He joins the non-profit after a two-year stint as the director of the New York Film Festival, which he guided through a global pandemic. He takes the reins following the departure of Tabitha Jackson, who announced that she was stepping down as the director of the the Sundance Film Festival in June after two years in the post.
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It’s a time of change at Sundance, which has been forced to go virtual in 2021 and in 2022 due to rising cases of COVID and the omicron surge. Sundance recently announced it will return in-person next year with an online component. Not only did Jackson leave the organization, but in 2021, long-time Sundance Institute CEO Kari Putnam stepped down and was replaced by Joana Vicente, the former executive director and co-head of the Toronto International Film Festival.
Hernandez spent 12 years at Film at Lincoln Center (FLC), the organization behind the New York Film Festival. As the director of the New York Film Festival, Hernandez brought the event back in-person in 2021 and expanded its footprint by hosting events around the city and beyond its Lincoln Center base. He joined Film at Lincoln Center in 2010 as the director of digital strategy and began leading strategy and special programs for the organization in 2014 when he was promoted to deputy director. Prior to that move, Hernandez was the co-founder and editor-in-chief of IndieWire, which, like Variety, is also owned by Penske Media Company.
“Sundance’s decades of leadership, championing artistic discovery and independent expression, was a landmark catalyst in my life. Nearly 30 years ago, looking for direction and curious, I went to the Sundance Film Festival for the first time. I immediately connected with its mission, and it changed my life,” said Hernandez. “I’m both energized and humbled to accept this opportunity to join Sundance. Supporting artists has been at the center of my career’s work, and for the last twelve years, I’ve had the privilege of growing and learning at Film at Lincoln Center and the New York Film Festival. I’m ready for this inspiring challenge and unique opportunity to engage artists and audiences at Sundance, work with its best-in-the-business team, and follow in the footsteps of exceptional leaders.”
Hernandez’s impact won’t be felt immediately. The upcoming 2023 festival is being led by Vicente, working closely with Director of Programming Kim Yutani and the organization’s leadership team. Hernandez’s first time leading the festival as its director will be in 2024, which marks the 40th anniversary of Sundance. He will join Sundance Institute’s leadership team this November and will report to Vicente. Hernandez will be based between the Institute’s New York and Los Angeles offices while also working in the Park City office.
“It’s a full circle moment as Eugene has been inextricably connected to Sundance for more than 25 years, ever since he came to the Festival in the mid-1990s to build Indiewire, an online community for indie film. He’s been at the forefront of supporting independent artists and deeply invested in the careers of storytellers and the field as a whole,” said Joana Vicente, Sundance Institute CEO. “I am thrilled that he will be the next festival director and that he is joining the Institute’s leadership team. I look forward to working closely with him as he leads the festival and builds out our public programming — shaping critical conversations all year round, supporting our artist community, and expanding the possibilities for Sundance audiences and artists alike. He joins at a critical time in the industry for independent filmmakers when the Institute has never played a more important role for artists, audiences, and the field in total.”
“Supporting independent artists has always been the bedrock of the Institute and the fuel behind the Festival. The fact that we have been able to hold true to this core purpose is a testament to the vitality of the Institute and to the Festival’s platform as a place to discover new films, ideas, and artists. For almost three decades, Eugene has been working on a parallel path with many of the same values and objectives in mind. I’m so pleased to have him serve as our new festival director, helping to support a new generation of artists, and taking us into the next decade of Sundance’s story,” said Sundance Institute founder Robert Redford.