The Sentence, Shirkers, This Is Home, On Her Shoulders and more earn awards as festival wraps
The 2018 Sundance Film Festival has drawn to close, with a full day of screenings Sunday for films that took home prizes at the awards ceremony Saturday night.
In the U.S. Documentary category the Grand Jury Prize went to Kailash, directed by Derek Doneen. With drama, emotion and exceptional cinematography, the film tells the story of Nobel Peace Prize winner Kailash Satyarthi, who has dedicated his life to rescuing enslaved children in his native India and worldwide. The documentary makes an overt appeal to viewers to consider before they buy products and that if something seems too cheap to be true it has probably been manufactured by children essentially sold into slavery.
If you guys are anything like me you’re leaving this festival more inspired than you’ve ever felt in your entire life and probably more exhausted than you’ve ever felt in your entire life.
"For the documentary filmmakers in this room you know that you have to give part of yourself to making a movie. And it’s not always fun and it’s very often not easy," Doneen told the audience as he accepted the prize. "But everybody here is here because they believe in the power of story and certainly that’s the reason why we made this movie, because we wanted to do a very small thing that might change the way that we think as human beings and be more aware of the world around us."
Oscar winner Davis Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth), and Laurene Powell Jobs, widow of Steve Jobs, are among the executive producers on Kailash.
In the World Cinema Documentary competition, the Grand Jury Prize went to Of Fathers and Sons, directed by Syrian-born filmmaker Talal Derki. The bracing film tells the story of a Jihadist family in the Syrian city of Idlib, dominated by a father who despite his obvious love for his sons is more than willing to sacrifice them for the prospect of creating a caliphate. In 2014 Derki won the Grand Jury Prize in the same category for his film Return to Homs.
"Sundance is my family and cinema is my religion," Derki said as he took the stage.
The audience award for a U.S. documentary went to The Sentence, directed by Rudy Valdez. The film tells the emotionally-wrenching story of the director's sister, who was sentenced to 15 years in prison for drug crimes committed by her late boyfriend. It makes an impassioned case against mandatory minimum drug sentencing laws that, in the case of Valdez' sister, separated a mother from her young daughters for no evident societal purpose.
This Is Home earned the audience award for World Cinema Documentary. The film directed by Alexandra Shiva revolves around four Syrian families who immigrate to Baltimore, Maryland.
The Directing Award for U.S. Documentary went to Alexandria Bombach, whose film On Her Shoulders focuses on a Yazidi woman who escaped the genocide committed against her people by ISIS forces in Iraq.
The prize for directing in the World Cinema Documentary category was awarded to Sandi Tan for her film Shirkers. It revolves around an indie road movie Tan shot as a teenager, which then disappeared when her American mentor disappeared with the footage.
Prizes were awarded to several additional documentaries, including Three Identical Strangers, directed by Tim Wardle. which earned a special award for storytelling. His film recounts the mystery surrounding identical triplets who were separated at birth unbeknownst to their adoptive families. The boys only met randomly as adults, a joyous reunion that over time produced surprising results.
A Special Jury Award for Social Impact went to Crime + Punishment, directed by Stephen Maing, which focuses on "a brave group of black and Latino whistleblower cops and one unrelenting private investigator" who helped expose policing practices that harmed young people of color.
Minding the Gap, directed by Bing Liu, won the U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Breakthrough Filmmaking. Liu tells the story of his childhood friends Zack and Keire, who along with Liu took up skateboarding to find release from their volatile lives at home.
Hale County This Morning, This Evening, directed by RaMell Ross, won a Special Jury Award for Creative Vision. Sundance said of Hale County, "This film is constructed in a form that allows the viewer an emotive impression of the Historic South -- trumpeting the beauty of life and consequences of the social construction of race, while simultaneously a testament to dreaming."
A World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award was given to MATANGI/MAYA/M.I.A, directed by Stephen Loveridge, his film on the Sri Lankan singer and artist.
Genesis 2.0 won the World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award for cinematography. Maxim Arbugaev and Peter Indergrand shot the film directed by Christian Frei and Arbugaev, which focuses on the discovery of a well-preserved carcass of a wooly mammoth, which may lead to the species being resurrected from extinction.
The World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Prize for editing was awarded to Maxim Pozdorovkin and Matey Kulakov, editors of Our New President, "the story of Donald Trump's election told entirely through Russian propaganda."
Matthew Carey is a documentary filmmaker and journalist. His work has appeared on Deadline.com, CNN, CNN.com, TheWrap.com, NBCNews.com and in Documentary magazine.