The Eternal Memory and Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project are the big documentary winners at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. The films won the Grand Jury Prizes for World Cinema and U.S. Documentary, respectively. The Eternal Memory comes from Chilean director Maite Alberdi and offers an intimate portrait a long-time couple as they deal with a worsening Alzheimer’s diagnosis and the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The film marks another success for Alberdi, whose 2020 film The Mole Agent received an Oscar nomination. The Eternal Memory had one of the festival’s big wins earlier in the day, too, as news came that MTV Documentary Films, which credits industry veteran Sheila Nevins as executive producer, snapped up the rights following a bidding war that drew the interest of several streamers.
“I am so happy that The Eternal Memory has found its home at MTV Documentary Films, which in recent years, has believed in the artistic innovation of documentaries and has released documentaries that I greatly admire,” said Alberdi in a statement. “Working with Sheila Nevins is an honor, and I admire what she has built in the documentary industry.”
“The gift of love that lasts is revealed in The Eternal Memory,” added Nevins. “One cannot be cynical in Maite’s verité film – a remarkable achievement that allows us to observe what remains as memory fades. We reconsider the value of a long life lived and consider in our own lives the eternal reach of comfort and caring to an otherwise merciless end.” The Eternal Memory will next screen at the Berlinale.
Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project, meanwhile, scored a win for directors Joe Brewster and Michèle Stephenson. The film offers a portrait of the titular Black poet, writer, and activist.
“This film focuses on a singular, unapologetic voice, and through her story it captures the experience of the collective,” remarked the jury. “The strong directorial vision illuminates the joy and the raw reality of the Black experience. Also it is fucking funny.”
Audience Awards went to Mstyslav Chernov’s gripping portrait of the war in Ukraine in 20 Days in Mariupol, Madeline Gavin’s hidden camera exposé of security fears in North Korea in Beyond Utopia, and D. Smith’s vivid consideration of the experiences of Black transwomen in KOKOMO CITY. Directing honours, meanwhile, went to Luke Lorentzen for the verité doc A Still Small Voice and to Anna Hints for the intimate Smoke Sauna Sisterhood. On the shorts front, Chinese filmmaker Shuli Huang won the doc prize for the essay film Will You Look at Me. For animation, Amanda Forbis and Wendy Tilby picked up a win for the Canadians with the NFB short The Flying Sailor, which earned an Oscar nomination this week.
The full list of non-fiction winners at Sundance is as follows:
U.S. Documentary Grand Jury Prize: Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project – Joe Brewster and Michèle Stephenson
World Cinema Grand Jury Prize, Documentary: The Eternal Memory – Maite Alberdi
Audience Award, U.S. Documentary, Presented by Acura: Beyond Utopia – Madeleine Gavin
Audience Award, World Cinema Documentary, Presented by United Airlines: 20 Days in Mariupol – Mstyslav Chernov
Audience Award, NEXT, Presented by Adobe: KOKOMO CITY – D. Smith
Directing Award, U.S. Documentary: Luke Lorentzen – A Still Small Voice
Directing Award, World Cinema Documentary: Anna Hints – Smoke Sauna Sisterhood
Jonathan Oppenheim Editing Award, U.S. Documentary: Going Varsity in Mariachi – Daniela I. Quiroz
Documentary Special Jury Award, Clarity of Vision: The Stroll – Kristen Lovell, Zackary Drucker
U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award, Freedom of Expression: Bad Press – Rebecca Landsberry-Baker, Joe Peeler
World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award, Creative Vision – Fantastic Machine – Axel Danielson, Maximilien Van Aertryck
World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award, Verité Filmmaking: Against the Tide – Sarvnik Kaur, Producer: Koval Bhatia
NEXT Innovator Award, presented by Adobe: KOKOMO CITY – D. Smith
Short Film Jury Award, Non-Fiction presented by Shutterstock: Will You Look At Me – Shuli Huang
Short Film Jury Award, Animation presented by Shutterstock: The Flying Sailor – Wendy Tilby, Amanda Forbis
Sundance Institute | Amazon Studios Producers Award for Nonfiction went to Jess Devaney for It’s Only Life After All (Premieres)