Sundance to Honor Nikyatu Jusu and W. Kamau Bell With Vanguard Awards

Sundance Institute recently announced the inaugural edition of Opening Night: A Taste of Sundance, presented by IMDbPro, which will take place on January 19, 2023, in Park City, Utah, the opening night of the Sundance Film Festival. Among those being honored during the event is Nanny director Nikyatu Jusu, and We Need to Talk About Cosby director W. Kamau Bell, both of whom are receiving Vanguard Awards.

According to a press release, the Taste of Sundance event will kick off the Festival by “honoring inspiring and breakout storytellers whose journeys have been connected to Sundance throughout the years while raising funds and awareness for the Institute.” Those funds, says the non-profit presser, will support the Institute’s year-round work uplifting global independent voices through artist programs, granting, and other initiatives.


Presented by Acura, the Vanguard Awards honor artists “whose work highlights the art of storytelling and creative independence in both nonfiction and fiction,” per the press release. The Vanguard Award for nonfiction will be presented to Bell, whereas the Vanguard Award for fiction will go to Jusu. The two directors join the likes of past honorees such as Ryan Coogler (who received the award in 2013), Siân Heder, Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, Radha Blank, Lulu Wang, Dee Rees, Damien Chazelle, Marielle Heller, Benh Zeitlin, Boots Riley, and many more.

“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 are […] honored to be able to present both Nikyatu and Kamau with the Vanguard Awards.”

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Nikyatu Jusu is a writer, director, and Assistant Professor in Film and Video. Her short vampire film Suicide by Sunlight debuted at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, and her screenwriting and directing feature film debut, Nanny, was the first horror film 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,” Jusu is quoted as saying in the press release. “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.”