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The Birth of a Nation takes top two prizes at Sundance

The Birth of a Nation

Story by Jack Foley

NATE Parker’s The Birth of a Nation has taken the top two prizes at the Sundance Film Festival.

The film, which chronicles the life of Nat Turner and the slave rebellion he led in antebellum Virginia, took home both the grand jury prize and the audience award for American dramatic features.

The double victory sealed its standing as the sensation of the 2016 festival, following its record-breaking $17.5 million acquisition earlier in the week by Fox Searchlight.

It also marks the fourth year in a row that a single film has taken the top two prizes in the US dramatic competition, following Fruitvale Station in 2013, Whiplash in 2014 and Me and Earl and the Dying Girl last year.

Upon accepting the Grand Jury Prize, Parker – for whom the film marks a seven-year labour of love, said: “Thank you, Sundance, for creating a platform for us to grow, in spite of what the rest of Hollywood is doing.”

Elsewhere in the US dramatic competition, the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award went to writer-director Chad Hartigan for Morris From America, a culture-clash dramedy about an African-American teenager who becomes relocated with his father to Heidelberg, Germany.

The US documentary grand jury prize went to Weiner, Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg’s behind-the-scenes portrait of disgraced politician Anthony Weiner’s mayoral campaign.

Audiences, however, voted their top prize to Jim: The James Foley Story, Brian Oakes’ portrait of the photo-journalist murdered by ISIS in 2014.

And Roger Ross Williams received the helming award for Life, Animated, his portrait of a young autistic man and his transformative relationship with Disney animated films.

The full list of winners is as follows

US Dramatic Competition

Grand Jury Prize
The Birth of a Nation

Audience Award
The Birth of a Nation

Directing
Daniel Scheinart and Daniel Kwan, Swiss Army Man

Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award
Chad Hartigan, Morris From America

Special Jury Award
Miles Joris-Peyrafitte, As You Are

Special Jury Award for Breakthrough Performance
Joe Seo, Spa Night

Special Jury Award for Individual Performance
Markees Christmas, Morris From America

Special Jury Award for Individual Performance
Melanie Lynskey, The Intervention

US Documentary Competition

Grand Jury Prize
Weiner

Audience Award
Jim: The James Foley Story

Directing Award
Roger Ross Williams, Life, Animated

Special Jury Award for Editing
Penny Lane and Thom Stylinski, NUTS!

Special Jury Award for Social Impact
Dawn Porter, Trapped

Special Jury Award for Writing
Robert Greene, Kate Plays Christine

Special Jury Award for Verite Filmmaking
Keith Fulton and Lou Pepe, The Bad Kids

World Cinema Dramatic Competition

Grand Jury Prize
Sand Storm

Audience Award
Between Sea and Land

Directing Award
Felix van Groeningen, Belgica

Screenwriting
Ana Katz and Ines Bortagaray, Mi amiga del parque

Special Jury Award for Acting
Vicky Hernandez and Manolo Cruz, Between Sea and Land

Special Jury Award for Unique Vision and Design
Agnieszka Smoczynska, The Lure

World Cinema Documentary Competition

Grand Jury Prize
Sonita

Audience Award
Sonita

Directing Award
Michal Marczak, All These Sleepless Nights

Special Jury Award for Editing
Mako Kamitsuna and John Maringouin, We Are X

Special Jury Award for Cinematography
Pieter-Jan De Pue, The Land of the Enlightened

Special Jury Award for Debut Feature
Heidi Brandenburg and Mathew Orzel, When Two Worlds Collide

Other Awards

Next Audience Award
First Girl I Loved

Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize
Embrace of the Serpent