Although Kenneth Lonergan’s "Manchester by the Sea" went unrecognized at Sundance’s awards on Saturday because it played out of competition — though Amazon’s $10 million deal for the film is still a nice consolation prize — it overwhelmingly dominated Indiewire’s annual Sundance Critics Poll.
After tabulating over three dozen ballots from members of the Criticwire Network, "Manchester" not only placed first in the poll, but received nearly three times as many points as the Best Narrative Feature runner-up, Kelly Reichardt’s "Certain Women." Lonergan also handily placed first in Best Director, while star Casey Affleck topped Best Lead Performance.
The only category that prevented a clean sweep was Best Supporting Performance, where Craig Robinson’s turn in Chad Hartigan’s "Morris from America" finished at the top. (Frequent Reichardt collaborator and "Manchester" cast member Michelle Williams came in second.)
"The Birth of a Nation," perhaps Sundance 2016’s most noteworthy title, still finished strong, claiming the Best First Feature prize and garnering the top-five slots in three other categories. Director-star Nate Parker’s highest finish was in Best Lead Performance, where he was bested only by Affleck and "Christine" star Rebecca Hall.
On the documentary side, the top title was Robert Greene’s "Kate Plays Christine," which earned high marks in categories usually not frequented by other films from the genre. "Kate" far outpaced the rest of the Best Documentary Feature competition, but it also popped up third overall in Best Director. Kate Lyn Sheil, who forms the centerpiece of the movie, ended up in fifth place for Best Lead Performance.
Other Sundance docs in the top critical tier include Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg’s Grand Jury Prize-winning campaign odyssey "Weiner," legendary director Werner Herzog’s "Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World" and David Farrier and Dylan Reeve’s "Tickled," a look at the mysterious underground world of competitive tickling.
Nicolas Pesce’s "The Eyes of My Mother" also had a solid showing in multiple categories, including a runner-up spot in the Best First Feature tally. Sundance veteran Ira Sachs was the highest non-"Manchester" finisher in the Best Screenplay tally for his "Little Men" script. And since the festival wouldn’t be the same without strong casts, Best Ensemble featured a number of highly-regarded titles including Whit Stillman’s "Love and Friendship," John Carney’s "Sing Street" and Todd Solondz’s "Wiener-Dog."
For a complete list of all of this year’s winners, including links to critics’ individual ballots, visit the survey homepage here.