'CODA' Smashes Sundance Record As 2021 Film Festival Concludes With Awards

Feb 3, 2021

A still from CODA by Siân Heder, an official selection of the U.S. Dramatic Competition at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.
Credit Courtesy of Sundance Institute

The Sundance Institute handed out its awards for the 2021 edition of its film festival on Tuesday, and this time around, there was a clear winner. 


A U.S. Dramatic feature called “CODA,” named after the acronym for “child of deaf adults,” proved to be a smash hit. The film set a Sundance Film Festival record by winning the Audience Award, the top prize for Directing, Best Ensemble Cast, which included Oscar-winning actress Marlee Matlin, and the Grand Jury Prize.


The director of “CODA,” Siân Heder, was ecstatic at the end of the evening.


“Oh my God…..That….Oh, my God…I’m so excited….I’m so moved ….I want to try and sign and talk at the same time, but it’s hard,” she said.


Some of her collaborators conveyed their thanks to the audience by signing in American Sign Language. One of them joked that he wasn’t speechless, he was ‘handless.”


In the U.S. Documentary category, the film “Summer of Soul” looked back at a lost historical gathering—the Harlem Cultural Festival, which attracted 300,000 people the same summer as Woodstock in 1969. The film, directed by musician Ahmir ‘Questlove” Thompson, won both the Audience Award and the Grand Jury Prize.


In the World Cinema category, the drama “Hive,” about a single mother dealing with the aftermath of the war in Kosovo, won the Grand Jury Prize, the Audience Award, and a Directing Award for filmmaker Blerta Basholli.


The Grand Jury Prize for World Documentary went to “Flee,” a story told in animation about a Middle-Eastern refugee in Europe. The Audience Award in that program went to “Writing With Fire,” about female journalists in India.


The awards concluded a six-day event that was conducted entirely online. The host, comedian Patton Oswalt, joked about a festival that had to adapt to a pandemic.


“I really wish there was a Sundance this year, if only to watch the war between the Pfizer and Moderna suites, trying to woo all the cool celebs to use their vaccine,” Oswalt remarked. “Hey, Pfizer is 99.9 percent effective, and comes with a Vera Wang headmask and a Goop candle. Hey, A-listers! Come to the Moderna suite, get your vaccine, and stay for Grey Goose jello shots with Tik Tok top influencers and guest D.J. Dr. Fauci. But let’s start the show, because I have a busy evening later, because, of course, I’m hosting Slamdance on the WiFi that they’ll be stealing from you.”


Festival Director Tabitha Jackson congratulated Sundance’s staff, its filmmakers and the audience.


“So, we made it,” she said. “We partied on a spaceship. We looked up. We looked around. We looked at each other. The stories were told. The connections were made. And we were here, together.”