Questlove’s ‘Summer of Soul’ Takes Top Documentary Prizes at Sundance

“Summer of Soul” took both the audience prize & grand jury prize in the U.S. documentary section.

CODA has won the top award at the Sundance Film Festival, taking this year’s U.S. Grand Jury prize, while Questlove’s Summer of Soul won both the audience and grand jury prize in the U.S. documentary section.

CODA, which made headlines earlier in the fest for its record-breaking $25 million sale to Apple, took the dramatic audience award with Sian Heder taking the directing award for U.S. dramatic competition. “I hope that this opened the door to people getting that audiences want to see these kinds of stories,” said Heder of the title, which centers on a hearing teenage girl that is a child of deaf adults. “I hope that this means that more stories that center on deaf characters and characters with disability get put front and center.”

“I really wish there was a Sundance this year if only to watch the war between the Pfizer and Moderna suites trying to woo all the cool celebs to use their vaccine,” joked ceremony host Patton Oswalt to open the virtual ceremony. Sundance Institute director Keri Putnam offered words on the pandemic and Sundance’s place within it. “We have been able to gather in new ways that we weren’t sure to work but did,” said Putnam. “After a year that has been exceptionally difficult for artists and the arts. It is inspiring to this community rally so fiercely around both.” Newly instated director Tabitha Jackson followed Putnam and gave out thanks, concluding with the filmmakers for “trusting us with your work and going along with us on this crazy experiment of a journey.”

The 2021 festival ceremony did not take place in snowy Park City but was hosted online on YouTube, with jurors and presenters tuning in from their respective parts of the globe, from living rooms to the backseats of cars. The latter was the case for Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, who took both the audience prize and grand jury prize in the U.S. documentary section accepted the awards via a video call from a car in New York on his “way to work” at The Tonight Show. “It’s always been my dream to tell stories,” the Roots drummer said of the process behind his movie Summer of Soul. “As a creator and storyteller my purpose and goal was to not drop the ball.”

Daughters of the Dust director Julie Dash, Cynthia Erivo, and novelist Hanya Yanagihara will judge the U.S. dramatic competition, with Erivo announcing this year’s winner during the ceremony.

This article was originally published by The Hollywood Reporter.

Alice G. Collins

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