Los Angeles, CA — Last night, Wednesday, June 5, the third annual ‘Celebrate Sundance Institute’ benefit in Los Angeles honored the life and work of beloved journalist and film critic Roger Ebert with the Vanguard Leadership Award in Memoriam. The event also honored filmmaker Ryan Coogler – whose debut feature film, Fruitvale Station, was selected for Sundance Institute's Screenwriters Lab and went on to win both the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival – with the Vanguard Award, Presented by Tiffany & Co.
At the event, Sundance Institute also announced the establishment of the Roger Ebert Scholarship for Film Criticism, in memory of Roger Ebert. The scholarship will make grants to six to eight young critics to enable them to attend and cover the 2014 Sundance Film Festival as part of the Indiewire Critics Academy, a workshop for aspiring film critics. The public may contribute to the scholarship fund at http://www.razoo.com/story/Roger-Ebert-Scholarship.
In announcing the scholarship, Keri Putnam, Executive Director of Sundance Institute, said, “Roger Ebert was, without question, one of the greatest champions of independent filmmaking talent the world has ever known. He was also an extremely generous supporter of aspiring film critics, and in that spirit, we have established the Roger Ebert Scholarship for Film Criticism.”
Sundance Institute President and Founder Robert Redford presented the Vanguard Leadership Award in Memoriam to Roger Ebert, accepted by his wife Chaz Ebert. In presenting the award, Redford said, “Roger Ebert's blessing on the Sundance experiment in its earliest days made all the difference in the world. His eloquence at cutting to the heart of what we were trying to do helped to interpret for others what I often could not find the words to say. I will always be grateful to him for that and for so much more." The presentation included a video tribute by Steve James (Hoop Dreams).
In accepting the award, Chaz said, “Storytelling is what Roger loved about Sundance. It is there you see films about kindness and empathy and begin to understand what makes people tick." She continued to quote Roger as saying, “We think creativity is a gift, but truly it is imagination’s life and breath.”
Actress Kerry Washington presented Coogler with the Vanguard Award, Presented by Tiffany & Co. The award honors emerging artists with creative independence and comes with a cash grant and mentorship from industry professionals and the Institute’s Feature Film Program staff.
In accepting the award, Coogler said, “Storytelling is the tool that human beings have to trigger empathy. Cinema is a form of storytelling that’s so immersive that it’s not like any other medium. The most important thing I hope to take from this award is the ability to keep working, to keep telling stories."
The event, co-chaired by Institute Trustee Lyn Lear and her husband, Norman, as well as Institute Trustee Cindy Horn and her husband, Alan, raised funds to support the Institute’s year-round programs for artists, including Labs, grants and the Sundance Film Festival. The evening featured Sundance Institute-supported artists at each table. Attendees included: Amy Redford (Sunshine Cleaning), Ava DuVernay (Middle of Nowhere), Barbara Kopple (Running from Crazy), Ben Karlin (A.C.O.D.), Carolyn Strauss (Game of Thrones), Chris Milk (3 Dreams of Black), Dermot Mulroney (The Rambler), Drake Doremus (Like Crazy), Gingger Shankar (Himalaya Song), Greg Barker (Manhunt), Gregg Araki (White Bird in a Blizzard), Heather Rae (Ass Backwards), Jason Reitman (Thank You For Smoking), Julie Delpy (Before Midnight), June Diane Raphael (Ass Backwards), Kevin Pollack, Liz Garbus (Bobby Fischer Against the World), Melonie Diaz (Fruitvale Station), Michael B. Jordan (Fruitvale Station), Miguel Arteta (Cedar Rapids), Moby, Nicholas Jarecki (Arbitrage), Octavia Spencer (Fruitvale Station), Oliver Stone (The Untold History of the United States), Paul Scheer (The League), Richard Montoya (Water & Power), Rory Kennedy (Ethel), Samm Levine (Do No Harm), Scott Z. Burns (An Inconvenient Truth), Sean Bailey (President of Walt Disney Studios Motion Picture Production), The Honorable Nicole Avant and Ted Sarandos (Netflix), Wallis Annenberg (Annenberg Foundation), Wally Weisman (Sundance Institute Chairman of Board of Trustees), Zal Batmanglij (The East) and more.
Founded by Robert Redford in 1981, Sundance Institute is a global, nonprofit cultural organization dedicated to nurturing artistic expression in film and theater, and to supporting intercultural dialogue between artists and audiences. The Institute promotes independent storytelling to unite, inform and inspire, regardless of geo-political, social, religious or cultural differences. Internationally recognized for its annual Sundance Film Festival and its artistic development programs for directors, screenwriters, producers, film composers, playwrights and theatre artists, Sundance Institute has nurtured such projects as Born into Brothels, Trouble the Water, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Sin Nombre, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, An Inconvenient Truth, Spring Awakening, Light in the Piazza and Angels in America. Join Sundance Institute on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.
Tiffany & Co.
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Editor’s Note: For photos from the event, visit: