Sundance 2020: Award Winning Producers Barack and Michelle Obama Win Big in Support of New Emerging Filmmakers

Sundance 2020:  Award Winning Producers Barack and Michelle Obama Win Big in Support of New Emerging Filmmakers

The Sundance Film Festival closed their eleven day film screenings and competition with an award ceremony to present trophies to over 30 filmmakers.  The Director Award: World Cinema Dramatic, U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Emerging Filmmaker and the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award: U.S. Dramatic are just a few of the sponsored awards presented by festival jurors during the three hour event held on February 3rd at Park City, Utah.

ABOUT: Directors Nicole Newnham and Jim LeBrecht (a former Jened camper himself) deliver a rousing film about a group of campers turned activists who shaped the future of the disability-rights movement and changed accessibility legislation for everyone.

Crip Camp: Directors Nicole Newnham and Jim LeBrecht (a former Jened camper himself) deliver a rousing film about a group of campers turned activists who shaped the future of the disability-rights movement and changed accessibility legislation for everyone.

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The 40 Year Version: Radha, a once-promising playwright, is barreling toward the stigma of being single and a struggling artist at the age of 40. In her knockout feature debut, Radha Blank writes, directs, and delivers a devastatingly endearing onscreen performance.

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SUNDANCE 2020: Radha Blank, Lena Waithe and Rishi Rajani. Copyright Sundance Institute.

Among the many winners were films that included the collaboration of new film producers like former President Barack Obama and his wife First Lady Michelle.   The Obamas received Executive Producer credit for the Sundance 2020 documentary Crip Camp, which won the Audience Award: U.S. Documentary honor.

The Obama’s new film company, Higher Ground Productions, is already making an impact in new media storytelling after signing a multi-year movie deal with Netflix. The couple’s fast rising success culminated this past weekend at the Academy Awards with an Oscar win for their executive producing credit on the highly acclaimed documentary American Factory.

Like the Obamas who started their careers in Chicago, award winning producer and director Lena Waithe is also a Chicago native where she received her degree in Cinema and Television Arts at Columbia College Chicago. Lena has steadily increased her portfolio of outstanding films and television projects including her most recent 2019 crime drama Queen & Slim.  Lena has two films in the Sundance competition, The 40 Year Old Version in which she help produced, and Bad Hair where she performs as one of the lead actresses.

Both films were well received with The 40 Year Old Version winning the coveted Directing Award: U.S. Dramatic Competition honor.  Producer Rhada Blank worked as director and lead actress in the film and earned not only the Sundance Award, but was offered a movie distribution deal by Netflix.

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SUNDANCE 2020: Kerry Washington. Copyright Sundance Institute.

Other Sundance film nominations were supported by some of Hollywood’s most prominent actors like Charm City Kings, directed by Angel Manuel Soto and executive produced by Will Smith and wife Jada Pinkett Smith.  Another celebrity-powered film, The Fight, is executive produced by award winning actress Kerry Washington who embraced the documentary for its community activism message.  The Fight won the U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Social Impact Filmmaking.

Cuties was another favorite at the Sundance festival and earned the Directing Award: World Cinema Dramatic honor.  The film’s director, Maïmouna Doucouré,  received the statuette on stage at the Awards Ceremony Saturday.  As part of the weekend closing events,  a special screening of all the winning films were held on Sunday, with free admission for Utah residents.

The Sundance Film Festival is the largest independent film festival in the United State where filmmakers, movie lovers, and film distribution companies gather to celebrate cinema.

SUNDANCE 2020: Daina Howze of DVIDEO 79 Productions interviews guests from Cuties film screening. Park City, Utah.

SUNDANCE 2020: DVIDEO 79 Productions interviews guests from at film screenings. Park City, Utah. Photo Courtesy: DVIDEO 79 Productions. 

Since 1985, the Sundance Film Festival has introduced global audiences to many groundbreaking films of the past three decades, including Won’t You Be My Neighbor? Get Out, The Big Sick, Fruitvale Station, 20 Feet From Stardom and Whiplash.  Of the more than 200 film nominations this year, here are a few audience favorites that were showcased at the festival.

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Charm City Kings: Fourteen-year-old Mouse (Jahi Di’Allo Winston) desperately wants to join the Midnight Clique, an infamous group of Baltimore dirt-bike riders who rule the summertime streets. Based on the documentary 12 O’Clock Boys, Charm City Kings is one boy’s unforgettable journey toward manhood.

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Sylvie’s Love: The jazz is smooth and the air sultry in the New York summer of 1957. Sylvie waits for her fiancé to return from war—until sweet saxophonist Robert walks in looking for a day job. This chance meeting kindles a deep passion for each other, unlike anything they’ve felt before.

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The Night House: Reeling from the unexpected death of her husband, Beth is left alone in the lakeside home he built for her. She tries as best she can to keep together—but then the dreams come. The Night House offers a stunningly effective take on the traditional ghost story, one that lingers with chilling grace.

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City So Real: As a factious mayoral election coincides with the trial of the police officer who killed Laquan McDonald, Chicago becomes a flashpoint, with the city as a tinderbox and its citizens ready to spark. City So Real captures a wide swath of voices and perspectives assembled from intimate family gatherings to community activism.

About the Author:  Don Howze is an Emmy Award Winning Film/Tape Editor and Associate Professor of Journalism and Television Production.  His Emmy Nominated documentary ‘ A Star For Marvin Gaye’ will premiere this fall on Amazon Prime Video.  Don is a credentialed press member covering The Sundance Film Festival 2020 with a three-part report for ChicagoNow.com: The Art of New Media. imdb.me/dondvideo

Also read Sundance 2020: Quibi Discusses The Future of Storytelling with Lena Waithe and HBO Hosts An Intimate Dinner with the Cast of Insecure

Also read Sundance 2020: A Blackhouse Conversation with the Filmmakers and cast of Charm City Kings.

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