rosa Marchant. World Premiere.
NEXT INNOVATOR AWARD PRESENTED BY ADOBE
The NEXT Innovator Award presented by Adobe was presented 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.
SHORT FILM AWARDS PRESENTED BY SHUTTERSTOCK
The Short Film Grand Jury Prize presented by Shutterstock was awarded to When You Left Me On That Boulevard / U.S.A. (Director and Screenwriter: Kayla Abuda Galang, Producers: Alifya Ali, David Oconer, Udoy Rahim, Samantha Skinner) — Teenager Ly and her cousins get high before a boisterous family Thanksgiving at their auntie’s house in southeast San Diego in 2006. Cast: Kailyn Dulay, Melissa Arcaya, Elle Rodriguez, Whitney Agustin, Gina May Gimongala, Allan Wayne Anderson. World Premiere.
The Short Film Jury Award: U.S. Fiction presented by Shutterstock was awarded to Rest Stop / U.S.A. (Director and Screenwriter: Crystal Kayiza, Producers: Jalena Keane-Lee, Brit Fryer) — On a bus ride from New York to Oklahoma, Meyi, a young Ugandan-American girl, realizes her place in the world through her mother’s ambitious effort to reunite their family. Cast: Leeanna E. Tushabe, Alicia Basiima, Khalid Semakula, Robert Wanyama, Margaret Bisase, Olivia Nantongo.
The Short Film Jury Award: International Fiction presented by Shutterstock was awarded to The Kidnapping of the Bride / Germany (Director and Screenwriter: Sophia Mocorrea, Producer: Sarah Valerie Radu) — Luisa from Argentina and Fred from Germany are confronted with their social roles at their wedding. The German tradition of play of marriage. Cast: Rai Todoroff, David Bruning, Tatiana Saphir, Anne Kulbatzki, Michaela Winterstein, Niels Bormann. World Premiere.
The Short Film Jury Award: Animation presented by Shutterstock was awarded to The Flying Sailor / Canada (Directors and Producers: Wendy Tilby, Amanda Forbis, Producer: David Christensen) — Two ships collide in a harbor, an explosion shatters a city, and a sailor is blasted skyward, where he soars high above the mayhem and toward the great unknown.
The Short Film Jury Award: Non-Fiction presented by Shutterstock was awarded to Will You Look At Me / China (Director, Screenwriter, and Producer: Shuli Huang) — As a young Chinese filmmaker returns to his hometown in search of himself, a long-overdue conversation with his mother drives them into a quest for acceptance and love.
A Short Film Special Jury Award, International: Directing presented by Shutterstock was awarded to AliEN0089 / Chile (Director and Screenwriter: Valeria Hofmann, Producers: Augusto Matte, Daniela Camino, Pascual Mena) — While a gamer uploads a testimonial video to denounce the harassment she suffers in a video game, a stranger enters her home and hacks her computer, blurring the boundaries between the real and virtual worlds. Cast: Mariana di Girolamo. World Premiere.
A Short Film Special Jury Award, U.S: Directing presented by Shutterstock was awarded to The Vacation / U.S.A. (Director and Screenwriter: Jarreau Carrillo, Producers: Marttise Hill, Julius Pryor) — A Black man attempts to take a vacation. Cast: Drew Harris, Jarreau Carrillo, Ohene Cornelius, Trae Harris.
PREVIOUSLY GRANTED 2023 SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL AWARDS
The 2023 Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize, presented to an outstanding feature film about science or technology, was presented to The Pod Generation. 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 Nonfiction went to Jess Devaneyfor It’s Only Life After All (Premieres).
The Sundance Institute | Amazon Studios Producers Award for Fiction went to Kara Durrett for The Starling Girl (U.S. Dramatic Competition).
The Sundance Institute | Adobe Mentorship Award for Nonfiction went to Mary Manhardt, and the Sundance Institute | Adobe Mentorship Award for Fiction went to Troy Takaki.
The Sundance Institute | NHK Award went to Olive Nwosu for Lady.
Sundance Institute | Stars Collective Imagination Awards went to Tamara Shogaolu for their project 40 Acres, Navid Khonsari, Vassiliki Khonsari, and Andres Perez-Duarte for their project BLOCK PARTY BODEGA, and Vanessa Keith for their project Year 2180.
The Sundance Film Festival, a program of the nonprofit, Sundance Institute, is the pre-eminent gathering of original storytellers and audiences seeking new voices and fresh perspectives. Since 1985, hundreds of films launched at the Festival have gone on to gain critical acclaim and reach new audiences worldwide. The Festival has introduced some of the most groundbreaking films and episodic works of the past three decades, including Fire of Love, Cha Cha Real Smooth, Flee, CODA, Passing, Summer Of Soul (…or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised), Clemency, Never Rarely Sometimes Always, Zola, O.J.: Made in America, On The Record, Boys State, The Farewell, Honeyland, One Child Nation, The Souvenir, The Infiltrators, Sorry to Bother You, Top of the Lake, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, Hereditary, Call Me By Your Name, Get Out, The Big Sick, Mudbound, Fruitvale Station, Whiplash, Brooklyn, Precious, The Cove, Little Miss Sunshine, An Inconvenient Truth, Napoleon Dynamite, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Reservoir Dogs and sex, lies, and videotape. The program consists of fiction and nonfiction features and short films, series and episodic content, emerging media, and performances, as well as conversations, and other events. The Festival takes place both in person in the state of Utah and online, connecting audiences across the U.S. to bold new artists and films. The 2023 Festival takes place January 19–29. Be a part of the Festival at Sundance Film Festival and follow the Festival at Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.
Featured Image: Top L–R: A Thousand and One, Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project, The Eternal Memory, Scrapper. Center L–R: KOKOMO CITY, Radical, The Persian Version, Beyond Utopia. Bottom L–R: Shayda, The Accidental Getaway Driver, 20 Days in Mariupol, When You Left Me On That Boulevard.