Sundance winners 2023: 'A Thousand and One,' 'Persian Version … – USA TODAY

That’s a wrap on Sundance 2023.
On Friday, the film festival in snowy Park City, Utah, announced the winners of its top prizes. “A Thousand and One,” about a mom who kidnaps her son from the foster care system, was given the U.S. dramatic Grand Jury Prize. Directed by A.V. Rockwell and starring Teyana Taylor, the critically acclaimed movie will be released by Focus Features in March. 
“The Persian Version,” from filmmaker Maryam Keshavarz, also took home the festival’s other major trophy, the U.S. dramatic audience award. The family dramedy follows a young Iranian-American woman (Layla Mohammadi) struggling to understand her mother (Niousha Noor). 
These were our other favorite films from this year’s Sundance lineup: 
Wrestling fans sadly don’t have a large canon of great films (“No Holds Barred,” anyone?). That’s why it’s so cool that this underdog biopic puts a headlock on viewers’ hearts and minds. Gael García Bernal’s Saúl hangs up his mask – a signature aspect of the Mexican luchador set – and embraces his queer identity inside and outside the ring by being a flamboyant “exótico,” making an archetypal character historically jeered and mocked into one that’s a runaway success. – Brian Truitt
Anne Hathaway has never been better than in William Oldroyd’s dark erotic thriller, playing a bewitching prison psychologist whose mousy colleague (Thomasin McKenzie) falls under her spell. Hathaway strikes a perfect balance of camp and compassion, as she slowly chips away at the sophisticated façade of her martini-swilling character. Gorgeously shot and scored, with a genuinely jaw-dropping twist, “Eileen” is the deliciously demented sister to Todd Haynes’ “Carol” that I never knew I needed. – Patrick Ryan
The best-selling young adult author of books including “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret,” “Blubber” and “Forever” has plenty to say about the controversies she’s faced in this documentary about her extremely influential writing career. Blume reflects on serving as a beacon to young readers who felt she was the only adult they could trust to be honest about major life issues. For a documentary about an octogenarian writing for adolescents, it’s a pretty punk-rock story of a woman who views stories about puberty, sex and coming-of-age, particularly for girls, as something to spotlight and celebrate, rather than shame and hide away. – Hannah Yasharoff
Asante Blackk (“This Is Us”) finds his breakout role in this sci-fi comedy based on M.T. Anderson’s 2019 novel that wonders how an alien invasion would impact the Earth on an economic scale. Also featuring Tiffany Haddish, William Jackson Harper, Josh Hamilton and Michael Gandolfini, it’s both an amusing satire and thoughtful commentary about love in the age of social media and financial exploitations of the working class. – Yasharoff
Hollywood is finally figuring out that Jonathan Majors is one of the greatest actors of his generation, and through an immersive portrayal of a troubled social outcast, he’s the ripped gateway into the strange, steroid-addicted culture of bodybuilding. But director Elijah Bynum’s drama also works on a universal level, taking one obsessed man’s journey toward fitness goals to a self-destructive (and bizarrely watchable) place. – Truitt
Chaos reigns in Ira Sachs’ haunting eighth feature, which traces a messy love triangle between a narcissist (Franz Rogowski), his husband (Ben Whishaw) and a young woman (Adèle Exarchopoulos). Rogowski’s character could be abhorrent in lesser hands, as his partners become collateral damage in his relentless hunt for pleasure. But Rogowski brings an almost desperate, wounded quality to our erratic protagonist, and the drama’s frenzied, fumbling sex scenes add to its raw authenticity. – Ryan
It’s rare that an excellent, genre-redefining rom-com comes along, which is why “Rye Lane” and its stars should be shown all the love. David Jonsson’s down-on-his-luck Dom and Vivian Oparah’s effervescent Yas have the requisite “meet cute” but even that’s rebellious in its own way. This lovably quirky story punts the same-old and moves through a colorful London day with the same brilliant bounce as its main characters, who bust out a showstopping “Shoop” at a karaoke bar and finally stand up to their exes. – Truitt
For anyone who’s ever been told to “lighten up a little,” screenwriter Adrian Tomine delivers a disarmingly moving comedy about an aspiring filmmaker (Justin H. Min) who’s forced to confront his overwhelming cynicism. Deftly directed by Randall Park (“Fresh Off the Boat”), the movie offers thoughtful commentary on identity, relationships and the push-pull of representation. But it’s Min who shines in every frame as our tartly charismatic leading man, whose easy chemistry with co-star Sherry Cola is a total delight to watch. – Ryan 
As a recovering theater kid, this one was high on my list and didn’t disappoint, though going through a “Wicked” phase isn’t a prerequisite to enjoy Nick Lieberman and Molly Gordon’s “Wet Hot American Summer”-esque foray into the painfully cringey earnestness of theater lovers. Come for the stacked cast including Jimmy Tatro (“American Vandal”), Ayo Edebiri (“The Bear”) and Ben Platt and fiancé Noah Galvin (both of whom previously starred in the titular role in “Dear Evan Hansen”), stay for the laugh-out-loud writing and sweet commentary on underdogs pursuing their passions. – Yasharoff


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