January’s Sundance Film Festival is the most effective launchpad for any documentary Oscar hopeful. With a field overloaded by competitive non-fiction, it’s essential to get a head start, a distributor, an early release date and build a profile before narrative features grab the media attention in an overcrowded fall.
Some high-profile non-fiction features, like Jimmy Chin
and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi
’s box-office star and eventual Oscar-winner “Free Solo
,” break out of fall festivals like Telluride, Toronto, and New York. However, titles like those are the outliers.
Sundance 2018 yielded four out of the five 2019 Oscar nominees: $14 million-grossing Ruth Bader Ginsburg
,” Sundance breakthrough filmmaker prize-winner Bing Liu
’s “Minding the Gap
,” which follows three young skateboarders in the Rust Belt, photographer RaMell Ross
’ languorous poetic portrait of a time and place, “Hale County: This Morning, This Evening,” and Talal Derki
’s Sundance World Documentary Grand Jury Prize-winner “Of Fathers and Sons