When 12-year-old Otis starts to find success as a child television star in Hollywood, his ex-rodeo-clown father returns to serve as his guardian. When Otis isn't on set charming audiences, he spends his days with his father at an extended-stay motel on the edge of the city, enduring his overbearing father's abuse. Honey Boy follows two threads of time, watching father and son's contentious relationship and their attempts to mend it across the course of a decade. This stunning collaboration between director Alma Har'el and screenwriter/star Shia LaBeouf, who based the script on his own childhood and his relationship with his father, paints a painful yet inspired portrait of growing up.
U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Vision and Craft
Awkward, self-conscious Adam (Nicholas Alexander), a high-school teenager, jumps at the chance to spend the summer with his hip older sister Casey (Margaret Qualley) in New York City. Since leaving home, Casey has integrated herself into the LGBTQ+ community, openly embracing her sexuality and making activism a part of her daily life. When Adam tags along to a marriage-equality march, he sees the beautiful, savvy Gillian (Bobbi Salvör Menuez) and is instantly smitten. Gillian mistakes Adam's gender identity, and he can't quite bring himself to correct her error as the two grow closer. Before long, what started as a simple misunderstanding evolves into a comedy of errors that lays bare how out of his depth Adam truly is.
Brittany Forgler is a funny, likeable, 27-year-old hot mess of a New Yorker whose trashy nightclub adventures and early-morning walks of shame make her late for work every day. But when she stops by a Yelp-recommended doctor’s office in an attempt to score Adderall, Brittany gets handed a series of diagnoses instead—elevated heart rate, high blood pressure … the list goes on. Suddenly forced to get a grip, Brittany laces up her Converse sneakers and runs one sweaty block. The next day, she runs two. Soon she runs a mile. Brittany finally has direction—but is she on the right path?
Audience Award: U.S. Dramatic, Presented by Acura
How do you salvage your marriage when you are struggling to salvage your soul, your sense of self, and your sense of right and wrong? Bernadine Williams (Alfre Woodard) is a prison warden who, over the years, has been drifting away from her husband while dutifully carrying out executions in a maximum security prison. When she strikes up a unique bond with death-row inmate Anthony Woods (Aldis Hodge), a layer of emotional skin is peeled back, forcing Bernadine to confront the complex—and often contradictory—relationship between good intentions, unrequited desires, and what it means to be sanctioned to kill.
U.S. Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic
Jimmie Fails has one hope in life: to reclaim the majestic Victorian house his grandfather built. Every week, Jimmie and his only friend, Montgomery, make a pilgrimage across San Francisco to Jimmie’s dream home and imagine what life would be like if this neighborhood had never changed. When they realize the house’s current owners have moved out, Jimmie decides to recreate the home his family once had. As he struggles to reconnect with his family and reconstruct the community he longs for, Jimmie’s domestic aspirations blind him to reality.
Directing Award: U.S. Dramatic, U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Creative Collaboration
After a rough breakup, directionless Dave (Alexander England) crashes at his sister's place and spends his days expanding his young nephew's questionable vocabulary. When an opportunity arises to chaperone an upcoming school excursion alongside the charming and enigmatic teacher, Miss Caroline (Lupita Nyong'o), Dave jumps at the chance to impress her. What he wasn't anticipating was Teddy McGiggle (Josh Gad), an obnoxious children's television personality who shapes the excursion's activities. What he was expecting even less was a zombie invasion, which unfolds after an experiment at a nearby military base goes awry. Armed only with the resourcefulness of kindergartners, Dave, Miss Caroline, and Teddy must work together to keep the monsters at bay and carve a way out with their guts intact.
It's been ten years since Amy and Peter Edgar (Naomi Watts and Tim Roth) adopted their son from war-torn Eritrea, and they thought the worst was behind them. Luce Edgar (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) has become an all-star student beloved by his community in Arlington, Virginia. His African American teacher, Harriet Wilson (Octavia Spencer), believes he is a symbol of black excellence that sets a positive example for his peers. But when he is assigned to write an essay in the voice of a historical twentieth-century figure, Luce turns in a paper that makes an alarming statement about political violence. Worried about how this assignment reflects upon her star pupil, Harriet searches his locker and finds something that confirms her worst fears.
