news Sundance 2023 Launches with Celebration of Ryan Coogler, W. Kamau Bell, and Nikyatu Jusu

The Sundance Institute has revealed 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 artist programs, granting, and other initiatives.

The evening will honor Ryan Coogler (this year’s “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”) with the first annual Sundance Institute | Variety Visionary Award. The award recognizes a notable Sundance Institute alum’s career. Coogler cut his teeth at the Sundance Institute, participating in the Feature Film Lab, where he developed his 2013 feature directing debut “Fruitvale Station.” 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.

The evening’s annual Vanguard Awards, presented by Acura, will honor artists working in both nonfiction and fiction. The Vanguard Award for nonfiction will be presented to W. Kamau Bell, director of the Showtime-released docuseries “We Need to Talk About Cosby,” and the Vanguard Award for fiction will go to Nikyatu Jusu, director of 2022 Sundance Grand Jury prize winner “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 more. Additional honorees will be announced soon.

“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 in an official statement. “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.”

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.

“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.”

“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.”

“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.”