Boots Riley to Receive Sundance Vanguard Award

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Boots Riley from the band "The Coup" performs during day 3 of the Coachella Music Festival held at the Empire Polo Field on April 29, 2007 in Indio, California.  ( Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

The Sundance Institute announced Tuesday that it's honoring Boots Riley, the Oakland rapper-turned-director behind the sci-fi film Sorry To Bother You, with the Vanguard Award for emerging artists.

Sorry to Bother You is Riley's directorial debut, and the award puts him in company with previous winners Dee Rees, director of Mudbound; and Birth Of A Nation director Nate Parker.

Riley's film gets its nationwide release on July 6 and critics are already describing it as "the most surreal, important sci-fi movie in years." Starring Lakeith Stanfield (Get Out) and Tessa Thompson (Creed, Selma), the film follows an African-American telemarketer in Oakland who becomes successful after developing a white accent.

Before making Sorry To Bother You, 47-year-old Riley was best known as a rapper with the Coup and the Street Sweeper Social Club.


Sundance will honor Riley and screen his new film on July 14 at the Ace Hotel in Los Angeles. Tickets for the event range from $40 to $500, and proceeds go to grants and other programs at the Sundance Institute. Films such as Fruitvale Station, The Diary Of A Teenage Girl, and Riley's own movie all received assistance from the institute's screenwriter's and director's labs.

Watch the trailer for Sorry To Bother You below: