NWFFest is proud to present our 2022 VANGUARD AWARD honoree...

Ry Russo-Young

for her achievement in film, including her critically acclaimed documentary series, Nuclear Family.

Ry Russo-Young

Ry Russo-Young (born November 16, 1981) is a bold and innovative director and writer whose work defies traditional limitations in filmmaking. Her early independent work has been associated with the mumblecore genre, though she has gone on to direct the wide release features Before I Fall (2017) and The Sun Is Also a Star (2019) as well as the HBO documentary Nuclear Family and other film and television projects.

Her 2005 short film Marion won several awards including a Silver Hugo for Best Experimental Short at the Chicago International Film Festival. Her first feature, Orphans, won a special jury prize at South by Southwest in 2007. Her films Nobody Walks and You Wont Miss Me appeared at the Sundance Film Festival. Nobody Walks won a special jury prize and was released by Magnolia Pictures in 2014. You Wont Miss Me won a Gotham Award for Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You. She also appeared as an actress in Joe Swanberg's Hannah Takes the Stairs and Alex Ross Perry's The Color Wheel.

Russo-Young directed Before I Fall, based on the book by Lauren Oliver. The film stars Zoey Deutch, Halston Sage, Logan Miller, and Jennifer Beals, and was released by Open Road Films in 2017. Before I Fall premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2017 and also had a special screening at the Next Wave 17 Toronto International Film Festival in February 2017.

Russo-Young's next feature as director is The Sun Is Also a Star, adapted from Nicola Yoon’s novel of the same name. The film stars Yara Shahidi, Charles Melton, and John Leguizamo, and was co-produced by MGM and Warner Brothers. The film follows high school student Natasha Kingsely (Shahidi) who falls for Daniel Bae (Melton) the day before she is to be deported. It was released on May 17, 2019.

In 2018, Russo-Young directed three episodes of the Netflix original series Everything Sucks!, as well as episodes of Sweetbitter, and Marvel's Cloak & Dagger.  Russo-Young's You Wont Miss Me won a Gotham Award for Best Film Not Coming to Theater Near You.

In 2015, Russo-Young won a Creative Capital award for her film, The Family Movie. which evolved over several years into a 3-part documentary series. Released in 2021 on HBO, Russo-Young directed and appeared in the film, retitled Nuclear Family. The documentary explores the landmark custody dispute that hinged on the parental rights of her two mothers (a same-sex couple) and the interests of her biological father.

 In 2022, Nuclear Family was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award, a GLAAD Media Award, and a Peabody Award.

Through this three-part documentary series, Nuclear Family, Ry Russo-Young examines how the power of love, the terror of loss, and the universal pull of family sent a shockwave through her life as a young girl—and how its echoes have reverberated all the way up to today. At a time when being gay or lesbian seemed to mean you had given up the right to have children and a family, Ry was born to two lesbian moms through a sperm donor. Their idyllic life was threatened by an unexpected lawsuit, culminating in a landmark decision that would change the way gay families are viewed evermore. Featuring a lifetime of home videos, press and interviews, the series tracks the arc of Ry’s relationship with her donor—from idealization to villainy and, ultimately, to loss and understanding. Her story, in all its particularity, is also a universal exploration of love, hate, and the universal pull of family.