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The Sundance Film Festival 2021 was special for multiple reasons. Firstly, the current COVID-19 pandemic meant that the event had to take place virtually, instead of in Park City, Utah like it is held every year. Instead of the regular red–carpet premieres, Sundance Film Festival 2021 relied on at–home streaming together with some screenings taking place at drive–ins and small venues across the United States.
The event took place between January 28 and February 3 and is the largest independent film festival in the United States, featuring a variety of “indie” movies and documentaries from across the world. This year’s festival was hosted by American comic and actor Patton Oswalt, with the jury presenting seven awards for short films and 24 prizes for feature filmmaking.
COVID-19 fails to thwart this independent film event
Although COVID-19 forced the film festival to be held virtually this year, the Sundance Institute made history by pulling in the largest viewership they have ever recorded. The entire festival showcased 73 feature films and 50 short films, and it managed to maintain a viewership that was 2.7 times larger than when the festival was previously held in person.
The Institute reported viewers across all 50 US states and 120 countries attended the event virtually, making it the most successful Sundance Festival to date. Commenting on the success, CEO of Sundance Keri Putnam said, “It’s been rewarding to see the way adventurous audiences everywhere engaged with our program and platform, and of course we are delighted to have met and even exceeded our goal of expanding the reach and community for independent film in this challenging year.”
Another milestone at this year’s Sundance was the largest acquisition for a film premiering at a Sundance Festival. Directed by Sian Heder, the film “CODA” set a new acquisition record for Sundance by being acquired by Apple TV+ for US$25 million. The film went on to win the grand jury prize, the directing prize, the audience award and a special jury prize for the ensemble cast under the US Dramatic category.
Another big winner from the festival was Questlove, whose new documentary “Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised),” won the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award under the US Documentary category. The documentary highlights the events of the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival and provides a raw and detailed insight into the event. The other two films which took the top Grand Jury Prize were “Flee,” which won the prize under the World Cinema Documentary category, and “Hive,” which won the prize for the World Cinema Dramatic category.
Check out the full list of winners of the Sundance Film Festival 2021 below.
Sundance Film Festival 2021 winners
US Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic – “CODA”
Audience Award: US Dramatic – “CODA”
Directing Award: US Dramatic – Siân Heder (“CODA”)
Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award: US Dramatic – Ari Katcher and Ryan Welch (“On the Count of Three”)
US Dramatic Special Jury Award for Best Actor – Clifton Collins Jr. (“Jockey”)
US Dramatic Special Jury Award for Best Ensemble – “CODA” (Emilia Jones, Eugenio Derbez, Troy Kotsur, Ferdia Walsh–Peelo, Daniel Durant and Marlee Matlin)
US Grand Jury Prize: Documentary – “Summer Of Soul (… Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised)”
Audience Award: US Documentary – “Summer Of Soul (… Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised)”
Directing Award: US Documentary – Natalia Almada (“Users”)
Jonathan Oppenheim Editing Award: US Documentary – Kristina Motwani and Rebecca Adorno (“Homeroom”)
US Documentary Special Jury Award for Emerging Filmmaker – Parker Hill and Isabel Bethencourt (“Cusp”)
US Documentary Special Jury Award for Nonfiction Experimentation – Theo Anthony, (“All Light, Everywhere”)
World Cinema Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic – “Hive”
Audience Award: World Cinema Dramatic – “Hive”
Directing Award: World Cinema Dramatic – Blerta Basholli (“Hive”)
World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award for Acting – Jesmark Scicluna (“Luzzu”)
World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award for Creative Vision – Baz Poonpiriya (“One for the Road”)
World Cinema Grand Jury Prize: Documentary – “Flee”
Audience Award: World Cinema Documentary – “Writing With Fire”
Directing Award: World Cinema Documentary – Hogir Hirori (“Sabaya”)
World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award for Vérité Filmmaking – Camilla Nielsson (“President”)
World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award for Impact for Change – Rintu Thomas and Sushmit Ghosh (“Writing With Fire”)
NEXT Audience Award – Marion Hill (“Ma Belle, My Beauty”)
NEXT Innovator Award – Dash Shaw (director), Jane Samborski (animation director) (“Cryptozoo”)
Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize – Alexis Gambis (“Son of Monarchs”)
Sundance Institute/Amazon Studios Producers Award for Narrative Features – Natalie Qasabian (“Run”)
Sundance Institute/Amazon Studios Producers Award for Documentary Features – Nicole Salazar (“Philly D.A.”)
Sundance Institute NHK Award – Meryam Joobeur (“Motherhood”)
Sundance Institute/Adobe Mentorship Award for Editing Nonfiction – Juli Vizza
Sundance Institute/Adobe Mentorship Award for Editing Fiction – Terilyn Shropshire
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