Written by Kianna Best on Nov 22, 2022. Posted in Awards and Festivals

Ryan Coogler, W. Kamau Bell and Nikyatu Jusu to be honoured at inaugural Opening Night: A Taste of Sundance

The inaugural edition of Opening Night: A Taste of Sundance from the non-profit institute will take place on 19 January 2023 in Park City, Utah. The evening will honour Ryan Coogler, W. Kamau Bell and Nikyatu Jusu, and many other inspiring and breakout storytellers who have also had journeys connected to the festival throughout the years. The celebration will also raise funds and awareness for the institute who aim to continue championing upcoming and established creative voices through programmes, grants and other initiatives.


“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 honoured to be able to present both Nikyatu and Kamau with the Vanguard Awards.”


From left: Ryan Coogler, Nikyatu Jusu, W. Kamau Bell


Set to receive the first annual Sundance Institute| Variety Visionary Award, Creed, Black Panther franchise and Fruitvale Station writer, director and producer Ryan Coogler will be honoured. With a longstanding history will the institute, Coogler made his way through the Feature Film Lab where he developed Fruitvale Station which later wen ton to debut at the festival in 2013 and win U.S Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award for U.S. dramatic film. In addition, the filmmaker serves as an advisor for the Screenwriters Intensive and an artist trustee in the same year.


“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 honour. 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.”


Sundance Institute 2016 directors lab


Following in the footsteps of past honourees such as Coogler, Siân Heder, Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, Radha Blank, Lulu Wang, Dee Rees, Damien Chazelle, Marielle Heller, Benh Zeitlin, Boots Riley, the annual Vanguard Awards will be given to We Need to Talk about Cosby director W. Kamau Bell and director of Nanny Nikyatu Jusu.


Sundance Institute 2015 screenwriters lab


Bell, who also served as executive producer on the gripping Showtime documentary on Bill Cosby is a multitalented presence in the industry. Beyond his comedic background, he has also hosted and executive produced on CNN’s United Shades of America and is the author of New York Time’s 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 honour to be invited to accept this award for all the work and care that the crew and I put into our series.”


Sundance Institute 2015 episodic story lab


Writer and director, Jusu is more than what she does behind the camera. In addition to having her short vampire film Suicide debuted at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, Jusu is also an assistant professor in film and video. Supported through the Sundance Institute’s Screenwriter, Directors, Producers and Catalyst labs, Jusu’s horror film Nanny became the first to win the Sundance Grand Jury Prize in 2022.


“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.”


Sundance Institute 2016 directors lab


The globally renowned festival, supported by the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation, Acura, and Variety will return from 19-20 January 2023.



Images courtesy of Sundance Institute


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