Sundance Winners: ‘Clemency,’ ‘One Child Nation’ Take Top Honors

The Sundance Film Festival concluded with five female directors — and one man — sharing the grand jury prizes in the four main competition categories.

In U.S. dramatic competition, African-American writer-director Chinonye Chukwu won for “Clemency,” in which Alfre Woodard plays a prison warden who connects with a death-row inmate. Meanwhile, in the world dramatic category, Joanna Hogg’s “The Souvenir” specifically looks at the challenges and setbacks facing a young female filmmaker, who puts her directing ambitions on hold in order to deal with the drug-addicted man who monopolizes her attention.

Top U.S. documentary honors went to Nanfu Wang and Jialing Zhang’s “One Child Nation,” a personal exploration of the suffering and aftermath of China’s infamous population-control policy through co-director Wang’s family. In the world documentary competition, “Honeyland” — an artful portrait of a Macedonian beekeeper struggling to protect her livelihood — was a clear favorite with the jury, earning three separate prizes.

In her acceptance speech, Chukwu thanked her producers, who had wanted a female director to tell the story, explaining that she made the film “so we as a society can stop defining people by their worst possible acts, that we can end mass incarceration and dismantle the prison-industrial complex, and root our societies in true justice and mercy and freedom, which is all tied to our joy inside, which nobody can ever incarcerate and execute.”

From the pointed exuberance of the Jambo African Drummers performance that kicked off the evening to the triumphantly cheeky opening monologue by host Marianna Palka, who tweaked the single-climax, beginning-and-end paradigm of male storytelling in favor of what she called the multi-climax-and-no-end paradigm of female storytelling, the awards ceremony put Sundance’s call for diversity front and center.

The audience awards went to Paul Downs Colaizzo’s weight-loss/soul-gain dramedy “Brittany Runs a Marathon,” which also scored one of the acquisition-heavy edition’s biggest deals from Amazon Studios, and Rachel Lears’ “Knock Down the House,” about the election of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her fellow Democratic disruptor. In the world categories, audiences favored May el-Toukhy’s “Queen of Hearts” and Richard Ladkani’s “Sea of Shadows.”

The only section in which audiences and jury (albeit the one-person celebrity “Innovator” — and art-film director — Laurie Anderson) aligned was NEXT, where outside-the-box docu-fiction “The Infiltrators” earned both prizes.

One of three special jury prize winners in the U.S. dramatic competition, “Honey Boy” helmer Alma Har’el announced, “I’m really proud to be here in a year where 44% of the directors are women,” adding an emphatic, “The hustle is real. We’re here, we’re ready. Stop f—ing sending us to shadow white men!”

Earlier this week, Chiwetel Ejiofor’s “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind” received the $20,000 Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize, presented annually to a film that focuses on science or technology as a theme.

On Tuesday, Sundance announced that Rachel Lears’ documentary “Knock Down the House,” which focuses on Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’ successful Congressional campaign, had won the Festival Favorite award. The runners-up included “Ask Dr. Ruth,” “The Biggest Little Farm,” “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind” and “Blinded by the Light.”

The full list of winners appears below:

U.S. DRAMATIC COMPETITION

Grand Jury Prize: “Clemency”

Audience Award: “Brittany Runs a Marathon”

Directing: Joe Talbot, “The Last Black Man in San Francisco”

Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award: Pippa Bianco, “Share”

Special Jury Award for Vision and Craft: Alma Har’el, “Honey Boy”

Special Jury Award for Creative Collaboration: “The Last Black Man in San Francisco”

Special Jury Award for Breakthrough Performance: Rhianne Barreto, “Share”

U.S. DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION

Grand Jury Prize: “One Child Nation”

Audience Award: “Knock Down the House”

Directing: Steven Bognar & Julia Riechert, “American Factory”

Special Jury Award for Moral Urgency: Jacqueline Olive, “Always in Season”

Special Jury Award for Emerging Filmmaker: Liza Mandelup, “Jawline”

Special Jury Award for Editing: Todd Douglas Miller, “Apollo 11”

Special Jury Award for Cinematography: Luke Lorentzen, “Midnight Family”

WORLD CINEMA DRAMATIC COMPETITION

Grand Jury Prize: “The Souvenir”

Audience Award: “Queen of Hearts”

Directing Award: Lucía Garibaldi, “The Sharks”

Special Jury Award for Originality: Makoto Nagahisa, “We Are Little Zombies”

Special Jury Award: Alejandro Landes, “Monos”

Special Jury Award for Acting: Krystyna Janda, “Dolce Fine Giornata”

WORLD CINEMA DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION

Grand Jury Prize: “Honeyland”

Audience Award: “Sea of Shadows”

Directing Award: Mads Brügger, “Cold Case Hammarskjöld”

Special Jury Award for Impact for Change: Tamara Kotevska and Ljubomir Stefanov, “Honeyland”

Special Jury Award for Cinematography: Fejmi Daut and Samir Ljuma, “Honeyland”

OTHER AWARDS

NEXT Audience Award: “The Infiltrators”

NEXT Innovator Award: “The Infiltrators”

Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize: “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind”

Sundance Institute NHK Award: Taro Aoshima, “Planet Korsakov”

Sundance Institute/Amazon Studios Producers Awards: Carly Hugo & Matt Parker (“Share”) AND Lori Cheatle

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

Audience Award: “Knock Down the House”

(Owen Gleiberman contributed to this report.)