Tribeca Film Institute and Heineken USA on Saturday [20] announced that the public had elected Ava DuVernay to receive the inaugural Heineken Affinity Award.

The award is given to an African-American filmmaker aged 21 and over “to empower and encourage them to continue to craft stories through film.”

DuVernay, whose Middle Of Nowhere premiered at Sundance 2012, receives a $20,000 cash prize and year-round support and professional development from TFI for her future projects.

DuVernay’s upcoming project Part Of The Sky is in development. She is the founder of the African-American Film Festival Releasing Movement (AFFRM). 

Saturday’s announcement said hundreds of thousands of members of the public cast their votes from Jan 15-Mar 31 on a website dedicated to the Heineken Affinity Award.

“We could not be more pleased to name such a talented and dedicated filmmaker as the winner of the first ever Heineken Affinity Award,” said Heineken USA’s brand director of sponsorships and events Pattie Falch. “Heineken offers exceptional and unique experiences to our consumers and Ava does the same with her creative vision.”

“Our partnership with Heineken on the Affinity Award allows TFI to broaden our support of working filmmakers from communities that are underrepresented in the film industry,” said TFI executive director Beth Janson. “We were excited to see such an incredible range of talent and diverse voices in this inaugural group of filmmakers. We look forward to supporting many more artists in the years to come and we thank Heineken for their dedication to the field.”