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Sundance Winners: ‘The Miseducation of Cameron Post,’ ‘Kailash’ Take Top Honors

Gay conversion therapy drama takes top prize in what has widely been considered a quiet Sundance, as quality films failed to spark big sales.

The Sundance Film Festival wrapped with awards for “The Miseducation of Cameron Post,” director Desiree Akhavan’s accepting look at Christian teens wrestling with gay conversion therapy, and documentary winner “Kailash,” about a Nobel Prize winner’s crusade to end child slavery in his native India.

Compared with last year’s kudofest, which took place a week after the presidential inauguration, 2018 presenters and award winners alike kept their comments largely apolitical — even in cases when the films themselves tackled big issues. Technical difficulties prevented award show attendees from seeing Akhavan’s filmed acceptance speech.

Other honorees in the U.S. Dramatic competition included Sara Colangelo for “The Kindergarten Teacher,” a remake of the Israeli drama that stars Maggie Gyllenhaal as a teacher who takes credit for one of her student’s creativity, and Christina Choe, who collected the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award for “Nancy.”

U.S. Dramatic special jury awards went to first feature “Monsters and Men,” “I Think We’re Alone Now” and actor Benjamin Dickey, star of “Blaze.” Director Andrew Heckler won the category’s audience prize for “Burden,” which stars Garrett Hedlund as a KKK member who experiences a change of heart.

The U.S. Documentary jury honored Alexandria Bombach with the directing prize for “On Her Shoulders,” a portrait of ISIS survivor Nadia Murad. The judges also announced four special jury awards: to “Crime + Punishment,” “Hale County This Morning, This Evening,” “Minding the Gap” and “Three Identical Strangers” (but ignored last year’s one-off Orwell Award for free speech).

As one of the NYPD officers in Stephen Maing’s “Crime + Punishment” told the crowd, “All of the officers in this film, we jumped without a parachute and landed in Utah. We’re hoping to send a ripple from New York City out into the nation. We have to get rid of this cancer.”

The U.S. Documentary audience prize went to “The Sentence,” inspiring director Rudy Valdez to profess, “All my life, I felt like I didn’t have a voice. I felt like my community was under-served. I kept waiting for somebody to help us, [for] somebody to step up to the plate. … I decided I wasn’t going to wait any longer for somebody to give me a voice.”

In the World Cinema dramatic competition, the grand jury prize went to “Butterflies,” a family-centric drama from Turkish director Tolga Karaçelik (whose “Ivy” competed at Sundance three years ago), while Iceland’s Ísold Uggadóttir earned directing honors for “And Breathe Normally.” The audience prize went to “The Guilty.” Danish director Gustav Möller accepted the award, saying, “The idea of the film is that it would be created by the audience … so it’s very special to get the award from the audience.”

The World Cinema documentary grand jury prize went to “Of Fathers and Sons,” Talal Derki’s two-year portrait of the pressures facing children growing up in a radical Islamist family. Directing honors went to Sandi Tan for “Shirkers,” while the audience voted for “This Is Home,” about four Syrian refugee families adjusting to life in Baltimore.

Ethan Hawke presented the NEXT Audience Award to Aneesh Chaganty’s “Search.” The film, which takes place entirely on computer screens, stars John Cho as a father searching for clues to his missing daughter’s disappearance via social media.

The category’s new NEXT Innovator Award was selected by RuPaul, who — as the prize’s first-ever judge — confessed, “We have a tie. I fought long and hard with myself over this,” before presenting to both Jordana Spiro’s “Night Comes On” and Jeremiah Zagar’s “We the Animals.”

Earlier this week, Chaganty’s “Search” received the $20,000 Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize, presented annually to a film that focuses on science or technology as a theme.

Also previously announced, “His House” director Remi Weekes won the Sundance Institute NHK Award; the Sundance Institute/Amazon Studios Producers Awards went to Katy Chevingy & Marilyn Ness (producers of “Dark Money”) and Sev Ohanian for “Search”; and Sundance Institute Open Borders Fellowship winners were Derki (“Of Fathers and Sons”), Chaitanya Tamhane (for her still-untitled feature) and Tatiana Huezo (“Night on Fire”).

The full list of winners appears below:

U.S. DRAMATIC COMPETITION

Grand Jury Prize: “The Miseducation of Cameron Post”

Audience Award: “Burden”

Directing: Sara Colangelo, “The Kindergarten Teacher”

Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award: Christina Choe, “Nancy”

Special Jury Award for Outstanding First Feature: Reinaldo Marcus Green, “Monsters and Men”

Special Jury Award for Excellence in Filmmaking: “I Think We’re Alone Now”

Special Jury Award for Achievement in Acting: Benjamin Dickey, “Blaze”

U.S. DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION

Grand Jury Prize: “Kailash”

Directing: Alexandria Bombach, “On Her Shoulders”

Audience Award: “The Sentence”

Special Jury Award for Social Impact: “Crime + Punishment”

Special Jury Award for Creative Vision: “Hale County This Morning, This Evening”

Special Jury Award for Breakthrough Filmmaking: “Minding the Gap”

Special Jury Award for Storytelling: “Three Identical Strangers”

WORLD CINEMA DRAMATIC COMPETITION

Grand Jury Prize: “Butterflies”

Audience Award: “The Guilty”

Directing Award: Ísold Uggadóttir, “And Breathe Normally”

Special Jury Award for Acting: Valeria Bertucecelli, “The Queen of Fear,”

Special Jury Award for Screenwriting: Julio Chavezmontes & Sebastián Hofmann, “Time Share”

Special Jury Award for Ensemble Acting: “Dead Pigs”

WORLD CINEMA DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION

Grand Jury Prize: “Of Fathers and Sons”

Audience Award: “This Is Home”

Directing Award: Sandi Tan, “Shirkers”

Special Jury Award: Steven Loveridge, “Matangi/Maya/M.I.A.”

Special Jury Award for Cinematography: Maxim Arbugaev, Peter Indergand “Genesis 2.0”

Special Jury Award for Editing: Maxim Pozdorovkin & Matvey Kulakov, “Our New President”

OTHER AWARDS

NEXT Audience Award: “Search”

NEXT Innovator Award: “Night Comes On” AND “We the Animals”

Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize: “Search”

Sundance Institute NHK Award: Remi Weekes, “His House”

Sundance Institute/Amazon Studios Producers Awards: Katy Chevingy & Marilyn Ness (“Dark Money”) AND Sev Ohanian (“Search”)

Sundance Open Borders Fellowship Presented by Netflix: Talal Derki (“Of Fathers and Sons”) AND Chaitanya Tamhane AND Tatiana Huezo (“Night on Fire”)

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