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2020 Sundance Film Festival - Awards Night Ceremony

Source: Rich Fury / Getty

Radha Blank, the brilliant creator behind Netflix’s The Forty-Year-Old Version, has a growing collection of impressive awards and nominations ever since breaking into the film space this year, and her latest win is worth every bit of bragging rights.

Last week, the Sundance Institue announced that the multi-hyphenated filmmaker will be this year’s recipient of the prestigious 2020 Vanguard Award for her directorial work on the film. 

In the wake of the lockdown, Sundance Collab, an online platform for creators across the globe, will host a special event in her honor on December 2 featuring Octavia Spencer, an advisor to Blank at the Institute’s Labs.

“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,” said Blank. “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. Thanks so much Sundance for seeing me, and lifting me up for my first film. Receiving this award affirms my path as a director, and is one hell of a way to begin my career. Thank you!”

The semi-autobiographical film tells the story of a struggling New York playwright, desperate to find success at 40. Met with insurmountable rejection, she finds inspiration through her long-forgotten passion for rapping. When her play finally gets going, she’s conflicted, stuck at the crossroads between finding her newfound voice as her reinventive rap persona RadhaMUSPrime and her budding career in theatre.

Earlier this year, Netflix acquired The Forty-Year-Old Version after its Sundance debut in January. At that time, Blank revealed to Deadline about her personal struggles getting her creative work out off the ground. 

“I had to get this story out,” said Blank when she said at the Deadline Studio at Sundance. “As an artist in New York, I’ve had my share of troubles and noticed these trends in terms of who decides who gets to tell what story to what audience — and that really frustrated me.” She adds that in addition to that, she lost her mom and best friend and felt that she needed to address it through story.

She continued, “Oftentimes the gatekeepers doubt your ability to tell a story or be an artist because you don’t fit the mold of what they want to present…it was a way to confront my frustrations — and celebrate the city that informs my way of telling stories.”

Since then, The Forty-Year-Old Version has gone on to receive the Directing Award, U.S. Dramatic after its world premiere in the U.S. Dramatic Competition category, and two Gotham Award nominations, including the Bingham Ray Breakthrough Director Award and for Best Screenplay. She was also named one of the 10 Directors to Watch in 2020 by Variety.