The nonprofit Sundance Institute is pleased to announce the inaugural edition of Opening Night: A Taste of Sundance, presented by IMDbPro, which will take place on January 19, 2023 in Park City, Utah during the Sundance Film Festival. The evening will kick off the Festival by honoring inspiring and breakout storytellers whose journeys have been connected to Sundance throughout the years while raising funds and awareness for the Institute. Proceeds raised will be used to support the Institute’s year-round work uplifting global independent voices, both new and established, through artist programs, granting, and other initiatives. The event is also made possible with the generous support of George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation, Acura, and Variety. The Sundance Film Festival runs from January 19-29, 2023.
The evening will honor Ryan Coogler, writer/director/producer (Creed, Black Panther, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever) with the first annual Sundance Institute | Variety Visionary Award. The award recognizes a notable Sundance Institute alumni who is deeply connected to the organization and its programs, and has proceeded to establish an extraordinary career that personifies a unique perspective embodying a commitment to impactful storytelling. Coogler has an ongoing connection to Sundance Institute, having gone through the Feature Film Lab where he developed Fruitvale Station as a 2012 Screenwriters Lab fellow, continued to receive additional creative, tactical, and granting support on the project, and made his directorial debut with the film at the 2013 Festival. The film went on to win both the U.S. Grand Jury Prize for dramatic film and the Audience Award for U.S. dramatic film, two of the Festival’s top honors. In addition, he has served as an Advisor for the 2013 Screenwriters Intensive and an artist trustee. His compelling works continue to influence the arts and entertain and impact audiences adding richly to the cultural conversation.
The annual Vanguard Awards, presented by Acura, will be given during the evening, honoring artists whose work highlights the art of storytelling and creative independence in both nonfiction and fiction. The Vanguard Award for nonfiction will be presented to W. Kamau Bell, director of We Need to Talk About Cosby, and the Vanguard Award for fiction will go to Nikyatu Jusu, director of Nanny. Kamau and Nikyatu join the likes of past honorees such as Ryan Coogler (who received the award in 2013), Siân Heder, Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, Radha Blank, Lulu Wang, Dee Rees, Damien Chazelle, Marielle Heller, Benh Zeitlin, Boots Riley, and many more. Additional honorees will be announced in the coming weeks.
“Kicking off the 2023 edition of the Festival with this new celebration is a great opportunity to champion the storytellers we support and contribute to sustaining Sundance Institute grants, mentorships, and other critical resources that enable artists to bring their stories to life,” said Joana Vicente, Sundance Institute CEO. “We look forward to gathering together again in Park City to shine a light on the vision, originality, and independent spirit of artists whose careers we have supported. The opportunity to recognize Ryan with the Visionary Award and his contributions to the industry and Institute for over a decade is a special moment for us. We are equally honored to be able to present both Nikyatu and Kamau with the Vanguard Awards.”
Ryan Coogler is a writer, director, and producer. His film, three-time Academy Award winner Black Panther, became the most successful domestic release of 2018. Coogler co-wrote and directed the highly anticipated sequel Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, in theaters now. His production company, Proximity Media, founded with Zinzi Coogler and Sev Ohanian, has produced Space Jam: A New Legacy, the Academy Award winning Judas And The Black Messiah, the upcoming Creed III, Ironheart, and Underrated.
“Ten years ago, I was filled with an immense sense of gratitude when I was selected by Michelle Satter and her staff for the Screenwriting Lab of 2012,” said Ryan Coogler. “My experience there provided me with momentum that has propelled me forward through a decade of professional work. It is with an even deeper sense of gratitude that I accept this honor. The Institute has been a constant source of support, resources, and access to so many incredible filmmakers, and I pray that it will continue to thrive for the sake of us who know the depths of its effects personally and for the fledgling storytellers that the Institute is destined to support in the future.”
Kamau Bell is a comedian, director, and executive producer of the Showtime documentary We Need to Talk About Cosby. He’s the host and executive producer of CNN’s United Shades of America and the author of The New York Times bestseller, “Do The Work: An Antiracist Activity Book,” co-written with Kate Schatz.
“One of the happiest days during the production of We Need to Talk About Cosby was when I told the crew that we had been accepted to Sundance,” said W. Kamau Bell. “With a project as thorny and nuanced as our series, there were many days when I thought no one outside of us would understand what we were all attempting to do. It is an extreme honor to be invited to accept this award for all the work and care that the crew and I put into our series.”
