This year’s Sundance Film Festival award winners and highlights to look out for

As Sundance Film Festival 2024 comes to a close, Katie Smith-Wong is here with the winners and highlights of this year’s fest.

The Sundance Film Festival returned to the streets of Park City and Salt Lake City, Utah, US, in 2024 while marking a special year—its 40th anniversary since its inaugural event. The festival brought together audiences in Utah and beyond to celebrate Sundance’s rich history of supporting engaging new stories and groundbreaking independent artists.

“This year was especially meaningful to all of us for being the 40th edition of the Sundance Film Festival,” said Joana Vicente, Sundance Institute CEO. “We congratulate all of our artists in the programme this year for their contributions to an incredible slate and Festival experience. It was a joy to hear from audiences that were encountering stories that entertained, moved and challenged them.”

This year’s film festival saw 17,435 submissions and a total of 153 projects being accepted for programming. The event saw 79 world premieres, which included Rose Glass’ latest feature Love Lies Bleeding; A Different Man, a thriller starring Sebastian Stan; and Freaky Tales, the newest film by Captain Marvel directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck and starring Pedro Pascal.

A Real Pain

Among the 41 independent filmmakers premiering their feature and documentary directorial debuts are Academy Award nominee Sean Wang, Jianjie Lin and Shuchi Talati, and the event also saw the return of past Sundance attendees that included Jesse Eisenberg and Benjamin Ree, whose features—A Real Pain and Ibelin—were met with critical acclaim.

Meanwhile, this year resulted in a set of high-profile sales that include titles include Warner Bros’ $15M acquisition for documentary Super/Man: The Christopher Reeve Story and Amazon MGM’s $15M acquisition of coming-of-age comedy My Old Ass. However, the biggest deal this year came from Netflix, which paid $17m to acquire Greg Jardin’s sci-fi thriller It’s What’s Inside. Other titles acquired from the festival include Irish film Kneecap and documentaries Ibelin and Skywalkers: A Love Story.

Award winners

“Our Awards Ceremony is a great time to celebrate this endeavour we’re all passionate about: we’re united by these stories and by admiration for the bold and dedicated filmmakers bringing them to our community” added Kim Yutani, Sundance Film Festival Director of Programming. “These awards are an opportunity to highlight resonant works across the slate that will continue to find their audiences beyond Utah and beyond our online platform–to be entrusted with their first impressions is an honour for all of us at Sundance.”

The jury and audience-awarded prizes include Grand Jury Prizes awarded to In the Summers, Porcelain War, Sujo and A New Kind of Wilderness. The NEXT Innovator Award was awarded to Little Death. Other jury award winners include documentaries Frida and Gaucho Gaucho, as well as feature films In the Land of Brothers, Suncoast and Handling the Undead.

Dìdi (弟弟)

Among the Audience awards were Sean Wang’s Dìdi (弟弟), documentary Daughters, Indian coming-of-age drama Girls Will Be Girls, and Norwegian documentary Ibelin, while Kneecap won the audience award for NEXT presented by Adobe.

Previous Sundance award winners include The Eternal Memory, CODA, Summer Of Soul (…Or, When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised), Flee, Hive, Minari, Whiplash and Fruitvale Station.

Personal picks of Sundance 2024

One of the highlights of this year’s festival is Chinese drama Brief History of a Family, written and directed by Jianjie Lin. Reminiscent of Academy Award winner Parasite, the crisp yet atmospheric visuals of Brief History of a Family—supported by Jiahao Zhang’s cinematography and Lin’s effective direction—enable the characters to drive the narrative through subtle body language and fraught dialogue, to deliver an outstanding modern thriller.

Brief History of a Family

Other festival highlights include an array of poignant and uncompromising documentaries such as:

Black Box Diaries, which follows Japanese journalist Shiori Ito’s investigation into her own sexual assault, leading to her becoming the face of the #MeToo movement in Japan.

Frida, Carla Gutierrez’s insight into the famed Mexican artist Frida Kahlo that combines animation, video and excerpts from her personal diary with her famed works.

Ibelin, Benjamin Ree’s tearjerking documentary into the life of a Norwegian gamer, who died of a degenerative muscular disease at the age of 25, only for his parents to start receiving messages from online friends around the world.