ASCAP Celebrates the Marriage of Music and Film with Performances and Talks at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival

By Erik Philbrook, ASCAP Editor in Chief  •  February 5, 2021

Many things were different at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. But what remained the same was the power of storytelling, the moving image and the marriage of music and film to move audience’s all around the world.


After six days and 73 feature films, the festival’s awards ceremony on Tuesday, February 2nd, honored some of this year’s most impactful and extraordinary films. ASCAP composers whose music graced many of this this year’s winning films included: Marius De Vries (PRS), who scored CODA, winner of multiple awards, including the Audience Award, the Special Jury Award for Best Ensemble, the Directing Award (for Sian Heder) and the Grand Jury Prize, and which made history as the biggest sale in Sundance history; Aaron and Bryce Dessner, who scored Jockey, winner of the Special Jury Award for Acting; and Owen Pallett (SOCAN), who scored On the Count of Three, which won the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award.

In the US Documentary category, ASCAP member Questlove’s directorial debut, Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised), took home the Audience Award and the Grand Jury Prize.

In the World Cinema Documentary category, Jonas Colstrup (KODA) scored President, winner of the Special Jury Award in Verite Filmmaking: Mohammed Zaki (PRS), who scored Sabaya, winner of the Directing Award; and Uno Helmersson, who scored Flee, winner of the Grand Jury Prize.

In the World Cinema Dramatic category, composers involved in winning films included Julien Painot, who scored Hive, winner of the Directing Award, the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award. In addition, Jon Natchez scored Luzzo, winner of the Special Jury Award for Acting, and Vichaya Vatanasapt scored One for the Road, winner of the Special Jury Award for Creative Vision.


Composer Mahmoud Chouki (SACEM) scored Ma Belle, Ma Beauty, which won the NEXT Audience Award Presented by Adobe while John Carroll Kirby scored the animated Cryptozoo, winner of the NEXT Innovator Award Presented by Adobe.


And several ASCAP composers scored many of this year’s winning short films, including: Amanda Glover, who scored Wiggle Room, winner of the Special Jury Award for Acting; Charli Circus (SACEM), who scored The Criminals, winner of the Special Jury Award for Screenwriting; Topaz Jones, who scored Don’t Go Tellin’ Your Momma, winner of the Jury Award (Non Fiction); Robert Ouyan Rusli, who scored Bambirak, winner of the Jury Award (International Fiction); Tim Dewit and CJ Mirra (PRS), who scored Lizard, winner of the Grand Jury Prize.


+Read about all of the ASCAP composers powering the 2021 Sundance Film Festival selections


ASCAP celebrated its more than two decades-long partnership with the festival by presenting two days of its virtual Sundance ASCAP Music Café, featuring outstanding video performances from an eclectic group of songwriters and artists, including Darlingside, Mikel Jollett of The Airborne Toxic Event, Allison Russell of Our Native Daughters and Birds of Chicago, Time for Three, who wrote music with Ben Sollee for Robin Wright’s directorial debut and Sundance film Land, Pedrito Martinez, Hailey Whitters and Devon Gilfillian.


In addition, VERSED: The ASCAP Podcast presented “Screen Time” conversations with Ron and Russell Mael (SPARKS) and director Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Baby Driver). Their film The Sparks Brothers premiered at the festival. Also featured were conversations with two-time Emmy-nominated This Is Us composer Siddhartha Khosla and Emmy-nominated composer Amanda Jones (Home, Twenties); and with Passing composer Devonté Hynes (aka Blood Orange) and the film’s director Rebecca Hall.


ASCAP wrapped up its 2021 celebration of music and film by curating and presenting video highlights of past performances from the Sundance ASCAP Music Café. Featured songwriters and artists included Rufus Wainwright, Sting, Rodriguez (Searching for Sugar Man), David Gray, Jon Batiste & Stay Human, St. Vincent, Chris Stapleton, Lakeith Stanfield (who appeared in this year’s Sundance premiere Judas and the Black Messiah), Brazilian musical icons Seu Jorge and Jaques Morelenbaum and Jorge Aragón, a past participant in the Sundance Composers Lab.


+ See all the content from ASCAP’s 2021 Sundance Film Festival programming

ASCAP @ Sundance 2021

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