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by Alison Willmore
September 20, 2012 2:40 PM
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Critic Roger Ebert Will Be Feted By Robert Redford at a 'Celebrate Sundance Institute' Benefit Next Year

Roger Ebert is getting two thumbs up from the Sundance Institute. The journalist and critic will be presented with the Vanguard Leadership Award in recognition of his advocacy of indie cinema by the organization's president and founder Robert Redford.

The award presentation is set to take place at the third annual Celebrate Sundance Institute benefit on June 5, 2013 in Los Angeles, an event chaired by Institute Trustee Lyn Lear and her husband, Norman.

Since 1967, Ebert has written a film review column for the Chicago Sun-Times -- his reviews were syndicated in more than 200 newspapers worldwide as of 2010. He co-hosted "Sneak Previews," "At the Movies with Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert" and "Siskel and Ebert and The Movies" for a combined 23 years with Gene Siskel. The pair secured multiple Emmy Award nominations.

Ebert's written more than 15 books and since 1999 has hosted the annual Roger Ebert's Film Festival in Champaign, Illinois. Covering the Sundance Film Festival, he discovered and championed films like "Man Push Cart," "Come Early Morning," "Longtime Companion," "Metropolitan," "The Brothers McMullen," "Crumb," "Picture Bride," "American Movie" and "The War Zone."

Of the critic, Redford said, “Among the many things I admire about Roger Ebert is how he has long supported freedom of artistic expression. When I started Sundance in 1980, and when few would support us, Roger was there. This was one of the ways he communicated his forward-thinking outlook. He was one of the first to support our artists. His influence and reach is as meaningful as his personal passion for cinema, and he certainly deserves this award.”

Keri Putnam, Executive Director of the Sundance Institute, added, “Roger Ebert’s impact on film culture cannot be understated. For 45 years he has championed great movies from a broad range of artists and used his platform to encourage audiences to explore challenging and unexpected films, including many that premiered at our Sundance Film Festival. The Vanguard Leadership Award is our way of thanking him for helping us support the important works of risk-taking independent artists.”

Ebert will be the second recipient of the Vanguard Leadership Award -- the first was presented this year to philanthropist and Sundance Institute Trustee George Gund. The Institute also present the Vanguard Award, which includes a cash grant and mentorship from industry professionals and Feature Film Program staff, to an emerging artist with creative independence. The first-ever Vanguard Award was presented this year to Benh Zeitlin, director of "Beasts of the Southern Wild."

The Vanguard Awards were founded last year to mark the 30th anniversary of the Sundance Institute Feature Film Program and its founding director, Michelle Satter. Proceeds from the Celebrate Sundance Institute benefit will go toward the Sundance Institute, a non-profit that runs year-round programs for artists, including Labs, grants and the festival.

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