‘Cha Cha Real Smooth,’ ‘Nanny’ + More Win Prizes at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival

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Photo Source: Courtesy of Sundance Institute

On Jan. 30, The 2022 Sundance Film Festival recognized the premieres of over 100 features and short films. Going strong amid the pandemic, this year’s celebration of independent cinema pulled off another hybrid presentation of movies, including virtual premieres and in-person screenings in Park City, Utah, as well as notable acquisitions that could factor into next year’s film awards season. “This year’s entire program has proven that no matter the context, independent storytelling remains a pivotal tool in expanding critical dialogues, and these stories will and must be shared,” said Sundance Institute CEO Joana Vicente in a statement

After nine days of programming, the festival announced 26 jury-awarded and six audience-chosen prizes. In the dramatic feature categories, the Grand Jury Prizes went to writer-director Nikyatu Jusu’s genre-mixing immigration story “Nanny” (the U.S. Dramatic winner) and Alejandro Loayza Grisi’s Bolivia–set drama “Utama” (the World Cinema Dramatic winner), among others. 

Winning the top 2022 Audience Award, voted upon by festival attendees, was writer-director-actor Cooper Raiff’s “Cha Cha Real Smooth” starring Dakota Johnson, who is also one of the film’s producers. The story of a wandering college graduate navigating New Jersey bar mitzvah gigs was among this year’s buzziest acquisitions, selling to Apple TV+ for $15 million after competition from other distributors including Netflix, Sony, and Amazon. 

Despite losing out on “Cha Cha Real Smooth,” other studios did not walk away empty-handed. Netflix, Amazon, HBO, National Geographic, and Showtime all acquired documentaries to be released within the calendar year. 

As for narrative feature acquisitions, Sony Pictures Classics scooped up “Living,” Oliver Hermanus and Kazuo Ishiguro’s adaptation of an Akira Kurosawa story, starring Bill Nighy as a midcentury London bureaucrat. Amazon Studios will release “Master,” a film with a horrifying twist from writer-director Mariama Diallo (making her feature debut) starring Regina Hall as a college dean; as well as “Emergency,” Carey Williams and KD Dávila’s dark comedy about a frat party gone wrong. A24 acquired Jesse Eisenberg’s writing-directing debut “When You Finish Saving the World,” starring Finn Wolfhard and Julianne Moore; as well as this year’s 2022 Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize winner “After Yang” from writer-director Kogonada, starring Colin Farrell and Jodie Turner-Smith.

“The 2022 Sundance Film Festival once again met our audience wherever they happened to be,” said Tabitha Jackson, the fest’s director. “Whether you watched from home or one of our seven satellite screens, this year’s festival expressed a powerful convergence; we were present, together, as a community, connected through the work. And it is work that has already changed those who experienced it.”