Did any Oscar contenders emerge from the 2017 Sundance Film Festival?

sundance film festival theater marquee 600x279
Over the weekend, the Sundance Film Festival wrapped up for 2017 with its annual awards ceremony. Now, you can’t really look at their award choice and assume anything, in terms of Academy crossover, but it never hurts to check in. The premiere independent festival usually has some kind of Oscar representation in a given year, so while we’re still looking at the 2016 releases on the Academy Award circuit, these potential 2017 releases are essentially launching a campaign right now. It’s just a longer one. So, let us peek in on what Sundance this year might end up offering the precursor season down the line. Oh well, here goes nothing…

Last year, we notably had The Birth of a Nation initially emerge as a presumed Oscar lock, though it ultimately was Manchester by the Sea that became an Academy Award favorite. Other alums from last year included Camerperson, Captain Fantastic, Christine, Gleason, Life, Animated, Love and Friendship, Sing Street, and Weiner, some of which were also able to score citations from the Academy. That’s about par for the course, though had The Birth of a Nation not run into its Nate Parker related controversies, things could have been different. Instead, Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester by the Sea picked up the Sundance darling mantle and ran with it.

This year, there aren’t any truly can’t miss awards contenders, Manchester by the Sea style, though a few possibilities do stand out. Potential players like The Big Sick, Call Me By Your Name, Chasing Coral, The Hero, An Inconvenient Sequel, Mudbound, Wind River, and possibly The Yellow Birds present options in the months to come, if any catch on. One of the most praised films at Sundance this year was A Ghost Story, but that feels far too indie to really contend with Oscar. A lot will depend on how some of these movies do once they move beyond Park City. Look for which end up going to the Cannes Film Festival, the New York Film Festival, and so on. That will be our first hint for which Sundance players have bigger hopes.

My best guess is that nothing really catches on like Manchester by the Sea did, though that remains to be seen. Mudbound appears like the easiest awards play of the lot, but watch out for The Big Sick and Call Me By Your Name as well. It’s all guesswork right now. Below you can see the prize winners from Sundance that were announced a few days ago, so you can try and pick out potential players yourself. It’ll be a waiting game, that much is clear, as nothing is clear cut. Sit tight and focus on the impending Oscars, as we’ll get to next year in due time.

Here are all of the Sundance award winners for this year, by the by. Take a look:


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


Grand Jury Prize
Dir: Dan Sickles, Antonio Santini

Directing Award
Peter Nicks, The Force

The Orwell Award
Dir: Bryan Fogel

Special Jury Award for Storytelling
Strong Island
Dir: Yance Ford

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

Special Jury Award for Inspirational Filmmaking
Dir: Amanda Lipitz

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

Sundance Film Festival
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)


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)


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

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

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
U.S.A./Philippines (Ramona S. Diaz)

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

NEXT Audience Award

Sundance Film Festival
U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Justin Chon)


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


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
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
U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Charlotte Wells, editor Blair McClendon)

Stay tuned to see if any Sundance alums can be Oscar contenders this time around!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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