Sundance Winners 2016: What To Watch This Year

One of the world’s most prestigious film festivals has cast its collective vote on the industry’s best offerings: the 2016 Sundance winners were yesterday announced by the Sundance Institute at the closing ceremony of the 10 day event. The enormous gathering of film makers, actors, producers and audiences was held in Park City, Utah, where Birth of a Nation, Weiner, Sand Storm, The First Girl I Loved, Sonita, and Jim: The James Foley Story became the top Sundance Film Festival award winners.

Sundance Festival is considered a world-class platform for launching ‘the most original and authentic storytelling’ into realms of greater viewership, and Sundance Institute says this objective is for the benefit of today’s authenticity-hungry audiences as well as award winners and nominees.

“Since 1985, hundreds of films launched at the Festival have gained critical recognition, received commercial distribution, and reached worldwide audiences eager for fresh perspectives and new voices,” states Sundance on its website.

It is to the credit of Nate Parker who wrote, directed and starred in TheBirth of a Nation — that the slave rebellion drama was the winner of both the Grand Jury and Audience prizes for U.S. Dramatic. Sundance called the award winner a “bold, compelling, and deeply inhabited” original feature from an up-and-coming triple-threat talent, who Deadline reports thanked audiences for “being open to change,” and engaging with the true story upon which the movie is based. Sundance’s officials have taken to Twitter to announce and congratulate the winners.

Sundance’s top-prize winners in other categories are equally worth watching: the winner of U.S. Documentary was Weiner, which provides an intimate and intelligent account of disgraced ex-Congressman Anthony Weiner as he and his political employ mount a New York City mayoral campaign. Sundance said the category winners’ “clarity, humor, and pathos” in its telling of the true and — in today’s climate of mass-media frenzy — very relateable story, set it apart from the rest.

Weiner deftly teeters the line between political farce and personal tragedy, exposing the ex-congressman’s hubris while highlighting the sheer ugliness of the media’s takedown of his family,” reads Sundance’s Award Winners page.

The winners in other categories were Israeli Sand Storm by director Elite Zexter, which took the world dramatic cinema prize for its poignant tale of “tradition, modernity and a divided family,” and Jim: The James Foley Story, the winner of U.S. Documentary audience award, a biopic of the young photojournalist whose life was tragically cut short in a public execution video released by ISIS in August 2014.

“Brilliantly constructed with unparalleled access, Jim is a harrowing chronicle of bravery, compassion, and pain at the dawn of World War ISIS,” said Sundance’s Award Winners page.

Iranian filmmaker Rokhsareh Ghaem Maghami and feminist not-for-profit organisation Women Make Movies are the double winners of Sundance Jury and Audience awards for world documentary cinema, for the ground-breaking tale of cultural rebellion, Sonita, a talented female rapper whose creative passion is a dangerous liability in Iran.

Sundance winners Rokhsareh Ghaem Maghami and Sonita Alizadeh accept the World Cinema Grand Jury and Audience Prizes: Documentary.
Sundance winners Rokhsareh Ghaem Maghami and Sonita Alizadeh accept the World Cinema Grand Jury and Audience Prizes: Documentary. (Photo by Andrew Toth/Getty Images).

“Her beats are as solid as stones, her rhymes are fierce, and her videos are a piercing howl against the constant injustice, fear, and sexism women must endure,” said Sundance of the winners’ subject, Sonita.

The winners received acclaim and recognition not only for the cinematography, storytelling and engaging subjects of Sonita, but also for their contribution to equality and artistic freedom amid Iran’s dangerously strict cultural codes and laws required to take this performative path.

“An intimate portrait of creativity and womanhood, Sonita highlights the rarely seen intricacies and shifting contrasts of Iranian society through the lens of an artist who is defining the next generation,” said Sundance of the winners.

Sonita’s naming in BBC’s 100 Women of 2015 in November — in the lead up to Sundance Festival 2016 — exemplifies the power of recognition to be gained by Sundance nominees and winners.

The strategic premise of Sundance Festival and the unique stories told by its prize winners represent the worldwide audience preferences for authenticity and originality in movies. The Inquisitr reported last month on the box office success of The Danish Girl for which Alicia Vikander became one of the 2016 Critics Choice Award winners — which continues to receive acclaim for its truthful tale of the world’s first transgender woman and her supportive wife.

Films with original, and thus, more disarmingly authentic, stories are ever-more often the winners of prestigious awards such as those from Sundance Institute. Critics and experts around the world have chosen the Sundance winners of 2016: the choices of Sundance officials can be seen as open recommendations for what to watch on the big screen this year.

[Image by Andrew Toth/Getty Images]