Marches, Trump, The Blackhouse and HBCU’s at the Forefront of Sundance 2017

Sundance Film Festival is always one of the highlights of the year for me.  Mostly because I get to watch a film’s journey from this point straight through to the Oscars a complete 365 day later.

Last year, much buzz surrounded the promising Nate Parker film The Birth of A Nation centered on the life of slave abolitionist Nat Turner.  It garnered a record number 17.5 million from Fox Searchlight and was expected to be sweeping this Oscar season.  Needless to say, due to unforeseen circumstances, that prediction did not come to fruition.  However other films like Manchester By The Sea, Captain Fantastic and Life Animated have emerged as strong contenders as have their stars and directors.

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Hosted by Jessica Williams, the 2017 awards ceremony was a celebration of independent film, but also a detestation of the new administration of President Donald Trump.   With Executive Orders banning citizens from a number of Muslim majority countries from entering the U.S. for the next several months and more, his January 20 inauguration threw a shadow over the festival, coming one day after this year’s Robert Redford-founded shindig kicked off.

Needless to say, it was befitting that the opening night film was one revisiting the decade old conversation of climate change in a sequel to the 2006 Oscar-winning doc featuring Al Gore – An Inconvenient Sequel:  Truth to Power.  Climate change is something our current President has referred to in the past as “a hoax”.  He even called for Gore’s Nobel Peace Prize to be revoked.  We are in for a bumpy four years people!!!

http://www.newsy.com/stories/al-gore-says-he-ll-work-with-donald-trump-on-climate-change/

An inconvenient Sequel shed light on the fact that not much has changed or improved with Global Warming since 2006.  In fact, the earth is slowly destroying itself.  If politicians continue to ignore what scientists are telling us on how to at least try to combat this issue, the human race and our planet will surely cease to exist as we know it.

On the flip side of the coin was the sister film to the Al Gore doc…Chasing Coral.  Anyone who has ever been scuba diving or snorkeling always marvels at the underwater beauty of coral reefs.  Unfortunately, just like the climate, these reefs are slowly sinking into extinction.  Scientists from all over the world have gathered to brainstorm on how to preserve this amazing underwater wildlife.

chasingcoralrc_sundnanceAn Inconvenient Sequel Producers

Due to computer glitches and hacking issues, it was nearly impossible for me to catch as many films as I would have liked.  The ones I did see were fantabulous including Mudbound, Crown Heights, Chasing Coral, Winnie, I Don’t Feel At Home in This World Anymore, Step, The Yellow Birds and Marjorie Prime.

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Of course, there’s always a crowd favorite to see if for nothing else nostalgic sake.  For me,  that film was Roxanne, Roxanne.  Based on one of the hottest battle rappers alive (male or female), the film follows the rise of Roxanne Shante’ and how her presence has empowered women rapper in the present day.  Here’s what cast members had to say about the film at red carpet right premiere.

roxanne_qa_sundance2017

 

The Blackhouse.    Celebrating its 10th anniversary,  The Blackhouse has always proven to be a place where people of color (Latino, Asian, African-American, Native American, etc…) can converge, dialogue and network with their colleagues, filmmakers or just hang out with other like-minded artists.  Some of the highlights were panels on HBCU’s, VR Filmmakers, WGN’s Underground and a special panel on Digital Followers.

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.phphref=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fblackhousefoundation%2Fvideos%2F10154967654891255%2F&show_text=0&width=560

Anika Noni Rose

Of course, the women were front and center with a special reception being held by Marjorie Prime star and Bentonville Film Festival founder Geena Davis.  A special panel of women including Jill Solloway, Michaela Watkins and Jessica Williams provided much insight into how we  should take the reins creating our own content  to grab control of the misinformed images surrounding women in film and on television.

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Of course, The African-American Film Critic’s Association, was on point with a special reception sponsored by BET and Liquid Soul focusing on future BET projects and hosting a healthy discussion on the images of African-Americans in film and on television.  A discussion, President Gil Robertson said needs to “continue to stay in the forefront.”

BricksonDiamond and John SingletonGil and AFI Pres Jacqueline Lyanga

Before Awards were handed out Sundance Institute Executive Director Keri Putnam remarked at  the new White House administration’s moves. “We know that closing our borders to these and other artists will stop the flow of ideas and inspiration that are so vital to the global community,” Putnam said to cheers from the crowd. “We stand with you and we stand with all people risking their lives for their values or seeking refuge from violence or persecution who are now denied entry to our county.”

