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Sian Heder, Questlove to Receive Sundance Institute Vanguard Award

Previous honorees include Ryan Coogler, Damien Chazelle and Marielle Heller

The Sundance Institute will present the 2021 Vanguard Award to “CODA” filmmaker Siân Heder and “Summer of Soul” director Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, the institute announced Thursday.

The Vanguard Award honors artists whose work highlights storytelling and creative independence, and this year, it expanded to both fiction and nonfiction storytellers.

Previous recipients of the award, which was created in 2012, include Ryan Coogler, Damien Chazelle, Marielle Heller, Nate Parker, Dee Rees, Boots Riley, Lulu Wang, Benh Zeitlin and Radha Blank. Leadership Vanguard honorees have included Glenn Close, Roger Ebert, George Gund, Alejandro González Iñárritu and Quentin Tarantino.

“We are especially honored to recognize the visionary and award-winning directors Siân Heder and Ahmir ‘Questlove’ Thompson with the Vanguard Award,” Michelle Satter, Sundance Founding Senior Director, Artist Programs, said in a statement. “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.”

Heder wrote and directed “CODA,” which premiered at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival this year and won the Audience Award: U.S. Dramatic, the Directing Award: U.S. Dramatic, the Special Jury Prize for Ensemble Cast and the U.S. Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic. Her previous film “Tallulah” premiered at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival.

“I’m so grateful to Sundance for the incredible support that they have given to me on my journey as a filmmaker,” Heder said. “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.”

Thompson directed and executive produced “Summer of Soul (… Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised),” which also premiered at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival in the U.S. Documentary section, where it won the Audience Award for U.S. Documentary and the U.S. Grand Jury Prize: Documentary.

“I’m extremely honored to receive this award,” Thompson said. “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.”

The online celebration will take place on Oct. 20 and will feature a conversation with Heder and Thompson.