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Anyone who thought that a virtual Sundance Film Festival couldn’t recapture the same enthusiasm as a premiere in Park City’s Eccles Theatre would be sorely mistaken.

After filmmakers, critics and journalists remotely screened “CODA,” a heartwarming family drama written and directed by Sian Heder, there was an immediate outpouring of love on social media that ignited a bidding war among distributors. Shortly after opening night, Apple emerged as the highest contender, shelling out a record $25 million for the film.

Before Apple officially signed on the dotted line, Heder recalls her phone was ringing off the hook. An unexpected challenge, she notes with a laugh, was being home with her two children rather than in the Sundance bubble.

“My kids keep saying, ‘Mom, stop looking at your phone.’ But I can’t,” Heder said at Variety’s virtual Sundance Studio, presented by AT&T TV, the day following the premiere. “I’m like, ‘Give me a break just this once!”

“CODA” — the title is an acronym for Children of Deaf Adults — centers on Ruby Rossi (Emilia Jones), a teenager who is the only hearing member of her household. With her deaf parents and brother, she helps run the family’s fishing business. Yet as high school graduation approaches, she finds herself struggling to decide between helping her family and pursuing her dream of going to music school.

For the cast of “CODA,” the virtual premiere allowed co-stars Marlee Matlin, Troy Kotsur and Daniel Durant, all of whom are deaf, to share in the rapturous reception in a way that may not have been possible at an in-person festival.

“With social media so prevalent, you have the advantage of being able to see people’s reactions,” Matlin, who portrays Ruby’s mother, said through an American Sign Language interpreter. “It’s very visually friendly for us, as deaf people. There’s a greater opportunity to share each other’s experiences.”

Kotsur, who plays Matlin’s husband, chimed in: “And we get to save gas. We don’t have to drive anywhere.”

“CODA” is a remake of the French film “La Famille Belier.” In adapting the script, Heder said it was important to cast deaf actors and make sure the characters had rich journeys. She wanted to tell a specific story that shows a “broad range” of deaf people, rather than attempt to carry the entire deaf experience through a singular film.

“Real progress starts to get made when you can hold more than one story,” Heder said. “This is a family — they’re fisherman, they have their own culture as fisherman. They also happen to be deaf.”

Jones didn’t know ASL prior to filming, but said she’s “always been fascinated and wanted to learn.” She spent nine months learning the language and relied on Matlin, Kotsur and Durant to help her improve on set. “They took me under their wing and helped me grow,” she said.

Durant, who plays Ruby’s older brother, said he had “deep conversations” with Heder about his character’s emotional arc. “To be a deaf son and have a hearing sister, I had to really understand that dynamic and how the parents relied on the sister,” Durant said through an ASL translator. “I was the brother who wanted to be independent.”

Matlin praised Heder for taking the time to understanding the perspective of deaf people. She hopes it’ll encourage Hollywood to bring deaf actors, directors and writers into the conversation and “see a point where they can carry a film.”

Eugenio Derbez, who plays Ruby’s sassy though encouraging music teacher, said that kind of progress “starts at the top,” referring to studio executives and agents. “It would help a lot to really increase diversity and inclusion in Hollywood,” he said.