The Forty-Year-Old Version Writer, Director and Actor Radha Blank to Be Honored With 2020 Sundance Vanguard Award

Director Radha Blank speaks at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival - “The 40-Year-Old Version” Premiere on January 25, 2020.
Director Radha Blank speaks at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival - “The 40-Year-Old Version” Premiere on January 25, 2020.
Photo: Cindy Ord/Getty Images (Getty Images)

The incredibly talented force known as Radha Blank is 2020’s Sundance Vanguard Award recipient.


Blank’s feature film directorial debut, The Forty-Year-Old Version made its world premiere at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival and was later acquired by Netflix. The multi-hyphenate not only directed the Sundance darling but wrote and starred in it, too.

The award, presented by Acura, “honors artists whose work and vision represent the highest level of breakthrough innovation, originality, and independent spirit, as fostered in the Institute’s Feature Film Program under Satter’s leadership over its 30-year history.” Blank will join other Black-ass recipients of this award, including Ryan Coogler (2013), Nate Parker (2016), Dee Rees (2017), and Boots Riley (2018).

“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,” Blank said in a statement. “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!”

Here’s some background info on Blank’s successes this year as well as her breakout feature film (which I highly recommend you watch on Netflix if you haven’t already), via the official press release sent to The Root:

Radha was honored with the Directing Award, U.S. Dramatic after The Forty-Year-Old Version had its world premiere in the U.S. Dramatic Competition category at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. Sundance support for the project included development at the Screenwriters Lab, Directors Lab, Creative Producing Summit and Catalyst Forum, as part of the Institute’s programs that discovers, supports and amplifies risk-taking and exciting independent artists across film, theatre and media. Radha recently received 2 Gotham Award nominations, the Bingham Ray Breakthrough Director Award and for Best Screenplay, and was also named by Variety as one of the 10 Directors to Watch in 2020.

The Forty-Year-Old Version is a hilariously candid and deeply personal debut from writer/director Radha Blank. Radha, a down-on-her-luck NY playwright, is desperate for a breakthrough before 40. But when she foils what seems like her last shot at success, she’s left with no choice but to reinvent herself as rapper RadhaMUSPrime. The Forty-Year-Old Version follows Radha as she vacillates between the worlds of Hip Hop and theater on a quest to find her true voice. A fresh addition to the New York City slice-of-life canon shot in lush black and white 35mm, Blank’s film is an ode to the unfulfilled, and those whose adversity gives them a one-of-a-kind story to tell.


“Radha’s singular vision, unique voice and comedic tone were immediately captivating,” Sundance Feature Film Program Founding Director Michelle Satter said in a statement. “We were proud to offer Rahda the time and space to grow her skills as a writer, director and actor at our Labs. She developed the script with the support of enthusiastic advisors and her creative process was as gratifying to watch as getting to see the premiere at the most recent Sundance Film Festival. We are very excited to celebrate Radha on December 2, and honor her visionary talent with our 2020 Vanguard Award.”

The 2020 Sundance Vanguard Award ceremony will be held virtually on Dec. 2 at 5:30 pm. PT / 8:30 p.m. ET and will feature a one-on-one conversation presented by Sundance Collab between Blank and 2019 Vanguard Award recipient Lulu Wang (The Farewell). The ceremony will also feature Octavia Spencer, who served as one of Blank’s advisors during the Sundance Institute Lab (where Blank developed The Forty-Year-Old Version).


You can register now (for free) to attend the 2020 Sundance Vanguard Award ceremony at Congrats to Radha! Well deserved.

Staff Writer, Entertainment at The Root. Sugar, spice & everything rice. Equipped with the uncanny ability to make a Disney reference and a double entendre in the same sentence.