Sundance Winners: ‘Shirley’ Wins for Auteur Filmmaking

February 10, 2020 By Peter Debruge | Variety

Sundance Winners: ‘Shirley’ Wins for Auteur Filmmaking

February 10, 2020

The Sundance Film Festival concluded with the announcement of its grand jury awards, honoring Lee Isaac Chung’s “Minari,” a semi-autobiographical glimpse into the Korean American director’s Arkansas upbringing, and “Boys State,” an immersive vérité look at an impassioned class of politically inclined Texas teens who participate in an annual mock-government competition.

Ethan Hawke and his fellow U.S. dramatic competition jurors Wash Westmoreland and Rodrigo Garcia gave the directing prize to Radha Blank for her “The 40-Year-Old Version.”

Caught off-guard by the award, Blank riffed, “Anybody who feels there’s an expiration on a passion, f— that shit. If it’s in you to be a rapper, a parent, a director in your 40s, do that sh–.” Many of the night’s speeches reflected similar attitudes, as directors who’d confronted discrimination in order to make their films shared their experiences from the podium.

The U.S. dramatic jury also named four special awards. They spotlighted the ensemble cast of “Charm City Kings,” about the dirt-bike riders who do dangerous stunts on Baltimore city streets. They honored Eliza Hittman director of abortion-themed “Never Rarely Sometimes Always,” for its Neorealism. Josephine Decker accepted an “auteur award” for “Shirley,” sharing the prize with her cast and crew — and subject Shirley Jackson, “who is the true auteur of this film.”

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