Sundance Film Festival Awards 2021: 'Coda', 'Summer of Soul' and animation about Afghan refugee among winners

The virtual ceremony was hosted by actor Patton Oswalt

This image released by the Sundance Institute shows Emilia Jones in a scene from "CODA,"an official selection of the U.S. Dramatic Competition at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. (Seacia Pavao/Sundance Institute via AP)
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Questlove accepted his documentary grand jury prize and audience award from his car on the way to work and Coda director Sian Heder accepted her top awards in American Sign Language from her own home with her children by her side and her husband filming.

The 2021 Sundance Film Festival Awards were unlike any before and had filmmakers calling in from around the world on Tuesday to cap off the festival's first virtual edition.

Coda, Heder's film about the hearing child of deaf adults who is trying to carve out her own life apart from her family, won the top awards of the evening including the grand jury prize, the directing award, the audience award and a special ensemble prize.

This image released by the Sundance Institute shows Eugenio Derbez in a scene from "CODA,"an official selection of the U.S. Dramatic Competition at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. (Sundance Institute via AP)

“I’m going to cry,” Heder said. “The process of making this movie was so incredible and I think we all came out of the making of the film with so much love for each other.”

Her film, a breakout of the festival, sold to Apple TV+ for a reported $25 million. Heder had her children and husband join her for the directing honour.

The film's title, Coda, is an acronym for Child of Deaf Adults.

Questlove, born Ahmir Thompson, who made his directing debut with Summer of Soul (... or When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised), was caught a little more offguard and got word of his first award, the audience prize, from the passenger seat of a car.

This image released by the Sundance Institute shows a scene from the documentary "Summer Of Soul (Or, When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised)" by Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson. The film will debut at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. (Sundance Film Festival via AP)

“Wait a minute, this is too soon,” he said. “I didn’t even know this was a contest, yo.”

His film also won the grand jury prize.

“I’m so overwhelmed right now,” Questlove said. “My purpose and my goal was to just not drop the ball and just to make my people proud of me. And I’m so speechless right now.”

Dash Shaw picked up the Next Innovator Award for his animated fantasy Cryptozoo, which Magnolia acquired for release.

“It’s been such a total honour to be part of Sundance this year,” Shaw said.

The world cinema documentary grand jury prize went to Kabul-set Flee, a hand-drawn animated film about a refugee directed by Jonas Poher Rasmussen and executive produced by Riz Ahmed and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau. Neon, the shop that brought Oscar-winner Parasite to the US, acquired Flee for distribution.

Hive, from first-time filmmaker Blerta Basholli, was awarded the world cinema grand jury prize and the audience award. The film follows a woman after the disappearance of her husband in Kosovo. Writing With Fire, a documentary about India's only all-female newspaper, won the world cinema documentary audience award.

Host Patton Oswalt called the awards “the Oscars with bangs".

Oswalt hosted the virtual proceedings from a black leather couch on which he amusingly feigned the audience “catching” him in conversation with an off-screen companion.

He, too, had a cameo from his own daughter, who came in near the end to tell him that her favourite actors are Emma Watson and Millie Bobby Brown.

“Oh, and you,” she added.

The 2021 Sundance Film Festival runs until Wednesday.

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