Nikyatu Jusu is a writer, director, and Assistant Professor in Film & Video. Jusu’s short vampire film Suicide by Sunlight debuted at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. Nanny is Jusu’s screenwriting and directing feature film debut and the first horror film to win the Sundance Grand Jury Prize in 2022. Nanny was supported through the Sundance Institute’s Screenwriter, Directors, Producer, and Catalyst Labs.
“I don’t use the term ‘family’ loosely, but I can unequivocally say that my adopted community at Sundance has become just that,” said Nikyatu Jusu. “I’ve navigated a serpentine, lonely, often times herculean climb as I pursued my passion for filmmaking over the years, so to be embraced by this filmmaking community of fellow hungry artists, material resources, mentorship, and most importantly access, has ignited the fire I need to endure this industry journey. I hope to give back to other aspiring filmmakers in the ways Sundance has so generously given to me. My gratitude knows no bounds.”
The Sundance Film Festival®
The Sundance Film Festival, a program of the non-profit, Sundance Institute, is the preeminent gathering of original storytellers and audiences seeking new voices and fresh perspectives. Since 1985, hundreds of films launched at the Festival have gone on to gain critical acclaim and reach new audiences worldwide. The Festival has introduced some of the most groundbreaking films and episodic works of the past three decades, including Fire of Love, Cha Cha Real Smooth, Flee, CODA, Passing, Summer Of Soul (…or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised), Clemency, Never Rarely Sometimes Always, Zola, O.J.: Made in America, On The Record, Boys State, The Farewell, Honeyland, One Child Nation, The Souvenir, The Infiltrators, Sorry to Bother You, Top of the Lake, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, Hereditary, Call Me By Your Name, Get Out, The Big Sick, Mudbound, Fruitvale Station, Whiplash, Brooklyn, Precious, The Cove, Little Miss Sunshine, An Inconvenient Truth, Napoleon Dynamite, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Reservoir Dogsand sex, lies, and videotape. Its vibrant program platforms fiction and non-fiction features and short films; series and episodic content; emerging media, and performances, as well as conversations, and other events. The Festival takes place both in person in the state of Utah and online, connecting audiences across the U.S. to bold new artists and films. The 2023 Festival takes place January 19-29. Be a part of the Festival at Sundance Film Festival and follow the Festival at Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.
To date 2023 Festival sponsors include: Presenting Sponsors – Acura, AMC+, Chase Sapphire®, Adobe, DoorDash; Leadership Sponsors – Audible, DIRECTV, Netflix, Omnicom Group, Shutterstock, Stacy’s Pita Chips, United Airlines, XRM Media; Sustaining Sponsors – Canada Goose, Canon U.S.A., Inc., Dropbox, World of Hyatt®, IMDb, MACRO, Rabbit Hole Bourbon & Rye, Stanley, University of Utah Health, White Claw Hard Seltzer; Media Sponsors – IndieWire, Los Angeles Times, NPR, Variety, Vulture, The Wall Street Journal. Sundance Institute recognizes critical support from the State of Utah as Festival Host State. The support of these organizations helps offset the Festival’s costs and sustain the Institute’s year-round programs for independent artists. festival.sundance.org
As a champion and curator of independent stories, the Sundance Institute provides and preserves the space for artists across storytelling media to create and thrive. Founded in 1981 by Robert Redford, the Institute’s signature Labs, granting, and mentorship programs, dedicated to developing new work, take place throughout the year in the U.S. and internationally. Sundance Collab, a digital community platform, brings a global cohort of working artists together to learn from each other and Sundance Advisors and connect in a creative space, developing and sharing works in progress. The Sundance Film Festival and other public programs connect audiences and artists to ignite new ideas, discover original voices, and build a community dedicated to independent storytelling. Sundance Institute has supported and showcased such projects asSummer of Soul (…or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised), CODA, Flee, Passing, Clemency, Never Rarely Sometimes Always, Zola, On the Record, Boys State, The Farewell, Honeyland, One Child Nation, The Souvenir, The Infiltrators, Sorry to Bother You, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, Hereditary, Call Me By Your Name, Get Out, The Big Sick, Mudbound, Fruitvale Station, City So Real, Top of the Lake, Between the World & Me, Wild Goose Dreams and Fun Home. Join Sundance Institute on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.