Conversations with 2024 Sundance award winners

Reading Time: 4 minutes The 2024 Sundance Film Festival awards ceremony was held on Friday, Jan. 26. The UVU Review attended and interviewed Alessandra Lacorazza, Jesse Eisenberg, and other winners.

Reading Time: 4 minutes

The Sundance Film Festival award ceremony recognizes some of the most talented individuals who present their work at the Festival. The awards are among the most coveted prizes for independent filmmakers in the U.S., often propelling unknown artists into overnight recognition. 

The awards are divided between the Jury Awards, comprising distinguished individuals from the filmmaking industry, and the Audience Awards, chosen by the festival audience. Awards are presented for both U.S. and foreign films. 

Winners of the awards discussed with the UVU Review some of the challenges they had to overcome and offered general advice for artistic creators aspiring to follow in their footsteps. 

Alessandra Lacorazza, director of “In the Summers,” winner of the U.S. Dramatic and U.S. Dramatic Directing Awards, mentioned, “The biggest challenge is always financing…and getting a good team. One of the things I learned is having producers that really believe in your vision. It is very important because if they are not aligned, they’re not going to let you do what you need to do, and you want to find collaborators you really trust.” 

Jesse Eisenberg, recipient of The Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award for his film “A Real Pain,” spoke about how his acting background influenced his scriptwriting process. “Basically, I don’t really write characters that I wouldn’t want to play,” he said. “That probably comes from my background as an actor, having played small parts and feeling frustrated that the only point of my role is to deliver an envelope…And so I think just naturally when I’m writing something, I try to give each character a little something.” 

The U.S. Dramatic Award for Best Ensemble and the Audience Award for U.S. Dramatic went to the film “Didi.” Director Sean Wang advised, “Just trusting your gut…When you’re a first-time filmmaker, a lot of people want to try and give you advice, and it’s all coming from a good place, but sometimes that advice doesn’t quite align with the movie you want to make. And so I think you have to remember your own north star and the movie that you want to make, and really kind of trust that place in your heart and know that even if it’s a decision that is more off the beaten path, if it feels right to you, you have to follow that.” 

The World Cinema Dramatic prize went to the Mexican film “Sujo.” For the directors, Astrid Rondero and Fernanda Valadez, their biggest challenge was juggling the many locations where their film took place. Rondero’s suggestion was to keep things small and to ensure there is enough time to film. 

Angela Patton and Natalie Rae, winners of Festival Favorite and the Audience Award for U.S. Documentary with “Daughters,” shared their advice on making documentaries. Patton said, “Make sure that you go in not thinking you know everything.” Rae added, “The more you learn to let go and get yourself out of the process and let the subjects and the film kind of develop its own language and its own spirit, the better and more authentic moments we got.” 

Julian Brave NoiseCat and Emily Kassie, who won the U.S. Documentary Directing Award, spoke about the challenges of their documentary “Sugarcane.” Kassie explained, “You have to hustle hard, and you have to be willing to be there for every moment.” NoiseCat added, “My background is in writing, so it’s a very solitary craft, but getting the opportunity to learn from and work with Em and our incredible team…it was really an incredible family and team that we built around this. And once we figured out how all those incredible individual filmmakers could build something collective that was greater than each of ourselves could be, it was truly special.” 

The Sundance Film Festival stands as a beacon for independent filmmakers, offering not only prestigious awards but also invaluable opportunities for recognition and growth. The diverse array of winners, from seasoned directors to first-time filmmakers, highlights the Festival’s commitment to celebrating creativity and innovation in cinema. 

Through their experiences and insights, these filmmakers inspire aspiring artists to embrace the unpredictable nature of the creative process, seek collaboration, and remain true to their artistic voices. As the curtain closes on another remarkable Sundance, the legacy of these storytellers lives on, enriching the world of cinema. 

Below is the list of the 2024 Sundance Film Festival winners: 

Grand Jury Prizes 

U.S. Dramatic Competition: “In the Summers” 

U.S. Documentary Competition: “Porcelain War” 

World Cinema Dramatic Competition: “Sujo” 

World Cinema Documentary Competition: “A New Kind of Wilderness” 

NEXT Innovator Award: “Little Death” 

Directing, U.S. Dramatic: Alessandra Lacorazza, “In the Summers” 

Directing, U.S. Documentary: Julian Brave NoiseCat and Emily Kassie, “Sugarcane” 

Directing, World Cinema Dramatic: Raha Amirfazli and Alireza Ghasemi, “In the Land of Brothers” 

Directing, World Cinema Documentary: Benjamin Ree, “Ibelin” 

Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award: U.S. Dramatic: Jesse Eisenberg, “A Real Pain” 

Jonathan Oppenheim Editing Award, U.S. Documentary: Carla Gutiérrez, “Frida” 

Audience Awards 

Festival Favorite Award: “Daughters” 

U.S. Dramatic Competition: “Didi” 

U.S. Documentary Competition: “Daughters” 

World Cinema Dramatic Competition: “Girls Will Be Girls” 

World Cinema Documentary Competition: “Ibelin” 

NEXT: “Kneecap” 

Special Jury Awards 

Craft, World Cinema Documentary: “Nocturnes” 

Cinematic Innovation, World Cinema Documentary: “Soundtrack to a Coup d’Etat” 

NEXT presented by Adobe: “Desire Lines” 

Original Music, World Cinema Dramatic: Peter Raeburn, “Handling the Undead” 

Acting, World Cinema Dramatic: Preeti Panigrahi, “Girls Will Be Girls” 

Art of Change, U.S. Documentary: “Union” 

Breakthrough Performance, U.S. Dramatic: Nico Parker, “Suncoast” 

Ensemble, U.S. Dramatic: “Didi” 

Sound, U.S. Documentary: “Gaucho Gaucho”