By Matt Singer | Criticwire May 9, 2013 at 3:16PM
Per a press release, the Sundance Institute will honor late film critic Roger Ebert with their Vanguard Leadership Award at a benefit in Los Angeles on June 5th. The award will be presented to Ebert's wife Chaz.
Sundance's Vanguard Awards were created in 2011 to celebrate the Sundance Institute's 30th anniversary; its first recipient was "Beasts of the Southern Wild" director Benh Zeitlin. This year, Ebert will be honored alongside filmmaker Ryan Coogler, whose "Fruitvale Station" won the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival.
Ebert will be the second recipient of the Vanguard Leadership award after Sundance Institute Trustee George Gund. Here's Mr. Sundance himself, Robert Redford, on Ebert's role in the world of indie film:
"Roger Ebert was one of the great champions of freedom of artistic expression. When the power of independent film was still unknown and few would support it, Roger was there for our artists. His personal passion for cinema was boundless, and that is sure to be his legacy for generations to come."
It may be worth noting that one of the YouTube clips that was most circulated after Ebert's death took place at the Sundance Film Festival. During the Q&A after the world premiere of Justin Lin's "Better Luck Tomorrow" in 2002, an audience member stood up and scolded Lin and his cast for wasting their talent on such an "amoral movie for Asian Americans." In response, Roger Ebert launched into a passionate defense of the movie and its right to exist:
Most of the television coverage of the Sundance Film Festival revolves around stars: celebrity interviews and reviews of highly anticipated titles featuring famous actors. But in 1994, Ebert and Gene Siskel devoted a segment of "Siskel & Ebert" to a Sundance movie with no stars and no name recognition before it even premiered at the festival. That movie was "Hoop Dreams."
Once again, here was Ebert (and Siskel) using his power to spotlight movies that needed attention, rather than simply covering movies that would bring attention to their show.
Those are just two of the most famous examples; over the years, Ebert filed countless reviews and articles from the Sundance Film Festival, helping to start young director's careers and bring new, exciting films to wider audiences. You could say Ebert was at his best at Sundance. It's good to see him honored for that.