Questlove to Receive Sundance Institute’s Vanguard Award

In Summary

The Roots drummer is receiving the achievement for his film directorial debut. 

Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson will be honored with the 2021 Sundance Institute Vanguard Award for his documentary, Summer of Soul (…Or, When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised).  

Summer of Soul is the directorial debut for the legendary musician and founding member of the hip-hop group The Roots. The documentary won the Grand Jury prize and the Audience prize at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival before arriving on Hulu and in theaters this past July. 

It explores the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival through nearly 40 hours of never-before-seen performances and footage from Black iconic acts including B.B. King, Nina Simone, Gladys Knight & the Pip and Stevie Wonder. 

RELATED: Creator+ Establishes ‘Flip the Script’ Fund for BIPOC Creatives 

“I’m extremely honored to receive this award,” Questlove said in a statement. “Storytelling has always been the fiber of my creativity, be it DJing, writing articles [and] books, podcasting or teaching. Of course, I share this honor with the entire team behind Summer of Soul. It was an honor to bring this historic event to light for audiences to experience.” 

Thompson will receive the Vanguard award along with Siân Heder, who is responsible for the festival hit dramedy CODA. 

According to Deadline, the Vanguard Award is given annually by the Sundance Institute to commemorate creatives who highlight the art of storytelling and creative independence through their work. Thompson and Heder join the ranks of past Vanguard Award recipients Radha Blank (2020), Lulu Wang (2019) and Boots Riley (2018). 

RELATED: Questlove’s quest: To find woman who bought him a turntable 

In February, Questlove said his next directorial film will be a documentary on Sly Stone, the frontman of soul power-funk band Sly and the Family Stone.  

The ceremony for the Sundance Institute’s Vanguard Award is free and open to the public. Thompson and Heder will be featured in conversations about their films. Indie film fans can register for the event here

Summer of Soul is currently streaming on Hulu. 

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