Sundance Names Eugene Hernandez Festival Director and Head of Public Programming

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The Sundance Film Festival has found a new director and just the fourth in its history, with Sundance Institute appointing New York Film Festival director Eugene Hernandez as its new festival director and head of public programming.

Hernandez joins the Sundance Institute beginning in November, reporting to CEO Joana Vicente, but he will officially begin leading the Sundance Film Festival as director starting with the 2024 edition, which also happens to be Sundance’s upcoming 40th Anniversary. He takes over from Tabitha Jackson, who exited in June.

2023’s festival is already well in the works and is being led by Vicente working closely with director of programming Kim Yutani, along with the Sundance Institute leadership team.

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Hernandez joins Sundance from Film at Lincoln Center (FLC), where he has worked the last 12 years, most recently as SVP of FLC, executive director of NYFF and publisher of Film Comment. This fall’s upcoming NYFF taking place between Sept. 30 through Oct. 16, will be his last after stepping into the role in 2020 and navigating the complexities of COVID in that time. He will be based between the New York and Los Angeles offices and also work in the Park City office.

Hernandez in his role will lead the Sundance Institute’s year round public programming while amplifying the importance of independent film and media. He will be responsible for guiding and overseeing the festival’s overall vision and strategy while collaborating with Yutani and the programming team, as well as the leadership team, to further the artistic vision of the Sundance Film Festival. He will lead the planning and execution of the Festival, working with senior leaders across the organization on the fest’s in-person and online elements. He will also shape the Institute’s public programming globally and locally, both physically and digitally.

“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,” Joana Vicente, Sundance Institute CEO, said in a statement. “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.”

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“Supporting independent artists has always been the bedrock of the Institute and the fuel behind the Festival,” Sundance Institute founder Robert Redford said in a statement. “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.”

Hernandez 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. Before joining the FLC, Hernandez was the co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of IndieWire, which he helped build over 15 years. He is a Member-at-Large of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and serves on the board of advisors for SXSW, SeriesFest and Art House Convergence, which Sundance has supported. Additionally, he has worked extensively as a consultant for several nonprofits, written for major print and online publications and annually participates in the international film festival circuit as a panelist and a juror, including the 2015 Sundance Film Festival.

“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,” Hernandez said in a statement. “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.”

Sundance 2023 runs from Jan. 19-29. The hybrid festival will be back in person in Utah, and will have an online component as well.

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