Porcelain War | Photo by Slava Leontyev and Andrey Stefanov | Courtesy of the Sundance Institute

Porcelain War, A New Kind of Wilderness Top Sundance Doc Winners

Canadian directors Brett Story, Emily Kassie among prizewinners

4 mins read

Porcelain War and A New Kind of Wilderness topped the documentary winners at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. The films won the Grand Jury Prizes for U.S. and World Cinema Documentary, respectively. Directed by Brendan Bellomo and Slava Leontyev, Porcelain War offers a portrait of artists on the front lines fighting for Ukraine’s freedom. “Resisting totalitarian aggression is necessary but holding on to your humanity amidst the onslaught is the ultimate pursuit of good,” remarked the jury in a statement, while noting the film’s dog was best in show. “The making of this film – a film full of pathos and violence, porcini and dragonlets – is in and of itself this pursuit. For its unwavering voice from inside the brutal war in Ukraine calling us to care about those who would sacrifice their lives to defend their humanity and ours.”

A New Kind of Wilderness, meanwhile, is director Silje Evensmo Jacobsen’s portrait of a family whose dreams of living offgrid on a sustainable farm are shattered by loss. “The film is embedded with deep humanism and a sensitivity and vulnerability that never veers into sentimentalism,” noted the jury, who praised the film’s immersive quality. “Skillfully edited, beautifully filmed and scored with intimate access inside a very special family. It’s rare to see classically vérité films of this caliber.”

Two Canadian directors also scored prizes at Sundance. Brett Story, along with director Stephen Maing, won a special award “for the art of change” for the documentary Union. The film offers a gripping vérité portrait of members of the Amazon Labor Union as workers try to mobilize and establish a union. Meanwhile, Emily Kassie won the directing prize with Julian Brave NoiseCat for Sugarcane. The doc examines the ripple effects of violence wrought by residential schools.

Sundance returned for a fully in-person festival this year followed by an online encore. Virtual screenings continue throughout the weekend.


The full list of non-fiction winners at Sundance is as follows:


U.S. Documentary Grand Jury Prize: Porcelain War – Brendan Bellomo and Slava Leontyev

World Cinema Grand Jury Prize, Documentary: A New Kind of Wilderness – Silje Evensmo Jacobsen

Festival Favourite: Daughters – Angela Patton, Natalie Rae

Audience Award, U.S. Documentary, Presented by Acura: Daughters – Angela Patton, Natalie Rae

Audience Award, World Cinema Documentary, Presented by United Airlines: Ibelin – Benjamin Ree

Directing Award, U.S. Documentary: Julian Brave NoiseCat and Emily Kassie – Sugarcane

Directing Award, World Cinema Documentary: Benjamin Ree – Ibelin

Jonathan Oppenheim Editing Award, U.S. Documentary:  Frida – Carla Gutiérrez

U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Sound: Gaucho Gaucho

Documentary Special Jury Award for the Art of Change: Union Stephen Maing, Brett Story

World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award for Craft: Nocturnes – Anirban Dutta, Anupama Srinivasan

World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award for Cinematic Innovation: Soundtrack to a Coup d’ÉtatSimon Grimonprez

Special Jury Award for NEXT presented by Adobe: Desire Lines – Jules Rosskam

Short Film Jury Award: Nonfiction: Bob’s Funeral – Jack Dunphy

Sundance Institute | Amazon MGM Studios Producers Award for Nonfiction: Toni Kamau – The Battle for Laikipia

Sundance Institute | Adobe Mentorship Award for Nonfiction: Kristina Motwani

Pat Mullen is the publisher of POV Magazine. He holds a Master’s in Film Studies from Carleton University where his research focused on adaptation and Canadian cinema. Pat has also contributed to outlets including The Canadian Encyclopedia, Paste, That Shelf, Sharp, Xtra, and Complex. He is the vice president of the Toronto Film Critics Association and an international voter for the Golden Globe Awards.

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