The 2023 Sundance Film Festival will open with something new: a fundraiser honoring filmmakers who have benefitted from Sundance’s support system — and it will be headlined by the director of the current No. 1 movie in North America.
The gala, called “Opening Night: A Taste of Sundance,” is set for Jan. 19 in Park City, the Sundance Institute announced Monday. The new event — featuring cocktails and dinner — will raise awareness and support of the institute’s year-round mission to support independent artistic voices.
The event will honor Ryan Coogler, best known for directing the 2018 box-office sensation “Black Panther.” Coogler will receive the first Sundance Institute | Variety Visionary Award, honoring a Sundance Institute alumni “who is deeply connected to the organization and its programs, and has proceeded to establish an extraordinary career that personifies a unique perspective embodying a commitment to impactful storytelling.”
The gala will be held in the Basin Recreation Fieldhouse, at 1388 Center Dr. in the Kimball Junction area of Park City — the same venue where the festival’s closing-night party has been held in past years. Tickets for the event are $1,500 a person, and tables will also be available.
The festival also will run its “Day One” slate of films on opening night, a tradition since 2010.
Coogler developed his first movie, “Fruitvale Station,” at the institute’s 2012 Screenwriters Lab, and received support for the project afterward. The movie — which traced the hours before Oscar Grant (Michael B. Jordan) was killed by police at a Bay Area Rapid Transit station in Oakland, California — premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, and won both the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award in the U.S. Dramatic competition.
Coogler followed “Fruitvale Station” with “Creed” (2015), the continuation of Sylvester Stallone’s “Rocky” saga, focusing on Adonis Creed (Jordan again), the son of Rocky Balboa’s opponent-turned-friend Apollo Creed. That was followed by 2018′s “Black Panther,” the Marvel Cinematic Universe chapter starring Chadwick Boseman as King T’Challa, facing a challenge to his throne by a CIA-trained assassin (also played by Jordan).
Most recently, Coogler directed “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” in which the African nation and its royal family cope with T’Challa’s sudden death — a story arc made necessary by Boseman’s death from cancer in 2020. This weekend, the movie topped the North American box office chart for the second week running, according to Box Office Mojo.
In two weeks, the movie has earned nearly $288 million in North America, and is now the seventh-highest grossing movie of 2022.
Two more filmmakers — one working in fiction, the other in documentary — will be honored at the event, receiving Sundance Institute’s annual Vanguard Awards.
The documentary award will go to W. Kamau Bell, the comedian and filmmaker who directed the four-hour Showtime docu-series “We Need to Talk About Cosby,” which premiered at the online-only festival earlier this year. The series examined the career of comedian Bill Cosby, and aimed to reconcile his image as “America’s Dad” with the reality of dozens of accusations of being a sexual predator.
The fiction award goes to Nikyatu Jusu, who wrote and directed “Nanny,” which this year became the first horror movie to win the festival’s Grand Jury Prize in the U.S. Dramatic competition.
The movie — scheduled for a limited theatrical release on Wednesday before streaming on Prime starting Dec. 16 — stars Anna Diop as an undocumented Senegalese nanny working for a rich New York family, who sees startling visions that force her to confront a dark secret from her past. Jusu and her film received support from the institute, through several of its labs.
The Hollywood trade website Dateline reported over the weekend that Jusu’s next movie will be “Suicide by Sunlight,” an extension of her 2019 short film, which premiered at Sundance.
According to Dateline, Jusu told the audience at an awards-season event that the movie is “about day-walking Black vampires who are protected from the sun by their melanin.” Universal Pictures and Jordan Peele’s Monkeypaw Productions are backing the film.
The 2023 Sundance Film Festival runs Jan. 19-29 in Park City, Salt Lake City and the Sundance Mountain Resort — and will offer movies online Jan. 24-29.