A record 12,146 films were submitted, 429 more films than the 2012 festival. 4,044 feature films were submitted and 119 were selected (with 103 of them being world premieres). 8,102 short films were submitted and 65 were selected. The festival had films representing 32 countries, from 51 first-time filmmakers, 27 of which had films in competition.
For the first time in the festival's history, half of the films featured were made by women and half by men. In the U.S. dramatic competition, 8 directors were women and 8 were men. In the U.S. documentary competition, 8 directors were women and 8 were men. In the dramatic premieres category, however, only 3 of the 18 films were directed by women.
Cara Mertes, director of the Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program and Sundance Documentary Fund, said that of the 40 documentaries at this year's festival, 12 of them came through the Documentary Film Program, which "really came here in 2002."Linsanity, a documentary about the rise of Asian Americanbasketball player Jeremy Lin, premiered to a sold-out screening on January 20. The Los Angeles Times wrote that it received a "rousing response, easily making it one of the most crowd-pleasing documentaries to play the festival this year."
The awards ceremony was held on January 26, 2013 a few miles north of Park City, Utah at Kimball Junction at the Basin Recreation Fieldhouse, and was hosted by Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
U.S. Grand Jury Prize: Documentary - Blood Brother
Additional awards were presented at separate ceremonies. The Shorts Awards were presented January 22, 2013 at the Jupiter Bowl at Redstone Square.
Short Film Grand Jury Prize - The Whistle
Short Film Jury Award: U.S. Fiction - Whiplash
Short Film Jury Award: International Fiction - The Date
Short Film Jury Award: Non-fiction - Skinningrove
Short Film Jury Award: Animation - Irish Folk Furniture
Short Film Special Jury Award for Acting - Joel Nagle in Palimpsest
Short Film Special Jury Award - Until the Quiet Comes
Sundance Institute/Mahindra Global Filmmaking Awards - Sarthak Dasgupta for The Music Teacher, Jonas Carpignano for A Chjana, Aly Muritiba for The Man Who Killed My Beloved Dead, Vendela Vida and Eva Weber for Let The Northern Lights Erase Your Name
Sundance Institute/NHK Filmmaker Award - Kentaro Hagiwara for Spectacled Tiger
Hilton Worldwide LightStay Sustainability Award - Revolutionary Optimists and Hungry; honorable mention to Studio H, and $5,000 to the short film Jungle Fish
2013 Indian Paintbrush Producer's Award - Toby Halbrooks and James M. Johnston for Ain't Them Bodies Saints (and $10,000 grant)
For the first time since 2009, the same film won the top awards from judges and audiences. Fruitvale won both the U.S. Dramatic Grand Jury Prize, and the U.S. Dramatic Audience Award. Blood Brother also won both top prizes in the U.S. Documentary competition, the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award.
Nineteen of the jury members, which award prizes to films, were announced on December 19, 2012. The 5 members of the Alfred P. Sloan Jury, which will also took part in the Science in Film Forum Panel, were announced on January 17, 2013. Presenters of awards are followed by asterisks:
Matt Patches of Hollywood.com wrote that the festival is more important than ever after Beasts of the Southern Wild, which debuted at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, winning the U.S. Dramatic Grand Jury Prize and the U.S. Dramatic Cinematography Award, and going on to garner four Oscar nominations at the 85th Academy Awards (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Actress). He wrote, "we're living in a post-Beasts world where a Sundance unknown can end a year-long journey at the Best Directors table." He said "studios are looking to Sundance for recommendations."Robert Redford said Beasts of the Southern Wild "is probably one of the great examples that we have of why Sundance is here and what my intention was to begin with." Kristopher Tapley wrote the film "was nurtured through the Sundance Institute's system every step of the way", mentioning the Screenwriters Lab, the Directors Lab, and funding at the Creative Producing Summit.
Regarding the festival, Redford said "I never dreamed when we started — we didn't even know that we would last — and then when it lasted and grew, it became huge. I never anticipated that it would get to this size." Kenneth Turan mentioned the number of films submitted and the few selected, saying "the sameness of those chosen from year to year is disheartening." He wrote "it almost feels as if programmers are filling specific, pre-ordained slots", and mentioned there are always too many teenage coming-of-age films. He said the festival is "inevitably a mixed bag, where excitement combines with frustration..." Turan wrote that "Sundance remains the nonpareil launching pad for tiny films that would never reach maximum altitude otherwise", saying that "without the heat generated by this festival", there is no way Beasts of the Southern Wild would have gotten four Oscar nominations. He praised the New Frontier exhibitions. Turan wrote, "As always, the spectrum in documentary was most impressive." And said Sundance "is looking more and more like the best doc festival in the world." At the 85th Academy Awards, four of the five nominated documentary features premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, and the fifth, The Gatekeepers, was shown at this year's festival.