Sundance Awards: ‘The Persian Version’, ‘Kokomo City’ Among Repeat Winners As ‘A Thousand And One’, ‘Going To Mars’ Claim U.S. Grand Jury Prizes

Sundance award winners 2023
Clockwise from top left: 'A Thousand and One,' 'Going to Mars,' 'Beyond Utopia' and 'The Persian Version' Sundance Institute

The Sundance Film Festival has unveiled its Jury and Audience Award winners for 2023.

The day’s big winners included Maryam Keshavarz’s The Persian Version, which claimed both the Audience Award and Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award in U.S. Dramatic Competition, as well as A.V. Rockwell’s A Thousand and One for Focus Features, which took the Grand Jury Prize in the same section.

Other titles taking top awards included Festival Favorite Radical from filmmaker Christopher Zalla and 3Pas Studios; Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project from Joe Brewster and Michèle Stephenson, which took the Grand Jury Prize for U.S. Documentary; Madeleine Gavin’s Beyond Utopia, which nabbed the U.S. Documentary Audience Award; and D. Smith’s Kokomo City, which dominated the NEXT section as it claimed both the Innovator and Audience Award.

Written, directed and produced by Keshavarz, The Persian Version watches as a large Iranian-American family gathers for the patriarch’s heart transplant, with a secret then being uncovered that catapults an estranged mother and daughter into an exploration of the past. Other producers on the pic are Anne Carey, Ben Howe, Luca Borghese, Peter Block and Cory Neal.

A Thousand and One follows the unpologetic and free-spirited Inez (Teyana Taylor) as she kidnaps 6-year-old Terry (Josiah Cross) from the foster care system, convinced it’s one last, necessary crime on the path to redemption. Holding on to their secret and each other, mother and son set out to reclaim their sense of home, identity, and stability in New York City. Lena Waithe is among the producers.

Radical follows a frustrated teacher (Eugenio Derbez) exploring new educational methods in a Mexican border town, with Going to Mars meditating on the life of poet Nikki Giovanni, and Beyond Utopia following families fleeing North Korea. Then, there’s the Magnolia Pictures-acquired Kokomo City, charting the experiences of four trans sex workers, as they confront the dichotomy between the Black community and themselves.

Jurors present for the Sundance awards announcement, livestreamed to the festival’s social media channels from The Ray Theatre in Park City, Utah, included Jeremy O. Harris and Marlee Matlin for U.S. Dramatic Competition, Ramona Diaz and Carla Gutierrez for U.S. Documentary Competition, Funa Maduka for World Cinema Dramatic Competition, and Madeleine Olnek for NEXT.

The 2023 festival has spotlighted 111 features and 64 shorts, selected from 15,856 submissions, via screenings in Park City, Salt Lake City, and at the Sundance Resort. Over 75% of both short and feature-length works, along with many selected Indie Episodics, will be available for streaming via the fest’s online platform through January 29.

Sundance’s first in-person festival since the Covid pandemic was marked by a number of major sales — most of which we were first to report on. The first title to lock in a huge deal was Chloe Domont’s thriller Fair Play, starring Phoebe Dynevor and Alden Ehrenreich, which went to Netflix for around $20M. John Carney’s musical drama Flora and Son, starring Eve Hewson and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, went to Apple for around the same, with Searchlight taking the improvised ensemble comedy Theater Camp for around $8 million. Mubi picked up Ira Sachs’ relationship drama Passages, with A24 in talks to acquire the buzzy Midnight title Talk to Me as of Tuesday, and MTV Documentary Films nabbing Maite Alberdi’s World Cinema Documentary Grand Jury Prize winner The Eternal Memory, as was announced this morning.

Last year’s Sundance ceremony solidified the awards trajectory of four of five contenders for the Documentary Feature Oscar in 2023 — those titles being Navalny (Documentary Competition Audience Award, Festival Favorite Award), Fire of Love (Jonathan Oppenheim Editing Award), All That Breathes (World Cinema Documentary Competition Documentary Prize) and A House Made of Splinters (World Cinema Documentary Competition Directing Award). The festival proved even more relevant to the awards race the year prior, with Sian Heder’s Best Picture Oscar winner CODA and Questlove’s Best Doc Winner Summer of Soul highlighting its finger on the pulse across both narrative and documentary.

