The directorial debut of Macon Blair, “I don’t feel at home…” announces a bold new writing-directing talent best known as an actor in such films as “Blue Ruin” and “Green Room.” With its mouthful title and roller coaster vibe, the loony thriller stars Melanie Lynskey as a mild-mannered woman who refuses to let a simple housebreaking go unsolved, resulting in a bloody and unpredictable ride for all involved.
Offering a freshly humanist spin on non-fiction filmmaking, Dan Sickles and Antonio Santini’s “Dina” is a portrait of an unconventional romance between characters who “were called different” since birth. As co-director Santini put it, “Dan and me just wanted to make a film where we celebrate others’ differences.”
Kicking off an awards show clearly impacted by President Donald Trump’s first days in office, Sundance executive director Keri Putnam inspired a standing ovation when she said, “I would like to acknowledge the artists from Muslim majority countries who joined us at the festival this year.” Three separate presenters/winners referred to the trouble they’ve experienced being detained at U.S. borders.
The night also echoed with statements on behalf of women and female talent, none stronger than that of U.S dramatic directing winner Eliza Hittman (“Beach Rats”) who announced, “I think there is nothing more taboo in this country than a woman with ambition, and I am going to work my way through a system that is completely discriminatory towards women. And Hollywood, I’m coming for you.”
The U.S. dramatic audience award went to Matt Ruskin’s “Crown Heights,” inspired by the true story of Colin Warner, who fought the legal system after being wrongly convicted. “If you think about it on an election level, that’s sort of the award that Hillary Clinton won. Hmm, not over it,” quipped Sundance awards host Jessica Williams, who also stars in the festival’s closing-night film, “The Incredible Jessica James.”
The U.S. documentary directing prize went to Peter Nicks for his vérité portrait of Oakland police chief Sean Whent, “The Force.” In a surprise move, the doc jury also invented a new trophy, which they dubbed the “Orwell Award” (for an era of “post-truth, double-speak, and alternative facts”) and presented to Bryan Fogel’s “Icarus,” about the whistle-blower behind the Russian sports doping scandal.
The U.S. documentary audience award went to “Chasing Coral,” a movie about the declining state of coral reefs around the world. “We don’t want to make these films. This is not something we are choosing to do; this is something we are having to do,” said director Jeff Orlowski (who previously won a Sundance cinematography prize for his film “Chasing Ice”).
In the World Cinema dramatic competition, the grand jury prize went to “The Nile Hilton Incident,” while “I Dream in Another Language” landed the audience award.
In the World Cinema documentary competition, director Feras Fayyad’s Syria-focused “Last Men in Aleppo” earned the grand jury prize, while the audience award was given to “Joshua: Teenager vs. Superpower.”
Accepting the World Cinema documentary directing prize, “Winnie” helmer Pascale Lamche pointedly said her film was “for those who know that history is not made by great men” — a sentiment echoed by one of the U.S. doc winners, “Step” director Amanda Lipitz, when she said, “These girls show that nothing is impossible when you surround yourself with a group of powerful women.”
The audience award for the Next section went to Justin Chon for “Gook,” about the friendship between two Korean teens and a young African-American woman on the brink of the L.A. riots.
Four days ago, Michael Almereyda’s “Marjorie Prime” received the $20,000 Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize, presented annually to a film that focuses on science or technology as a theme. The film stars Jon Hamm and Geena Davis, and focuses on a vision of the future in which people can interact with A.I. versions of their loved ones.
The full list of winners is below:
U.S. DRAMATIC COMPETITION
Grand Jury Prize: “I don’t feel at home in this world anymore.”
Audience Award: “Crown Heights”
Directing: Eliza Hittman, “Beach Rats”
Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award: Matt Spicer and David Branson Smith, “Ingrid Goes West”
Special Jury Award for Breakthrough Performance: Chanté Adams, “Roxanne Roxanne”
Special Jury Award for Breakthrough Director: Maggie Betts, “Novitiate”
Special Jury Award for Cinematography: Daniel Landin, “Yellow Birds”
U.S. DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION
Grand Jury Prize: “Dina”
Directing: Peter Nicks, “The Force”
Orwell Award: “Icarus”
Audience Award: “Chasing Coral”
Special Jury Award for Editing: Kim Roberts and Emiliano Battista, “Unrest”
Special Jury Award for Storytelling: Yance Ford, “Strong Island”
Special Jury Award for Inspirational Filmmaking: Amanda Lipitz, “Step”
WORLD CINEMA DRAMATIC COMPETITION
Grand Jury Prize: “The Nile Hilton Incident”
Audience Award: “I Dream in Another Language”
Directing Award: Francis Lee, “God’s Own Country”
Screenwriting: Kirsten Tan, “Pop Aye”
Special Jury Award for Cinematic Visions: Jun Geng, “Free and Easy”
Special Jury Award for Cinematography: Manu Dacosse, “Axolotl Overkill”
WORLD CINEMA DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION
Grand Jury Prize: “Last Men in Aleppo”
Audience Award: “Joshua: Teenager vs. Superpower”
Directing Award: Pascale Lamche, “Winnie”
Special Jury Award for Masterful Storytelling: Catherine Bainbridge, Alfonso Maiorana, “Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World”
Special Jury Award for Editing: Ramona S. Diaz, “Motherland”
Special Jury Award for Cinematography: Rodrigo Trejo Villanueva, “Machines”
Next Audience Award: “Gook”
Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize: “Marjorie Prime”