Every year, at least one film from Sundance ascends to become the festival darling– from Precious in 2009 to Whiplash in 2014 to Oscar-hopeful Minari last year.
This year, that unofficial designation goes to CODA, a coming-of-age-drama that stars Mexican superstar Eugenio Derbez (Instructions Not Included) in a key supporting role. The film, which is based on the French dramedy La Famille Bélier, tells the story of Ruby Rossi (Emilia Jones), the only hearing child in a deaf family who is torn between her obligations to them and her dreams of becoming a singer. Derbez plays Bernardo Villalobos, the school’s choir teacher who recognizes the immense talent Ruby possesses and encourages her to apply to a top-notch music school.
Derbez, who had seen the original French movie, was forced to turned down the role a couple of times because of conflicts in his schedule. He was finally able to say yes when they came back to him three months later to see if he was still interested in the character.
“When something’s meant to be, it’s meant to be,” Derbez told Deadline during a virtual panel discussion at Sundance. “It was one of the best experiences of my career.”
This past weekend, Apple purchased CODA for $25 million, a record at Sundance. The film then went on to become the first in Sundance history to win the Grand Jury Prize, Directing Award, and Audience Award in the U.S. Dramatic category. The film also won a Special Jury Prize for Best Ensemble, which includes Derbez.
If Sundance is any indication, CODA will have plenty more accolades coming its way as the year continues.