*The late film critic Roger Ebert and award-winning Fruitvale Station director Ryan Coogler were the honorees at last night’s third annual Celebrate Sundance Institute event at The Lot in Hollywood, reports Deadline.
Ebert’s widow Chaz was on hand to accept the Vanguard Leadership Award for her husband, who died April 4 but had hoped to attend in person. The Sundance Institute announced that the Roger Ebert Scholarship For Film Criticism would be established in order to promote ”passionate and articulate aspiring young film critics” in the legendary critic’s memory.
Sundance founder Robert Redford presented the award to Chaz Ebert. In her acceptance speech, she acknowledged the bittersweet nature of the event. “He was an amazing man. I tell you I loved him so much because I saw the light in him. People said when he was sick, yes his appearance changed, but I saw beauty, I saw perfection because I saw inside his soul,” she said before reading a speech that praised (in part) the work of Redford and Sundance, a speech Ebert told to his wife and which he likely would have delivered had he been there as originally planned.
Coogler, whose “Fruitvale Station” won awards at Sundance and Cannes and opens July 12 through The Weinstein Company, touched the crowd in accepting this latest honor, which he said feels different because “it is family.” The film was produced with the aid of the Sundance Institute and has certainly become a point of pride for Redford and the goals of the Sundance Lab and all they are able to provide to nascent filmmakers.
“I am a storyteller,” Coogler said. “Cinema is a format of telling a story that is so immersive that it works like no other medium. And through that storytelling process human beings are able to connect with people that they otherwise would never have come in contact with in their entire lives. That’s why supporting filmmakers who may have different perspectives is so important.”
Cast members Michael B. Jordan, Octavia Spencer and Melonie Diaz were also in attendance. Check out pics below.