Questlove accepted his documentary grand jury prize and audience award from his car on the way to work and “CODA” director Sian Heder accepted her top awards in American Sign Language from her own home with her kids by her side and her husband filming. The 2021 Sundance Film Festival Awards were unlike any before and had filmmakers calling in from around the world Tuesday night to cap off the festival’s first virtual edition.
“CODA,” Heder’s film about the hearing child of deaf adults who is trying to carve out her own life apart from her family, won the top awards of the evening including the grand jury prize, the directing award, the audience award and a special ensemble prize.
“I’m going to cry,” Heder said. “The process of making this movie was so incredible and I think we all came out of the making of the film with so much love for each other.”
Her film, a breakout of the festival, sold to Apple TV+ for a reported $25 million. Heder had her kids and husband join her for the directing honor.
Questlove, who made his directing debut with "Summer of Soul (...or When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised)" at the largely forgotten 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, was caught a little more off guard and got word his first award, the audience prize, from the passenger seat of a car.
“Wait a minute, this is too soon,” he said. “I didn’t even know this was a contest, yo.”
His film also won the grand jury prize.
“I’m so overwhelmed right now,” Questlove said. “My purpose and my goal was to just not drop the ball and just to make my people proud of me. And I’m so speechless right now.”
Dash Shaw picked up the NEXT Innovator award for his animated fantasy “Cryptozoo,” which Magnolia acquired for release.
“It’s been such a total honor to be part of Sundance this year,” Shaw said.
The world cinema documentary grand jury prize went to “Flee,” a hand-drawn animated film about a refugee directed by Jonas Poher Rasmussen and executive produced by Riz Ahmed and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau. Neon, the shop that brought Oscar-winner “Parasite” to the U.S, acquired “Flee” for distribution.
“Hive,” from first time filmmaker Blerta Basholli, was awarded the world cinema grand jury prize and the audience award. The film follows a woman after the disappearance of her husband in Kosovo. “Writing With Fire,” a documentary about India’s only all-female newspaper, won the world cinema documentary audience award.
Host Patton Oswalt called the awards, “the Oscars with bangs.”
Oswalt hosted the virtual proceedings from a black leather couch on which he amusingly feigned the audience “catching” him in conversation with an off-screen companion, musing how Marlon Brando faked his death, about not getting in a drinking contest with the Coen brothers, the perils of lending a credit card to Parker Posey, how he lost his deposit after Luptia Nyong’o crashed his snowmobile, and that one time, "I was naked, Soderbergh was naked and then Scorsese walked in ..."
He too had a cameo from his own daughter, who came in near the end to tell him that her favorite actors are Emma Watson and Millie Bobby Brown.
“Oh, and you,” she added.
The 2021 Sundance Film Festival runs through Wednesday.