Sundance Documentary Winners

Of Fathers and Sons
Kahtan Hasson and Talal Derki / Sundance


By Pat Mullen

The Sundance Film Festival announced its winners this weekend. The 2018 prizes were handed out Saturday night in an awards ceremony honouring the best films from the U.S.A. and independent world cinema. The top winners on the documentary front were Kailash and Of Fathers and Sons, which scooped the grand jury prizes for U.S.A. and world cinema, respectively. The former is directed by Derek Doneen and produced by Oscar winner Davis Guggenheim and Vancouver native Sara Anthony, while the latter is a co-production between Germany, Syria, Lebanon, and Qatar from director Talal Derki.

The documentary winners at Sundance this year favoured hard-hitting stories about war and conflict with particular attention paid to Syria and the civil war. “From the beginning, the purpose of the Sundance Film Festival has been to support artists and their stories,” said Sundance Institute President and Founder Robert Redford in a statement from the festival. “And this year, our mission seemed especially relevant. Supporting independent voices, and listening to the stories they tell, has never been more necessary.”

The full list of documentary winners is as follows:

U.S. Grand Jury Prize: Documentary
Kailash – U.S.A. (Director: Derek Doneen, Producers: Davis Guggenheim, Sarah Anthony) — As a young man, Kailash Satyarthi promised himself that he would end child slavery in his lifetime. In the decades since, he has rescued more than eighty thousand children and built a global movement. This intimate and suspenseful film follows one man’s journey to do what many believed was impossible.

World Cinema Grand Jury Prize: Documentary
Of Fathers and Sons – Germany, Syria, Lebanon, Qatar (Director: Talal Derki, Producers: Ansgar Frerich, Eva Kemme, Tobias N. Siebert, Hans Robert Eisenhauer) — Talal Derki returns to his homeland where he gains the trust of a radical Islamist family, sharing their daily life for over two years. His camera focuses on Osama and his younger brother Ayman, providing an extremely rare insight into what it means to grow up in an Islamic Caliphate.

Directing Award: U.S. Documentary
Alexandria Bombach for On Her Shoulders — Nadia Murad, a 23-year-old Yazidi, survived genocide and sexual slavery committed by ISIS. Repeating her story to the world, this ordinary girl finds herself thrust onto the international stage as the voice of her people. Away from the podium, she must navigate bureaucracy, fame and people’s good intentions.

Directing Award: World Cinema Documentary
Sandi Tan for Shirkers — In 1992, teenager Sandi Tan shot Singapore’s first indie road movie with her enigmatic American mentor Georges – who then vanished with all the footage. Twenty years later, the 16mm film is recovered, sending Tan, now a novelist in Los Angeles, on a personal odyssey in search of Georges’ vanishing footprints.

Audience Award: U.S. Documentary
The Sentence – U.S.A. (Director: Rudy Valdez, Producers: Sam Bisbee, Jackie Kelman Bisbee) — Cindy Shank, mother of three, is serving a 15-year sentence in federal prison for her tangential involvement with a Michigan drug ring years earlier. This intimate portrait of mandatory minimum drug sentencing’s devastating consequences, captured by Cindy’s brother, follows her and her family over the course of ten years.

Audience Award: World Cinema Documentary
This Is Home – U.S.A., Jordan (Director: Alexandra Shiva, Producers: Lindsey Megrue, Alexandra Shiva) — This is an intimate portrait of four Syrian families arriving in Baltimore, Maryland and struggling to find their footing. With eight months to become self-sufficient, they must forge ahead to rebuild their lives. When the travel ban adds further complications, their strength and resilience are put to the test.

U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Creative Vision
Hale County This Morning, This Evening (Director: RaMell Ross, Screenwriter: Maya Krinsky, Producers: Joslyn Barnes, RaMell Ross, Su Kim) — Composed of intimate and unencumbered moments of people in a community, this film is constructed in a form that allows the viewer an emotive impression of the Historic South – trumpeting the beauty of life and consequences of the social construction of race, while simultaneously a testament to dreaming.

U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Social Impact
Crime + Punishment (Director: Stephen Maing) — Over four years of unprecedented access, the story of a brave group of black and Latino whistleblower cops and one unrelenting private investigator who, amidst a landmark lawsuit, risk everything to expose illegal quota practices and their impact on young minorities.

U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Storytelling
Three Identical Strangers (Director: Tim Wardle, Producer: Becky Read) — New York,1980: three complete strangers accidentally discover that they’re identical triplets, separated at birth. The 19-year-olds’ joyous reunion catapults them to international fame, but also unlocks an extraordinary and disturbing secret that goes beyond their own lives – and could transform our understanding of human nature forever .

A U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Breakthrough Filmmaking
Minding the Gap (Director: Bing Liu, Producer: Diane Quon) — Three young men bond together to escape volatile families in their Rust Belt hometown. As they face adult responsibilities, unexpected revelations threaten their decade-long friendship.

World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award
Stephen Loveridge and M.I.A., for MATANGI / MAYA / M.I.A. / Sri Lanka, United Kingdom, U.S.A. (Director: Stephen Loveridge, Producers: Lori Cheatle, Andrew Goldman, Paul Mezey) — Drawn from a never before seen cache of personal footage spanning decades, this is an intimate portrait of the Sri Lankan artist and musician who continues to shatter conventions.

World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award for Editing
Maxim Pozdorovkin and Matvey Kulakov, for Our New President / Russia, U.S.A. (Director: Maxim Pozdorovkin, Producers: Maxim Pozdorovkin, Joe Bender, Charlotte Cook) — The story of Donald Trump’s election told entirely through Russian propaganda. By turns horrifying and hilarious, the film is a satirical portrait of Russian media that reveals an empire of fake news and the tactics of modern-day information warfare.

World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award for Cinematography
Maxim Arbugaev and Peter Indergand, for Genesis 2.0 / Switzerland (Directors: Christian Frei, Maxim Arbugaev, Producer: Christian Frei) — On the remote New Siberian Islands in the Arctic Ocean, hunters search for tusks of extinct mammoths. When they discover a surprisingly well-preserved mammoth carcass, its resurrection will be the first manifestation of the next great technological revolution: genetics. It may well turn our world upside down.

Short Film Jury Award: Nonfiction
The Trader (Sovdagari) / Georgia (Director: Tamta Gabrichidze)