he nonprofit Sundance Institute announced today that it will present the 2021 Vanguard Award to filmmaker Siân Heder for her work on her feature film CODA, and filmmaker Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson for his work in documentary filmmaking on his directorial debut Summer Of Soul (…Or, When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised). The Vanguard Award, presented by Acura, annually honors artists whose work highlights the art of storytelling and creative independence. This year the award has expanded to honor the work of both a fiction and a nonfiction storyteller. The free online celebration will take place Wednesday, October 20, 2021, and feature dynamic conversations with Siân and Ahmir. The Institute invites fans and supporters of independent cinema to celebrate these artists at the special event.
Siân wrote and directed #CODA, which premiered at the 2021 #Sundance Film Festival in the U.S. Dramatic section. The film won the Audience Award: U.S. Dramatic presented by Acura, the Directing Award: U.S. Dramatic, the Special Jury Prize for Ensemble Cast, and the U.S. Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic. Siân is 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.
Ahmir directed and executive-produced Summer Of Soul (…Or, When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised), which premiered at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival in the U.S. Documentary section, where it won the Audience Award for U.S. Documentary presented by Acura, and the U.S. Grand Jury Prize: Documentary. It is streaming on Hulu in conjunction with Disney General Entertainment’s Onyx Collective; Searchlight Pictures released it theatrically.
“We are especially honored to recognize the visionary and award-winning directors Siân Heder and Ahmir ‘Questlove’ Thompson with the Vanguard Award. 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,” said Michelle Satter, Sundance Founding Senior Director, Artist Programs.
“I’m so grateful to Sundance for the incredible support that they have given to me on my journey as a filmmaker. 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 Siân Heder.
“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,” said Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson.
The Sundance Institute’s Vanguard Award honors artists whose work and vision represent the highest level of breakthrough innovation, originality, and independent spirit, as fostered in the Institute’s artist programs. The award was created in 2012, and past recipients include Benh Zeitlin, Ryan Coogler, Damien Chazelle, Marielle Heller, Nate Parker, Dee Rees, Boots Riley, Lulu Wang, and Radha Blank. Leadership Vanguard honorees have included Glenn Close, Roger Ebert, George Gund, Alejandro González Iñárritu, and Quentin Tarantino. For the 2021 celebration, Acura continues their support of the award, which they have presented since 2015, and Variety serves as the Media Sponsor.
This year, the Vanguard Award Celebration, which has in prior years been held as a fundraising benefit for the Institute, will be free to attend. However, as the Institute relies on the generosity of supporters, who share a commitment to nurturing new artists, supporting unique and diverse creative voices, and furthering the reach of independent feature and documentary films around the world, donations are encouraged. Optional donations provide crucial funds to support the Institute’s year-round programs for artists, helping fund our labs, grants, mentorships, and other critical resources to empower the next generation of artists.