Sundance Film Festival

Queer films win awards at Sundance

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The Sundance Film Festival announced the juror and audience awards today during an event at The Ray Theatre in Park City, which included several queer-related films. The award-winning films will screen in person and via the online Festival platform on Saturday, January 28, and Sunday, January 29. Tickets for all award-screening films are now available.

Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project won the U.S. Grand Jury Prize: Documentary. The award was presented to Joe Brewster and Michèle Stephenson — Intimate vérité, archival footage, and visually innovative treatments of poetry take us on a journey through the dreamscape of legendary queer poet Nikki Giovanni as she reflects on her life and legacy.

“This film focuses on a singular, unapologetic voice, and through her story, it captures the experience of the collective. The strong directorial vision illuminates the joy and the raw reality of the Black experience. Also, it is fucking funny,” jury representatives said at the ceremony.

KOKOMO CITY won the NEXT Innovator Award Presented by Adobe, the award was presented to director and producer D. Smith, and producers Harris Doran and Bill Butler) — Four Black transgender sex workers explore the dichotomy between the Black community and themselves, while confronting issues long avoided.

“For taking the traditional ‘talking heads’ documentary structure and opening it up with the use of camera, sound, editing techniques, and imagery to create a dazzling journey with a fluidity that is entirely new; for a groundbreaking presentation of the lives of black trans women sex-workers in black and white; for taking us into their bedrooms and sharing in their incredible vulnerability as we hear their stories, all the while listening with her camera in a way that is electric and alive; for examining the injustice of a world that relegates so many women to second-class citizenship and the oppressive nature of gender roles for everyone; for making perhaps the funniest movie Sundance has ever shown and reminding us that the life or death struggle of these women is best understood in their defiant use of humor as a weapon,” the presenter said. “The NEXT wave of cinema is the profound use of comedy for serious subject matter, and for bringing us all together with laughter, in a hope that the love we come to feel for the people in this film can result in a larger social transformation.”

KOKOMO CITY also won the Audience Award for NEXT.

The Persian Version is taking home the Audience Award: U.S. Dramatic. Presented to director, screenwriter, and producer Maryam Keshavarz, producers Anne Carey, Ben Howe, Luca Borghese, Peter Block, and Corey Nelson — When a large Iranian-American family gathers for the patriarch’s heart transplant, a family secret is uncovered that catapults the estranged mother and daughter into an exploration of the past. Toggling between the United States and Iran over decades, mother and daughter discover they are more alike than they know.”

Going Varsity in Mariachi was awarded the Jonathan Oppenheim Editing Award: U.S. Documentary. Presented to Daniela I. Quiroz — In the competitive world of high school mariachi, the musicians from the South Texas borderlands reign supreme. Under the guidance of coach Abel Acuña, the teenage captains of Edinburg North High School’s acclaimed team must turn a shoestring budget and diverse crew of inexperienced musicians into state champions.

“A joyful edit that carries the heart of the characters while still exploring difficult and sensitive issues in a delicate and beautiful way. We deeply care for our heroes and the spirit of life on the border,” jury representatives said at the event.

Theater Camp won a U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award: Ensemble, presented to the cast Molly Gordon, Ben Platt, Noah Galvin, Jimmy Tatro, Patti Harrison, Ayo Edebiri. Directors and screenwriters Molly Gordon and Nick Lieberman, and screenwriters Noah Galvin and Ben Platt — When the beloved founder of a run-down theater camp in upstate New York falls into a coma, the eccentric staff must band together with the founder’s crypto-bro son to keep the camp afloat.

“Creativity does not have to be a torturous, solitary endeavor — it often rarely is. A film is made with a community, and those that celebrate, that invite new communities to the worlds they have built. As a jury of theatre nerds who felt welcomed back to a place that feels like home it is our pleasure to award the U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award: Ensemble to the cast of Theater Camp,” jury representatives said at the ceremony.

Lio Mehiel of Mutt won the U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award: Acting — Over the course of a single hectic day in New York City, three people from Feña’s past are thrust back into his life. Having lost touch since transitioning from female to male, he navigates the new dynamics of old relationships while tackling the day-to-day challenges of living life in between.

“We were charmed, seduced, and compelled by this fresh new performer as we watched them navigating the intimate complexities of their everyday life and relationships in his search for acceptance,” the jury said.

The Stroll won the U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award: Clarity of Vision, presented to directors Kristen Lovell and Zackary Drucker, and producer: Matt Wolf — The history of New York’s Meatpacking District, told from the perspective of transgender sex workers who lived and worked there. Filmmaker Kristen Lovell, who walked “The Stroll” for a decade, reunites her community to recount the violence, policing, homelessness, and gentrification they overcame to build a movement for transgender rights.

“It demonstrates an intimate look from the people who have the lived experience. It shows why it is important for the people who are members of the community to be at the helm of their stories,” award presenters said.

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