Sundance Film Festival reveals award winners; names new festival director

Jesse Moss and Amanda McBaine’s Boys State, Nicole Newnham and Jim LeBrecht’s Crip Camp and Jerry Rothwell’s The Reason I Jump were among the documentaries honored at the 2020 Sundance ...
February 3, 2020

Jesse Moss and Amanda McBaine’s Boys State, Nicole Newnham and Jim LeBrecht’s Crip Camp and Jerry Rothwell’s The Reason I Jump were among the documentaries honored at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival Awards Saturday (Feb. 1).

As this year’s edition of the fest came to a close, Sundance Institute also announced the appointment of Tabitha Jackson as director of the Sundance Film Festival. Jackson, who has served as director of the Institute’s Documentary Film Program for the last six years, will oversee the festival’s vision and strategy while leading a senior team in close collaboration with Kim Yutani, director of programming.

Former director John Cooper will become emeritus director after 11 years. In his new role, Cooper will oversee special projects including preparations for the Institute’s 40th anniversary in 2021.

The awards ceremony marked the culmination of the 42nd Sundance Film Festival, where 128 feature-length and 74 short films — selected from more than 15,100 submissions — were showcased in Park City, Salt Lake City and Sundance, Utah.

Of the 28 prizes awarded to 25 films — comprising the work of 29 filmmakers — 12 (48%) were directed by one or more women; 10 (40%) were directed by one or more people of color; and two (8%) were directed by a person who identifies as LGBTQ+.

Boys State, which won the U.S. Grand Jury Prize: Documentary, follows a thousand 17-year-old boys from Texas who join together to build a representative government from the ground up. Moss and McBaine serve as producers and directors.

The World Cinema Grand Jury Prize: Documentary was presented to Hubert Sauper for Epicentro, about the “so-called time capsule” of Cuba, and how ongoing global cultural and financial upheavals could see large parts of the world face a similar existence. Sauper is screenwriter and director; Producers are Martin Marquet, Daniel Marquet, Gabriele Kranzelbinder and Paolo Calamita.

Crip Camp (pictured), about a summer camp for disabled teenagers located down the road from Woodstock in the early 1970s, won the audience award for U.S. documentary. Newnham and LeBrecht are directors and producers; Sara Bolder is producer.

The audience award for world cinema documentary was presented to Rothwell for The Reason I Jump, a film which explore the experiences of non-speaking autistic people around the world. Rothwell is director; Jeremy Dear, Stevie Lee and Al Morrow are producers.

Garrett Bradley took home the directing award for U.S. documentary for Time, an “unconventional” love story about matriarch and modern-day abolitionist Fox Rich, and her fights for the release of her incarcerated husband. Bradley serves as producer with Lauren Domino and Kellen Quinn.

Ukraine-based Iryna Tsilyk, meanwhile, was presented the directing award for world cinema documentary for The Earth is Blue as an Orange, about a family coping with living in a war zone. Producers are Anna Kapustina and Giedrė Žickytė.

Kristen Johnson won a U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Innovation in Non-fiction Storytelling for Dick Johnson Is Dead; while Arthur Jones took a U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Emerging Filmmaker for Feels Good Man.

The Fight, from Elyse Steinberg, Josh Kriegman, and Eli Despres was presented a U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Social Impact Filmmaking; and a World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award for Creative Storytelling was presented to Benjamin Ree for The Painter and the Thief.

Elsewhere, Matthew Killip’s John Was Trying to Contact Aliens won the short film jury award for non-fiction.

Finally, the Sundance Institue | Amazon Studios Producers Award for Documentary Features went to Diane Becker and Melanie Miller of Fishbowl Films for Whirlybird.

For a full list of award winners, including documentary prizes for cinematography and editing, visit the Sundance Institute website.

About The Author
Barry Walsh is editor and content director for realscreen, and has served as editor of the publication since 2009. With a career in entertainment media that spans two decades, prior to realscreen, he held the associate editor post for now defunct sister publication Boards, which focused on the advertising and commercial production industries. Before Boards, he served as editor of Canadian Music Network, a weekly music industry trade, and as music editor for As content director, he also oversees the development of content for the brand's market-leading events, the Realscreen Summit and Realscreen West, as well as new content initiatives.