Ryan Coogler, Nikyatu Jusu, W. Kamau Bell accept the Sundance Award
Luca Guadagnino, W. Kamau Bell, Dakota Johnson and Lena Waithe also helped with the return of the personal event.
“I got so many nos for so long, I thought it wasn’t my middle name,” said Nikyatu Jusu, director of last year’s US Drama Jury Prize-winning “Nanny,” as he accepted the Sundance Film Festival’s prestigious Vanguard Award. “Sundance is the reason the industry couldn’t ignore me anymore.”
Jusu was one of four Sundance alumni honored Thursday night at the “Opening Night: A Taste of Sundance” fundraising and awards gala. And for each of them, Sundance offered such a launching pad that Hollywood had to know their names. But here was also the occasion to celebrate that Sundance returned in person for the first time since 2020. The festival marked the occasion by trotting out people who have stuck with Sundance and all it stands for, even as their careers have taken them on new paths. Height.
In particular, Jusu said he was “deeply depressed” when he learned Sundance 2022 would be virtual, but he described the people in the room Thursday night as survivors of the pandemic who now have to “break down” to get better. world to everyone.
Other honorees Thursday included Luca Guadagnino, who won the Sundance Institute International Icon Award, W. Kamau Bell, who won the Vanguard Award for Nonfiction, and Ryan Coogler, who won the Variety Visionary Award. And Thursday’s event at the Basin Recreation Fieldhouse in Park City boasted hundreds of festival-goers, donors, industry professionals and talent, all eager to kick off Sundance 2023 and see the return of the in-person setting. They were also treated to a short acoustic performance by the Indigo Girls and a plated meal.
Jusu was introduced by Boots Riley, the director of “Sorry to Bother You”, who, in true character, pulled out his opening speech from a huge red hat. Lena Waithe introduced Coogler, calling him a “quiet king” who “refuses to speak the king’s English”. Bell was introduced by Roger Ross Williams, whose film Cassandro is at the festival this year. And Guadagnino was introduced by Dakota Johnson, who was the joke of the night when she said that she originally tried out for the role of Peach in the movie Call Me By Your Name. But if she had gotten the part, she would have been “another woman that Armie Hammer tried to eat.”
Each of the honorees discussed what Sundance has meant to them and their careers. Coogler, who broke through with “Fruitvale Station” nearly a decade ago, recalled working in the Sundance Institute lab with filmmakers like David Lowery, Chloe Zhao and Marielle Heller and being struck by the ambition around him.
“I remember sitting there listening to these filmmakers talk about their passion for their first feature film and watching their short film, I had this weird feeling that the whole industry would change if these people ever got the chance to develop it their ideas. . And I was right, Coogler said. “When these filmmakers win, I feel like I’m winning. An incredible gift for a former footballer who was trying to find his way in this environment. To have a team around me.”
Bell first introduced himself not as Questlove, as confused by one white attendee, but as “weird.” Not the “cool Donald Glover” type of weirdos, but the “like bringing sushi to the grill” type. Good, but you don’t want to eat it with ribs. His debut documentary last year, “We Need to Talk About Cosby,” was a constant reminder that the film was his idea and that if things went wrong, “I’d only have myself to blame.” But Sundance gave him the confidence to realize that he wasn’t just a niche comedian, he was a “filmmaker/niche comedian” and that if he could do it, so could others.
“Our weirdness is our superpower,” Bell said.
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