View the winners’ list for 2023 below.


Director: Christopher Zalla


Grand Jury Prize

A Thousand And One
Director: A.V. Rockwell

Audience Award

The Persian Version
Director: Maryam Keshavarz

Directing Award

Sing J. Lee
The Accidental Getaway Driver

Jury Award: Creative Vision

Magazine Dreams
Director: Elijah Bynum

Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award

Maryam Keshavarz
The Persian Version

Special Jury Award: Acting

Lio Mehiel

Jury Award: Ensemble 

Theater Camp
Directors: Molly Gordon, Nick Lieberman


Grand Jury Prize

Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project
Directors: Joe Brewster, Michèle Stephenson

Audience Award

Beyond Utopia
Director: Madeleine Gavin

Directing Award

Luke Lorentzen
A Still Small Voice

Special Jury Award: Clarity of Vision

The Stroll
Directors: Kristen Lovell, Zackary Drucker

Special Jury Award: Freedom of Expression

Bad Press
Directors: Rebecca Landsberry-Baker, Joe Peeler

Jonathan Oppenheim Editing Award

Daniela I. Quiroz
Going Varsity in Mariachi


Audience Award

20 Days in Mariupol (Ukraine)
Director: Mstylav Chernov

Grand Jury Prize

The Eternal Memory (Chile)
Director: Maite Alberdi

Directing Award

Smoke Sauna Sisterhood (Estonia/France/Iceland)
Director: Anna Hints

Special Jury Award: Verite Filmmaking

Against the Tide (India)
Director: Sarvnik Kaur

Special Jury Award: Creative Vision

Fantastic Machine (Sweden/Denmark)
Director: Axel Danielson


Audience Award

Shayda (Australia)
Director: Noora Niasari

Grand Jury Prize

Scrapper (UK)
Director: Charlotte Regan 

Directing Award

Marija Kavtaradze
Slow (Lithuania/Spain/Sweden)

Special Jury Award: Creative Vision

Animalia (France/Morocco/Qatar)
Director: Sofia Alaoui

Special Jury Award: Best Performance

Rosa Marchant
When It Melts (Belgium/Netherlands)

Special Jury Award: Cinematography

Lílis Soares
Mami Wata (Nigeria)


Audience Award

Kokomo City 
Director: D. Smith

Innovator Award

Kokomo City
Director: D. Smith


Grand Jury Prize

When You Left Me On That Boulevard (U.S.A.)
Director: Kayla Abuda Galang

Jury Award: US Fiction

Rest Stop
Director: Crystal Kayiza

Jury Award: Directing, International

Valeria Hofmann
AliEN0089 (Chile)

Jury Award: Directing, US

Jarreau Carrillo
The Vacation

Jury Award: Animation

The Flying Sailor
Directors: Wendy Tilby, Amanda Forbis (Canada)

Jury Award: Nonfiction

Will You Look At Me (China)
Director: Shuli Huang

Jury Award: International Fiction

The Kidnapping of the Bride (Germany)
Director: Sophia Mocorrea


Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize

The Pod Generation
Director: Sophie Barthes

Amazon Studios Nonfiction Award 

Jess Devaney
It’s Only Life After All

Amazon Studios Fiction Award

Kara Durrett
The Starling Girl

Sundance Institute | Adobe Mentorship Award for Editing Nonfiction

Mary Manhardt

Sundance Institute | Adobe Mentorship Award for Editing Fiction

Troy Takaki

Sundance/NHK Award 

Olive Nwosu

Sundance Institute | Stars Collective Imagination Awards 

Tamara Shogaolu 
40 Acres

Navid Khonsari, Vassiliki Khonsari, and Andres Perez-Duarte 
Block Party Bodega

Vanessa Keith 
Year 2180

Gayle Stevens Volunteer Award

Carlos Sanchez

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