Affecting Drama ‘In the Summers’ and Intimate Documentary ‘Porcelain War’ Take Top Honors at 40th Sundance Film Festival

PARK CITY, Utah – “In the Summers,” an emotive, multi-year drama that explores the complexities of a parent-child relationship, emerged as the winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the 40th Sundance Film Festival. The festival’s top documentary honor was bestowed upon “Porcelain War,” a film centered around a Ukrainian couple who create intricately painted ceramics amidst the turmoil of war. Both films marked the directorial debuts of their respective filmmakers.

Directed and written by Alessandra Lacorazza, “In the Summers” chronicles the imperfect journey of a father and his daughters over nearly two decades. Lacorazza’s moving portrayal earned her the recognition for directing as well. In her acceptance speech, she dedicated the award to the queer, Latinx, and immigrant communities, underscoring the importance of representation in film.

“Porcelain War,” a follow-up to last year’s Sundance-winning documentary “20 Days in Mariupol,” sheds light on the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. Filmmakers Brendan Bellomo and Slava Leontyev were awarded the top documentary prize for their compelling depiction of the courageous people of Ukraine.

The Grand Jury prize for world dramatic cinema was presented to “Sujo,” a film that delves into the story of an orphaned boy seeking refuge from the violence of Mexican cartel. “A New Kind of Wilderness,” on the other hand, a Norwegian documentary depicting a family living off the grid, received the jury award for world documentary.

Meanwhile, the Festival Award, determined by Sundance audiences, went to “Daughters,” a poignant documentary by Natalie Rae and Angela Patton that follows the preparations of four girls for a special daddy-daughter dance with their incarcerated fathers. The film also secured the audience award for U.S. documentary.

Sean Wang’s coming-of-age feature “Dìdi,” which explores the life of a 13-year-old Taiwanese American boy, won the audience award for U.S. dramatic film. Additionally, “Dìdi” was recognized with a juried award for its powerful ensemble performances.

Among the other standout winners at the festival was “Ibelin”—a touching documentary about a Norwegian man named Mats Steen, who gained online fame through his personal blog and thanks to his engagement with the game World of Warcraft before passing away due to a degenerative muscular disease. The film was acknowledged with the audience award for world cinema documentary and a juried award for Benjamin Ree’s direction.

The audience award for world cinema drama was claimed by “Girls Will Be Girls,” a heartwarming tale set in a Himalayan boarding school. “Little Death,” produced by Darren Aronofsky and featuring David Schwimmer as a TV writer, received the NEXT Innovator award. Lastly, the NEXT audience award was presented to the Irish drama “Kneecap,” a film that explores the complexities of a Belfast rap trio and features Michael Fassbender.

Films that triumph at Sundance often go on to garner critical acclaim throughout the year. Last year’s festival saw “Past Lives” by Celine Song earn nominations for Best Picture and Best Screenplay at the Academy Awards. Other films from Sundance that have made an impact at the Oscars include the 2022 Best Picture winner “CODA,” “Summer Of Soul (…Or, When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised),” and “Minari.”

The 40th edition of the Sundance Film Festival offered a diverse lineup of highly anticipated films, including Jesse Eisenberg’s well-received “A Real Pain,” which also garnered the actor a screenwriting award. Noteworthy acquisitions from this year’s festival include Searchlight Pictures’ purchase of “A Real Pain” for $10 million and Neon securing the rights to Steven Soderbergh’s “Presence,” a ghost story. Netflix also made headlines by acquiring the horror thriller “It’s What’s Inside” for $17 million.

Sundance award-winning films will be available for streaming on the festival’s website until the conclusion of the event on Sunday. For continuing coverage of the 2024 Sundance Film Festival, visit the festival’s official website.