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The Sundance Institute has found its newest Vanguards.
The nonprofit has announced that Coda filmmaker Siân Heder and Summer of Soul musician-turned-filmmaker Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson have been selected to each receive a Vanguard Award during a virtual celebration set for Oct. 20. Presented by Acura, the prize has been expanded this year to spotlight a fiction and a nonfiction storyteller “whose work highlights the art of storytelling and creative independence.” Since its creation in 2012, Vanguard Awards have been doled out to Benh Zeitlin, Ryan Coogler, Damien Chazelle, Marielle Heller, Nate Parker, Dee Rees, Boots Riley, Lulu Wang and Radha Blank.
The honor marks a bit of a homecoming for the pair, both of whom debuted their films in 2021 during the Sundance Film Festival in Park City. Coda was unveiled in the U.S. dramatic section and went on to win the audience award presented by Acura, a directing award, a special jury prize for ensemble cast, and the U.S. grand jury prize for the dramatic section. It also broke records when it was acquired by Apple TV+ out of the festival for $25 million.
Heder is also an alumna of the Sundance Institute’s 2016 FilmTwo Initiative, and had previously premiered Tallulah, which she wrote and directed, at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival. Coda was acquired at the Festival by Apple TV+, where it is currently available.
Thompson, best known as a member of The Roots and for the band’s work opposite Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show, directed and executive-produced Summer Of Soul (…Or, When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised), which premiered in the documentary section. His film also picked up prizes including an audience award presented by Acura and a grand jury prize. It is streaming on Hulu in conjunction with Disney General Entertainment’s Onyx Collective. Searchlight Pictures released the film theatrically.
Said Sundance’s Michelle Satter, founding senior director of artist programs: “We were thrilled to bring enthusiastic audiences together at our festival to experience the humanity, originality, and independent spirit of their culture-changing films. Siân and Ahmir join Sundance-supported directors Radha Blank, Ryan Coogler, Dee Rees, Marielle Heller, and others in this annual celebration of singular independent storytellers.”
The honorees also released statements about the recognition. Heder said she’s grateful to Sundance for the incredible support they’ve provided on her journey as a filmmaker, adding, “I am thrilled and honored to join the company of the artists who have previously received this award, as well as my co-honoree, Ahmir, and his brilliant film.” Said Thompson: “I’m extremely honored to receive this award. Storytelling has always been the fiber of my creativity, be it DJing, writing articles/books, podcasting, or teaching. Of course, I share this honor with the entire team behind Summer of Soul. It was an honor to bring this historic event to light for audiences to experience.”
More information about the free event can be found here.
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