And with that the 2017 Sundance winners who emerged were…

Here’s the complete list of winners.

U.S. DRAMATIC

i-dont-feel-at-home-in-this-world-anymore
Sundance Film Festival

Grand Jury Prize
I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore
Dir: Macon Blair

Directing Award
Eliza Hittman, Beach Rats

Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award
Ingrid Goes West
Writers: Matt Spicer, David Branson Smith

Special Jury Award for Breakthrough Director
Maggie Betts, Novitiate

Special Jury Award for Breakthrough Performance
Chanté Adams, Roxanne Roxanne

Special Jury Award for Cinematography
Yellow Birds
DP: Daniel Landin

U.S. DOCUMENTARY

Grand Jury Prize
Dina
Dir: Dan Sickles, Antonio Santini

Directing Award
Peter Nicks, The Force

The Orwell Award
Icarus
Dir: Bryan Fogel

Special Jury Award for Storytelling
Strong Island
Dir: Yance Ford

Special Jury Award for Editing
Unrest
Editors: Kim Roberts, Emiliano Battista

Special Jury Award for Inspirational Filmmaking
Step
Dir: Amanda Lipitz

U.S. Dramatic Audience Award
Crown Heights
Dir: Matt Ruskin

chasing-coral
Sundance Film Festival/Chasing Coral

U.S. Documentary Audience Award
Chasing Coral
Dir: Jeff Orlowski

World Cinema Dramatic Audience Award
Sueño en Otro Idioma (I Dream In Another Language)
Mexico/Netherlands (Dir: Ernesto Contreras)

World Cinema Documentary Audience Award
Joshua: Teenager Vs Superpower
U.S.A. (Dir: Joe Piscatella)

WORLD CINEMA DRAMATIC

Grand Jury Prize
The Nile Hilton Incident
Sweden/Germany/Denmark (Dir: Tarik Saleh)

Special Jury Award For Directing
God’s Own Country
United Kingdom (Director-writer: Francis Lee)

Special Jury Award for Screenwriting
Pop Aye
Singapore/Thailand (Dir: Kirsten Tan)

Special Jury Award for Cinematic Vision
Free And Easy
Hong Kong (Dir: Jun Geng)

Special Jury Award for Cinematography
Axolotl Overkill
Germany (DP: Manu Dacosse)

WORLD CINEMA DOCUMENTARY

Grand Jury Prize
Last Men In Aleppo
Denmark/Syria (Dir: Feras Fayyad)

Directing Award
Winnie
France/Netherlands/South Africa (Dir: Pascale Lamche)

winnie

Special Jury Award for Masterful Storytelling
Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked The World
Canada (Co-directors: Catherine Bainbridge and Alfonso Maiorana)

Special Jury Award for Commanding Vision
Motherland
U.S.A./Philippines (Ramona S. Diaz)

Special Jury Award for Cinematography
Machines
India/Germany/Finland (DP: Rodrigo Trejo Villanueva)

NEXT Audience Award

Gook
U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Justin Chon)

SUNDANCE INSTITUTE GLOBAL FILMMAKING AWARDS

Yalda (Iran)
Massoud Bakhshi

Mignonnes (France)
Maimouna Doucoure

The Hanged (Brazil)
Fernando Coimbra

Untitled Rock Opera (Poland)
Agnieszka Smoczynska

Sundance Institute/NHK Award
I Came By (United Kingdom)
Babak Anvari

PREVIOUSLY ANNOUNCED

Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize
Marjorie Prime
U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Michael Almereyda)

The Short Film Grand Jury Prize
And so we put goldfish in the pool.
Japan (Director and screenwriter: Makoto Nagahisa)

The Short Film Jury Award: U.S. Fiction
Lucia, Before And After
U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Anu Valia)

The Short Film Jury Award: International Fiction
And The Whole Sky Fit In The Dead Cow’s Eye
Chile, U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Francisca Alegría)

The Short Film Jury Award: Non-fiction
Alone
U.S.A. (Director: Garrett Bradley)

The Short Film Jury Award: Animation
Broken – The Women’s Prison At Hoheneck
Germany (Directors: Volker Schlecht, Alexander Lahl, Screenwriters: Alexander Lahl, Max Mönch)

A Special Jury Award for Cinematography
Dadyaa — The Woodpeckers Of Rotha
Nepal, France (Directors and screenwriters: Pooja Gurung, Bibhusan Basnet, Cinematographer: Chintan Rajbhandari)

A Short Film Special Jury Award for Editing
Laps
U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Charlotte Wells, editor Blair McClendon)

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