Christopher Nolan, Kristen Stewart, and More Honored at 2024 Sundance Film Festival’s Opening Night Gala: Celebrating 40 Years - AmNews Curtain Raiser


Friday, January 19, 2024

Christopher Nolan, Kristen Stewart, and More Honored at 2024 Sundance Film Festival’s Opening Night Gala: Celebrating 40 Years

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Christopher Nolan, Kristen Stewart, and More Honored at 2024 Sundance Film Festival’s Opening Night Gala: Celebrating 40 Years 

Presented by Chase Sapphire®
Annual Event Celebrated Independent Storytellers and Raised Funds to Support the Sundance Institute’s Year-round Programs

Last night, the Sundance Institute kicked off the 40th annual Sundance Film Festival with Opening Night Gala: Celebrating 40 Years Presented by Chase Sapphire, held at the DeJoria Center in Utah. The annual event honored inspiring and breakout storytellers whose journeys have been connected to Sundance. The event raised funds to enable Sundance Institute’s year-round support for independent artists through labs, grants, and public programming that nurture artists globally.

The evening honored the following storytellers:

Christopher Nolan received the inaugural Sundance Institute Trailblazer Award, which recognizes an artist’s unwavering dedication and notable contributions to the field of independent film. Oppenheimer star Robert Downey Jr. presented Nolan with the award. 
Downey Jr. joked that Nolan “confidentially, needs his spirits lifted right now” due to the tragedy of “recently becoming recognizable on the street.” He praised Nolan’s body of work, including Memento, which premiered at Sundance 23 years ago, and the more recent Tenet, “which I can explain, having watched it backward and forward on screens simultaneously.”

Nolan reflected on what makes Sundance special for him. “It’s the audience. The two weeks or so in which filmmaking doesn’t mean a business model, it means an aspiration for filmmakers... It tells you what you’re supposed to be doing, what your real purpose is.”
Nolan also praised Emma Thomas, “who has produced all my films, and all my children.”

Kristen Stewart received the Visionary Award in recognition of her profound work as an actor that exemplifies the bold, risk-taking storytelling that Sundance has championed for many years. This year Stewart stars in two films at the festival, Love Me and Love Lies Bleeding. Jesse Eisenberg, who previously co-starred with Stewart in the Sundance film Adventureland, presented Stewart with the award. 
“Kristen is one of these rare performers that is so committed, so authentic, so feeling, that you want to make sure she's ok at the end of the day,” said Eisenberg.

The annual Vanguard Awards presented by Acura honor artists whose work highlights the art of storytelling and creative independence in both nonfiction and fiction. Celine Song, director and writer of Past Lives, received the Vanguard Award for Fiction, presented to her by producer Christine Vachon. Maite Alberdi, director of The Eternal Memory, received the Vanguard Award for Nonfiction, presented to her by Jodie Foster.

“Maite has already impressed us with her unique artistry and I have no doubt there is more to come,” Foster said. 

“I am enormously grateful that Sundance has expanded the scope of this award to apply to documentary and nonfiction films,” Alberdi said. “Here, my documentaries have been understood as films.”
“Only a storyteller like Celine would be able to reach audiences across the globe, showing us that we are all deeply connected,” Vachon said.
“I’ll never forget being here for the first time last year, waiting to intro my film to the world,” Song said. “Sundance is the place that launched my career as a filmmaker, is a home for Past Lives, and a home for me in the deepest way.”

Pat Mitchell, former Sundance Institute Board Chair and trustee, received the Vanguard Award for Philanthropy in recognition of her exemplary commitment to the Institute’s support and to philanthropy for social impact. Former President of Ireland, Mary Robinson presented Mitchell with the award. 

“Pat is always there for other women. For gender equality, women’s empowerment, women’s leadership, young women, indigenous women,” Robinson said. “This is part of why Pat is such a warm recipient of this award. We know how well she deserves it.” 
Mitchell thanked her family, friends, and ‘“my sisters in the neverending struggles for equality” 
Sundance Institute CEO Joana Vicente and Sundance Board Chair Ebs Burnough welcomed the honorees and notable guests including Emma Thomas, Darren Aronofsky, Jason Blum, Jennifer Grey, Rory Kennedy, Roger Ross Williams, Danny Ramirez, Ondi Timoner, Lío Mehiel, and more. 

This year’s event was made possible with the generous support of Chase Sapphire, the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation, Acura, and Google TV. The 40th edition of the Sundance Film Festival is being held in Park City and Salt Lake City, Utah through January 28, 2024, as well as online from January 25–28, 2024.


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