Radha Blank’s 40-Year-Old Version Ignites Year of Black Women Stories Celebrated at Sundance in 2020

A still from A Love Song For Latasha by Sophia Nahli Allison, an official selection of the Shorts Programs at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Sophia Nahli Allison. All photos are copyrighted and may be used by press only for the purpose of news or editorial coverage of Sundance Institute programs. Photos must be accompanied by a credit to the photographer and/or 'Courtesy of Sundance Institute.' Unauthorized use, alteration, reproduction or sale of logos and/or photos is strictly prohibited.
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The pandemic couldn’t steal the pure joy of witnessing playwright Radha Blank gaining accolades for being a genius storyteller and gaining worldwide recognition for her first film 40-Year-Old Version (F.Y.O.V). Radha Blank recently earned Sundance’s Vanguard Award, which is bestowed upon an “artist who embodies the innovation, originality and independent spirit” that the festival was founded on. You can catch F.Y.O.V. on Netflix — it’s an inspiring comedy and art house film that captures the character of old gritty New York City as a backdrop for pursuing one’s dreams.

An iconic film shot on black and white film, Blank shares a refreshingly honest story of a struggling 40-year-old artist balancing her desires to gain success in the theater and performance world without selling out to “poverty porn.” It’s a fierce story about a woman telling her own story without sacrificing her art to producers who often insert their interests and control over the final production.

“If you have a vision or whatever your dream is, you need to stick to it. Regardless of the naysayers, if you are clear in your vision and know who you are at some point someone is going to cross your path that is going to help you to help that vision manifest,” says Stacey Sergeant, an actress in F.Y.O.V.

Blank’s award-winning script for The 40-Year-Old Version was chosen for the 2017 Sundance Institute Directors and Screenwriters Lab. When not writing, Blank performs as RadhaMUSprime, whose brand of hip-hop comedy has sold out shows globally. Variety named her one of “10 directors to watch for 2020.” 

African Voices magazine’s short interview with actress Stacey Sergeant, a cast member of 40-Year-Old Version, at a house party held during the film’s Sundance premiere. The party was held by the Open Society and Color of Change on Jan. 25, 2020.

Blank’s 40-Year-Old Version was one of several top films written and directed by Black women to gain wide appeal at the Sundance Film Festival in 2020. Below is a list of critically acclaimed Sundance favorites to look out for in the future — we are certain many will get distribution deals.

A still from A Love Song For Latasha by Sophia Nahli Allison, an official selection of the Shorts Programs at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Sophia Nahli Allison.

A Love Song for Latasha

Director: Sophia Nahli Allison Producers: Janice Duncan and Sophia Nail Allison

A Love Song For Latasha is a dreamlike archive in conversation with the past and the present to reimagine a more nuanced narrative of Latasha Harlins by excavating intimate and poetic memories shared by her cousin and best friend.

Fathia Youssouf, Medina El Aidi-Azouni, Esther Gohourou, Ilanah Cami-Goursolas, Myriam Hamma, Demba Diaw, and Maimouna Gueye appear in Cuties by Maïmouna Doucouré, an official selection of the World Cinema Dramatic Competition at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute. Cuties is available on Netflix.

Cuties

Director/Writer: Maïmouna Doucouré Producer: Zangro

Eleven-year-old Amy lives with her mom, Mariam, and younger brother, awaiting her father to rejoin the family from Senegal. Amy is fascinated by disobedient neighbor Angelica’s free-spirited dance clique, a group that stands in sharp contrast to stoic Mariam’s deeply held traditional values. Undeterred by the girls’ initial brutal dismissal and eager to escape her family’s simmering dysfunction, Amy, through an ignited awareness of her burgeoning femininity, propels the group to enthusiastically embrace an increasingly sensual dance routine, sparking the girls’ hope to twerk their way to stardom at a local dance contest.

Nicole Beharie and Alexis Chikaeze appear in Miss Juneteenth by Channing Godfrey Peoples, an official selection of the U.S. Dramatic Competition at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Rambo Elliott.

Miss Juneteenth

Director/Writer: Channing Godfrey Peoples

A former beauty queen and single mom prepares her rebellious teenage daughter for the “Miss Juneteenth” pageant. The film stars Nicole Beharie.

Zola

Director: Janicza Bravo

Zola meets Stefani at a restaurant where Zola waitresses, and the two immediately click over pole dancing. Only a day after they exchange numbers, Stefani invites Zola on a cross-country road trip, where the goal is to make as much money as possible dancing in Florida strip clubs. Zola agrees, and suddenly she is trapped in the craziest, most unexpected trip of her life. Film stars Coleman Domingo.

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