Three of the top jury prizes at this year’s Sundance Film Festival were presented to Black women. Filmmakers Radha Blank, Garrett Bradley and Maïmouna Doucouré each walked away with coveted directing awards for their submissions. They were each featured in three separate high-profile categories.
Blank’s The 40-Year-Old Version won U.S. Dramatic competition prize. She is the second Black woman to receive the award (Ava DuVernay was the first when she won for 2012’s Middle of Nowhere). Bradley’s Time won in the U.S. Documentary competition and Doucouré’s Cuties won in the World Cinema Dramatic competition. Traditionally, Sundance Film Festival success leads to greater exposure for projects and the creators behind them.
According to Variety, Blank was genuinely surprised when the grand jury panel of Ethan Hawke, Wash Westmoreland and Rodrigo Garcia presented her with the prize. She reportedly gave an impromptu speech intended to prevent other creatives from allowing ageism to discourage them. “Anybody who feels there’s an expiration on a passion, f— that shit. If it’s in you to be a rapper, a parent, a director in your 40s, do that sh–,” she said. Later, she posted on Instagram that she was “still processing.”
Bradley’s Time, a film is about the impact of a lengthy sentence on people on both sides of the prison system, FaceTimed with its subject, Fox Rich, from the stage. She is the first Black woman to ever win in the U.S. Documentary category.
Doucouré used her moment to take a well-timed jab at those who suggested her womanhood might obscure her artistic point of view.
“I want to say I’m here more feminine than ever, and I’ve just won this wonderful prize at Sundance with my first film. As Oprah Winfrey says, ‘You become what you believe.’ Ladies, just believe, and we will become.”