‘Birth of a Nation,’ ‘Swiss Army Man’ Win Top Sundance Awards

Slave rebellion film wins audience and jury prizes; documentary honors go to “Weiner” and “Sonita”

Birth of a Nation Sundance
courtesy of Fox Searchlight

Nate Parker’s “The Birth of a Nation,” the drama about a slave revolt that became the sensation of this year’s Sundance Film Festival, has won the festival’s audience and jury prizes.

The film, which deals with the real-life rebellion led by Nat Turner, debuted to multiple standing ovations at Sundance only days after the Motion Picture Academy changed its voting rules in response to the #OscarsSoWhite furor. It ignited a bidding war at Sundance, and was sold to Fox Searchlight for $17.5 million, less than the $20 million offered by Neflix.

Over the last few years, Sundance winners have included the Oscar Best Picture nominees “Whiplash,” “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” “Winter’s Bone” and “Precious,” as well as “Fruitvale Station,” “The Sessions” and last year’s jury and audience winner, “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.”

The grand jury prize for documentary went to “Weiner,” Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg’s film about disgraced politician Anthony Weiner.

In addition to “The Birth of a Nation,” audience awards went to “Between Land and Sea” in the dramatic categories, and “Jim: The James Foley Story” and “Sonita” in the documentary categories.

U.S. directing honors went to Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan for their so-called “farting corpse movie” with Daniel Radcliffe, “Swiss Army Man,” and to Roger Ross Williams for the documentary “Life, Animated.” World cinema directing awards went to Felix van Groeningen for “Belgica” and Michael Marczak for “All These Sleepless Nights.”

Performance awards were voted to Melanie Lynskey and Craig Robinson for “The Intervention” and “Morris From America” among U.S. films, and Vicky Hernandez and Manolo Cruz for “Between Sea and Land” in the world cinema field. Joe Seo won a breakthrough performance award for “Spa Night.”

The ceremony took place at the Basin Recreation Field House in Park City and was hosted by New Zealand writer/actor/director Taika Waititi.

The awards:

U.S. Grand Jury Prize, Dramatic: “The Birth of a Nation”
U.S. Grand Jury Prize, Documentary: “Weiner”
World Cinema Grand Jury Prize, Dramatic: “Sand Storm”
World Cinema Grand Jury Prize, Documentary: “Sonita”

U.S. Dramatic Audience Award: “The Birth of a Nation”
U.S. Documentary Audience Award: “Jim: The James Foley Story”
World Cinema Audience Award, Dramatic: “Between Land and Sea”
World Cinema Audience Award, Documentary: “Sonita”
NEXT Audience Award: “First Girl I Loved”

U.S. Directing Award, Dramatic: Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan, “Swiss Army Man”
U.S. Directing Award, Documentary: Roger Ross Williams, “Life, Animated”
Waldo Scott Screenwriting Award, U.S. Dramatic: “Morris From America,” Chad Hartigan
U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award, Individual Performance: Melanie Lynskey, “The Intervention”
U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award, Individual Performance: Craig Robinson, “Morris From America”
U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Breakthrough Performance: Joe Seo, “Spa Night”
U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Collaborative Vision: Miled Joris-Peyrafitte, “As You Are”
U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Verite Filmmaking: “The Bad Kids,” Keith Fulton and Lou Pepe
U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Writing: “Kate Plays Christine”
U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award, Social Impact Filmmaking: “Trapped”
U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award, Editing: “NUTS!”

World Cinema Directing Award, Documentary: Michael Marczak, “All These Sleepless Nights”
World Cinema Directing Award, Dramatic: “Belgica,” Felix van Groeningen
World Cinema Dramatic Special Award, Screenwriting: “Mi Amiga Del Parque,” Ana Katz, Ines Bortagaray
World Cinema Editing Award, Documentary: “We Are X,” Mako Kamitsuna and John Maringouin
World Cinema Cinematography Award, Documentary: “The Land of the Enlightened,” Pieter-Jan de Pue
World Cinema Dramatic Special Award, Unique Vision and Design: “The Lure,” Agnieszka Smoczynska
World Cinema Special Jury Prize for Acting: Vicky Hernandez and Manolo Cruz, “Between Sea and Land”

World Documentary Special Jury Award for Best Debut Feature: “When Two Worlds Collide”

Alfred P. Sloan Prize: “Embrace of the Serpent,” Ciro Guerra