Sundance Oscar Nominees: Past Lives, Jonathan Majors and Hot Docs

Sundance 2023 has brought several educational Oscar contenders, but a best actor nomination is possible if “Magazine Dreams” finds the right buyer.

Most Oscar-nominated documentaries start at Sundance. There are exceptions, such as winners “Citizenfour,” “Free Solo” and “My Octopus Teacher,” but this is still a festival of non-fiction films.

A Sundance Award Doesn’t Hurt: 2022 Oscar-winning documentary Questlove’s “Summer of Soul” went into Sundance 2021 as a double winner with the Audience Award and Grand Jury Prize. This year’s Oscar nominees include “Navalny” (American Documentary Audience Award), “Fire of Love” (Editing Award), “All That Breathes” (World Cinema Documentary Grand Jury Award) and “House Made of Shards.” (World Cinema Documentary Director Award).

This year’s Sundance crop, sampled in Park City theaters and online, is just as impressive. Jury prizes haven’t always gone to the fanciest titles, but Sundance winners have the momentum to show up and win them often.

Paulina Urrutia and Augusto Góngora star in Maite Alberdi's Eternal Memory, an official selection for the 2023 Sundance Film Festival World Documentary Competition.  Courtesy of the Sundance Institute.  All photos are copyrighted and may only be used by the press for news or editorial coverage of Sundance Institute programs.  Photographs must be credited to the photographer and/or “Courtesy of Sundance Institute”.  Unauthorized use, alteration, reproduction or sale of logos and/or photographs is strictly prohibited.

“The Eternal Memory”

Courtesy of the Sundance Institute

Sheila Nevin’s MTV Documentary Films has picked up Chilean filmmaker Maite Alberdi’s “The Eternal Memory,” a heartbreaking story of a loving wife who helps her intellectual husband beat Alzheimer’s disease, winning the World Cinema Documentary Jury Prize. The distributor is planning a movie theater presentation and award ceremony for the documentary by the director “The Mole Agent”.

The grand prize of the American documentary jury was won by the film “Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project” by Joseph Brewster and Michèle Stephenson, which presents decades of the history of the United States in the words of the poet. Produced by Brewster and Stephenson, Taraji P. Henson serves as executive producer and provides audio.

Madeleine Gavin’s ‘Beyond Utopia’, which tells the story of North Korean dissidents using hidden cameras, won the US Documentary Audience Award to rave reviews. Still looking for distribution.

The sad Ukrainian film 20 days in Mariupol (Frontline/PBS) won the World Cinema Documentary audience award, while Luke Lorentzen’s pandemic hospital story, “A Still Small Voice”, focused on a spiritual counselor coping with unimaginable grief, took home the award. American Documentary Award.

Magnolia picked up Lisa Cortes’ popular music biopic “Little Richard: I Am Everything” (CNN/HBO Max), which didn’t win awards, as well as worldwide black-and-white film rights earlier in the festival. white “Kokomo City,” the directorial debut of Grammy-nominated producer, singer and trans performer D. Smith (“Love & Hip Hop Atlanta”). The film, which follows four black transgender sex workers in Atlanta and New York, won the NEXT Innovator Award. Lena Waithe is among the film’s executive producers; he will play the Berlinale next.

Also not winning an award, but sure to attract audiences is the Apple TV+ release “Still: The Michael J. Fox Story,” Davis Guggenheim’s first documentary in seven years, which follows the “Back to the Future” icon from his Canadian debut to Hollywood career and Parkinson’s disease at age 29.

A still from Celine Song's past lives, an official selection of the 2023 Sundance Film Festival Premiere Program.  Courtesy of the Sundance Institute |  photo: Jon Pack

“Past Lives”

Jon Pack

Sundance 2021 brought more Oscar nominees than usual, including eventual Oscar winners “Minari,” “The Father” and “Promising Young Woman.” ” This feat was not repeated in 2022: many of the festival’s most popular films, from Searchlight/Hulu pickup “Fresh” to Grand Jury winner “Nanny,” were genre fare. The only Sundance narrative in the 2023 Oscar race is South African filmmaker Oliver Hermanus’ tearjerker “Living,” adapted by Oscar-nominated novelist-screenwriter Kazuo Ishiguro from Akira Kurosawa’s 1952 classic “Ikiru,” starring Oscar-nominated master Bill Nighy. .

A big purchase doesn’t necessarily lead to an Oscar nomination. Writer-director-actor Cooper Raiff’s Audience Award-winning “Cha Cha Real Smooth,” starring Dakota Johnson, was picked up by AppleTV+ for $15 million — $10 million less than last year’s big Sundance buy, CODA , which won Best Picture also won the award. Oscar. Raiff’s harrowing family saga didn’t follow the hard-to-repeat “CODA” path.

This year’s most likely Oscar winners aren’t director Chloe Domont’s ultra-commercial and sexy thriller Fair Play, which Netflix won after a $20 million bid, and John Carney’s musical Flora and Son, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt. was made. AppleTV+ bought for $20 million. Nick Lieberman and Molly Gordon’s “Theatrical Camp,” won by Searchlight for $8 million, is oddly charming, but not an Oscar.

Sony Pictures Classics has acquired writer-director Angus MacLachlan’s short A Little Prayer. well reviewed family drama starring David Strathairn, which the distributor could save for a fall rerun if SPC thinks it’s ready to hand out the awards. While Focus Features produced the drama Jury Prize-winning One Thousand and One , the debut of Sundance Lab alum AV Rockwell, the distributor will release the mother-son drama starring musician Teyana Taylor on March 31. .



Courtesy of Prime Video

More on the Oscars is playwright-turned-filmmaker Celine Song’s “Lives Ahead,” an autofictional love triangle about a Korean-American woman with a white partner who gets re-engaged to an old lover from Korea. Following the rapturous critical and audience reception at Sundance, A24 is sending the film to make an even bigger splash at the Berlinale. Awarding is inevitable.

Mexican actor Gael Garcia Bernal was recognized for his surprising, athletic, entertaining and moving performance. luchador exotic Roger Ross Williams in his documentary debut, Cassandro. Amazon could push this movie forward in the Oscar race.

And finally, Jonathan Majors may prove to be an acting contender in the film “Magazine Dreams”, which won the American Drama Jury Special Award for Creative Vision for his role as a moving bodybuilder. (It went to a creative team led by director Elijah Bynum.) Much depends on who buys the film, which will be an intense and difficult situation for many audiences. But as the muscular “Creed III” star heads into the Marvel Extended Universe, there’s no question the world is his oyster.

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