Sundance Institute will honor filmmaker Radha Blank with the 2020 Vanguard Award presented by Acura, given annually to an artist whose work highlights the art of storytelling and creative independence. The award honors the artistic achievement of her feature film directorial debut The Forty-Year-Old Version, which premiered at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival and was developed by Blank at the Institute’s Labs. The Institute invites fans and supporters of independent cinema to celebrate Radha with a special event on Wednesday, December 2, 2020 hosted on Sundance Collab, the community platform for creators from around the world. The celebration, free for all, will feature Octavia Spencer, who was an advisor to Blank at the Labs, and a conversation between Blank and 2019 Vanguard Award recipient Lulu Wang (The Farewell).
Radha was honored with the Directing Award, U.S. Dramatic after The Forty-Year-Old Version had its world premiere in the U.S. Dramatic Competition category at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. Sundance support for the project included development at the Screenwriters Lab, Directors Lab, Creative Producing Summit and Catalyst Forum, as part of the Institute’s programs that discovers, supports and amplifies risk-taking and exciting independent artists across film, theatre and media. Radha recently received 2 Gotham Award nominations, the Bingham Ray Breakthrough Director Award and for Best Screenplay, and was also named by Variety as one of the 10 Directors to Watch in 2020.
The Forty-Year-Old Version is a hilariously candid and deeply personal debut from writer/director Radha Blank. Radha, a down-on-her-luck NY playwright, is desperate for a breakthrough before 40. But when she foils what seems like her last shot at success, she’s left with no choice but to reinvent herself as rapper RadhaMUSPrime. The Forty-Year-Old Version follows Radha as she vacillates between the worlds of Hip Hop and theater on a quest to find her true voice. A fresh addition to the New York City slice-of-life canon shot in lush black and white 35mm, Blank’s film is an ode to the unfulfilled, and those whose adversity gives them a one-of-a-kind story to tell. Acquired by Netflix out of the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, the film is currently available on Netflix.
“Radha’s singular vision, unique voice and comedic tone were immediately captivating,” said Sundance Feature Film Program Founding Director Michelle Satter. “We were proud to offer Rahda the time and space to grow her skills as a writer, director and actor at our Labs. She developed the script with the support of enthusiastic advisors and her creative process was as gratifying to watch as getting to see the premiere at the most recent Sundance Film Festival. We are very excited to celebrate Radha on December 2, and honor her visionary talent with our 2020 Vanguard Award.”
“It’s a thrill to be acknowledged by my Sundance Institute family, who’ve been behind me from the very beginning of the journey for this film. They provided support of my vision, development of my voice in the screenwriting and directing labs – where I not only received vital mentorship but also cultivated a fellowship with other filmmakers who, just like the wonderful champions at Sundance, will be a cherished part of my life and career from here until forever. Thanks so much Sundance for seeing me, and lifting me up for my first film. Receiving this award affirms my path as a director, and is one hell of a way to begin my career. Thank you!,” said Radha Blank.
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 Feature Film Program under Satter’s leadership over its 30-year history. Past Vanguard Award recipients include Benh Zeitlin (2012), Ryan Coogler (2013), Damien Chazelle (2014), Marielle Heller (2015), Nate Parker (2016), Dee Rees (2017), Boots Riley (2018) and Lulu Wang (2019). Acura has presented the award since 2015.