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 — where it earned her a directing award — and was developed at the Institute’s Labs.
The Institute will hold a free special event to celebrate the award on Dec. 2, hosted on Sundance Collab. Octavia Spencer, who was an advisor to Blank at the Labs, will attend the event, which will include a conversation between Blank and 2019 vanguard award recipient Lulu Wang.
Sundance support for “The Forty-Year-Old Version” included development at the Screenwriters Lab, Directors Lab, Creative Producing Summit and Catalyst Forum. Blank recently received two Gotham Award nominations — for the Bingham Ray Breakthrough Director Award and best screenplay — and was named as one of Variety‘s 10 Directors to Watch in 2020.
Blank directed, wrote, produced and stars in “The 40-Year-Old Version,” which also features Peter Y. Kim, Oswin Benjamin, Reed Birney, Imani Lewis, TJ Atoms and Jacob Ming-Trent. Blank portrays a down-on-her-luck New York playwright who decides to reinvent herself and salvage her artistic voice the only way she knows how — by becoming a rapper at age 40.
“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.”
Past vanguard award recipients include Benh Zeitlin (2012), Ryan Coogler (2013), Damien Chazelle (2014), Marielle Heller (2015), Nate Parker (2016), Dee Rees (2017) and Boots Riley (2018).
Blank said, “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.”