It begins as a documentary about "The Amazing Johnathan", a uniquely deranged magician who built a career out of shock and deception in the 1980s—but becomes a bizarre story about the unravelling of his documentarian.
After Johnathan is diagnosed with a terminal heart condition and given one year to live, he’s forced to retire his act. Cut to three years later: Johnathan is not dead, much to everyone's amazement, and documentarian Ben Berman films the illusionist on an epic comeback tour. But as their mutual journey kicks off, Johnathan drops a bombshell that sends the film spiraling into uncertainty. Embracing this unforeseen obstacle, Ben delves deeper to determine what is truth and what is illusion.
NASA's vaults open for the first time to spill this exquisite, never-before seen audio and 70mm film footage of the Apollo 11 mission. The meandering cameras in Cape Canaveral capture a dreamy-eyed portrait of America as it stepped into the future, and from inside the Apollo 11 spacecraft, the amazingly jocular conversation of the astronauts punctuates each stage of the mission with lightness and charm. Yet the crowds watching the rockets are oblivious to the enormous pressure mission control is under to succeed.
U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Editing
Don't let her small stature fool you. Standing at under five feet tall, Dr. Ruth Westheimer is a force. A pioneer in the field of sex therapy, she became a household name in the '80s and '90s. At 90 years old, she hasn't stopped working—and still promises the best sex you've ever had if you listen to her. Filmmaker Ryan White captures Dr. Ruth's exuberant and snappy personality as she hopscotches from speaking engagements to TV and radio appearances. Alongside her optimism, however, are storybook-like animations that bring Dr. Ruth's childhood as an orphan of the Holocaust to life. The film is an inspiring and entertaining portrait of a trailblazer that reveals the darkness Dr. Ruth emerged from to bring light to so many people.
What kind of religious expression should be permitted in a secular nation? Holy hell, something is brewing! Just a few years old, the Satanic Temple has risen from the depths to become one of the most controversial religious movements in American history. Hail Satan? bears witness as the temple evolves from a small-scale media stunt to an internationally recognized religion with hundreds of thousands of adherents. Naked bodies writhe with snakes on altars as protesters storm the gates of state capitols across the country. Through their dogged campaign to place a nine-foot, bronze Satanic monument smack dab next to the statue of the Ten Commandments on the Arkansas State Capitol lawn, the leaders of the temple force us to consider the true meaning of the separation of church and state.
Irene Taylor Brodsky builds on her powerful first feature, Hear and Now (Audience Award winner at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival), by delving into an intergenerational exploration of living with deafness. Brodsky's son Jonas began losing his hearing as a baby and underwent cochlear-implant surgery as a toddler. Now 11 years old, Jonas has adjusted to a world with sound and is learning to play Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata. Brodsky's parents also have cochlear implants, but unlike Jonas, the majority of their lives were shaped by silence. While Jonas explores what silence means to him, his grandfather grapples with a new transition of his own.
Organized by Sundance Institute and The Metroplex, Sundance Film Festival: Hong Kong Short Film Competition is entering its fourth edition. Like the previous three years, this year's competition saw many exciting submissions from local filmmakers eager to show off their amazing talent. Earlier this year, director Aggie Lee presented her jury award winner, Muteum, at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival in Utah, where she met international audiences and fellow filmmakers from around the world.
This year, apart from Jury Award and Honorary Mentions, one short film will be selected to receive an exclusive Sound Fellowship, supported by Dolby Laboratories and MBS Studios. The Fellowship winning short film will also be showcased alongside other shortlisted short films at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival: Hong Kong. Check out and show your support for local independent filmmakers!
Official lineup will be announced at the Sundance Film Festival: Hong Kong Opening Party on September 19, followed by the Short Film Competition Awards Ceremony.