Sundance Film Festival names Eugene Hernandez director

NEW YORK (AP) — After three years as the festival director of the New York Film Festival, Eugene Hernandez has been tapped to lead the Sundance Film Festival.

The Sundance Institute announced Wednesday that Hernandez will become the festival’s fourth director in its nearly four-decade history, in addition to heading the institute’s year-round public programming.

Before trading Lincoln Center for Park City, Utah, Hernandez will remain with the New York Film Festival through its upcoming edition, which kicks off Sept. 30. He will start his new position with Sundance in November, but 2024’s Sundance — its 40th — will be his first to lead.

“Sundance’s decades of leadership, championing artistic discovery and independent expression, was a landmark catalyst in my life,” said Hernandez in a statement. “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.”

January’s Sundance Film Festival — its first in-person festival in three years — is being shepherded by Joana Vicente, Sundance Institute chief executive, and Kim Yutani, director of programming, after the departure in June by Tabitha Jackson. Jackson, who succeeded longtime director John Cooper, was the first woman and first person of color to lead America’s premier independent film festival. She served as festival director for two years, a pandemic span that saw Sundance mount successive virtual editions. January’s Sundance will feature a smaller on-demand streaming component to launch halfway through the Park City festival.

Hernandez has been with Film at Lincoln Center since 2010, when he became head of digital strategy. He was previously co-founder and editor-in-chief of IndieWire. His time running the New York Film Festival also corresponded with the pandemic. In that period, the festival expanded its footprint through the five boroughs of New York, holding drive-ins around the city in a COVID-marred 2020 festival before a 2021 comeback edition.

“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,” said Vincente in a statement. “He’s been at the forefront of supporting independent artists and deeply invested in the careers of storytellers and the field as a whole.”

“For almost three decades, Eugene has been working on a parallel path with many of the same values and objectives in mind,” said Robert Redford, founder of the Sundance Institute. “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.”

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