Activism and disaffection mark Sundance awards night


The title of the grand jury prize winner for U.S. drama perfectly summed up the emotions at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival Awards: “I don’t feel at home in this world anymore.”

For 11 days each year, this small ski resort is transformed into one of the most politically and socially active enclaves on the planet. Saturday was no exception as the festival honored movies focusing on global warming, wrongful convictions and the war in Syria, while presenters and winners alike used their platforms to speak out about President Donald Trump’s immigration policies and the protests unfolding at airports across the nation.

“To all my Muslim brothers and sisters around the world, although I grew up Catholic, today I am a Muslim,” said comedian and writer Larry Wilmore, who served on the U.S. documentary jury. “Tomorrow I have to go to the airport, so I’ll be Catholic again.”

“Crown Heights,” based on the life of Colin Warner, a New York teenager who was falsely convicted of murder, and his best friend, Carl King, who dedicated his life to proving Warner’s innocence, took home the audience award for U.S. dramas.

In accepting the audience award for U.S. documentaries, Jeff Orlowski, the director of “Chasing Coral,” which chronicles the disappearance of reefs around the world, asked, “Can we have a shoutout for science?”

The timely and powerful “Last Men in Aleppo,” which follows the White Helmets, the volunteer first responders who rush into the aftermath of every bombing in the war-torn Syrian city and dig both the living and the dead out of the rubble, took home the grand jury prize for world documentaries.

And the love between a suburban woman and a Walmart greeter, both of whom are on the autism spectrum, was captured in “Dina,” which was awarded the grand jury prize for U.S. documentaries.

“I don’t feel at home in this world anymore,” meanwhile, is a darkly comical look at a depressed woman (“Two and a Half Men’s” Melanie Lynskey) who, after being burglarized, tracks down the thieves with the help of her neighbor (Elijah Wood). It will be released on Netflix Feb.24.

Some of the most popular films at this year’s festival, including the Southern struggle film “Mudbound;” the real-life love story “The Big Sick;” the frigid mystery “Wind River;” and the gay romance “Call Me by Your Name,” weren’t among the 16 films chosen for the dramatic competition.

To put the awards in perspective, the Nat Turner drama “The Birth of a Nation” swept the grand jury and audience prizes last year, while “Manchester by the Sea,” which has been nominated for six Oscars including best picture, wasn’t eligible.

Contact Christopher Lawrence at On Twitter: @life_onthecouch.

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