READ MORE: The 2016 Indiewire Sundance Bible: All the Reviews, Interviews and News Posted During The Festival
Editor’s note: The updated version of our For Your Consideration column looks at films and events related to awards season that we find exciting and different. For detailed analysis of every Oscar category, check out our Oscar pages.
Now in its third decade, the Sundance Film Festival has frequently spawned a healthy number of awards season stars, from very recent best picture contenders like “Whiplash” and “Boyhood” to earlier picks like “Four Weddings and a Funeral” (yes, both a Sundance premiere and a best picture nominee) and “Shine,” to a hefty number of acting nominees (think winners like Mo’Nique for “Precious,” Alan Arkin for “Little Miss Sunshine” or Hilary Swank for “Boys Don’t Cry”) documentary picks (from “Searching for Sugar Man” to “Man on Wire”) and foreign language film entrants (winners include “Cinema Paradiso” and “In a Better World”).
Premiering at Sundance is, unquestionably, a very big deal in the specialty world, but it’s not always conducive to capturing the eyes of various voting bodies when they convene to hash out the year’s best many months later. That might be changing.
In recent years, there’s been an uptick in Sundance premieres that make their way to the awards season — including the Academy Awards — space. Bolstered by titles like “Whiplash,” “Precious,” “Winter’s Bone,” “Boyhood” and many more, debuting big at Sundance and holding that momentum steady for nearly a year isn’t as hard to fathom as it once was.
Just look at this year’s Oscar nominees who got their start at last year’s Sundance Film Festival:
“Brooklyn” (3 nominations, including Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay)
The Saoirse Ronan-starring period romance debuted at Sundance in 2015 (where it was picked up by Fox Searchlight) before continuing on to TIFF and a November release date.
“Shaun the Sheep Movie” (1 nomination, Best Animated Feature Film)
The animated darling debuted in the Sundance Kids section, charming both actual kids and kids-at-heart. Based on the beloved TV series of the same name, it became a smash hit in its native UK and has also been nominated for awards by the Golden Globes, BAFTA and the Annies.
“Cartel Land” (1 nomination, Best Documentary Feature)
Matthew Heineman’s latest doc about the Mexican Drug War won the Best Director Award and Special Jury Award for Cinematography at last year’s Sundance, where it premiered.
“What Happened, Miss Simone?” (1 nomination, Best Documentary Feature)
Liz Garbus’ biodoc about Nina Simone opened the 2015 festival as one of its Day One films, and was eventually picked up by Netflix.
“Racing Extinction” (1 nomination, Best Original Song)
Director Louie Psihoyos’ latest environmentally-aimed documentary opened at the 2015 festival, followed by a limited theatrical release and a major television broadcast premiere care of The Discovery Channel.
“The Hunting Ground” (1 nomination, Best Original Song)
Kirby Dick’s incendiary documentary about the college campus rape epidemic debuted at last year’s festival and was later released in theaters weeks later, on February 27. The film has already shown on television and gotten a DVD release, and the star power behind its nominated song (Lady Gaga!) has kept it very much on the forefront.
“World of Tomorrow” (1 nomination, Best Animated Short Film)
Don Hertzfeldt’s short debuted last year to almost universal acclaim, picking up a second Grand Jury Prize at the festival in the process. It later went on to win Best Animated Short at SXSW.
And one Oscar nominee is actually playing at this year’s festival as part of their Spotlight section:
“Embrace of the Serpent” (1 nomination, Best Foreign Language Film)
Ciro Guerra’s ambitious adventure film (complete with two dueling narratives) debuted in the Directors’ Fortnight section at Cannes in 2015, bolstering it to a Best Foreign Language nod and a spot in Sundance’s Spotlight section, which aims to screen films of high quality, no matter where else they’ve previously played.
This year’s Sundance Film Festival starts today and runs until Sunday, January 31. How many would-be Oscar contenders will make their debut over the next 12 days? We’ll just have to wait and see.