Sundance Institute chooses co-head of Toronto’s film festival as new CEO

Vicente has also produced independent movies, several of which have screened at the Sundance Film Festival.

A veteran independent movie producer and current co-head of the Toronto International Film Festival will take over the reins of the Sundance Institute.

Joana Vicente, executive director and co-head of the prestigious Toronto festival, has been selected by Sundance’s board of directors to be CEO of the nonprofit arts group Robert Redford founded in 1981 to support independent storytellers. She will start at Sundance in November.

Vicente “comes to Sundance as a true champion of preserving, discovering, incubating and encouraging independent artistry in all forms,” the leaders of Sundance’s search committee — Pat Mitchell, who is chair of Sundance’s board of trustees, and chair-elect Ebs Burnough — said in a statement. “The world’s storytellers are more connected than ever, and Joana’s international background is vital as we look to integrate ourselves with independent artists on an even greater scale globally.”

Redford, in a statement, noted that the Sundance Institute has “a very specific mission to foster independence, risk-taking, and new and diverse voices in storytelling. Throughout her entire career, it is evident that Joana shares this same uncompromising vision.”

Redford cited Vicente’s “deep understanding of the evolving landscape,” and her ability to “reach a new generation of independent creators working more fluidly across disciplines, communicating across borders, and engaging directly with audiences.”

Vicente succeeds Keri Putnam, who was Sundance’s CEO for 11 years, and announced in March that she would be leaving in August.

At Sundance, Vicente will lead some 200 full-time employees at the institute’s offices in Los Angeles, New York and Park City, Utah — which is also home to the Sundance Film Festival. She will oversee the institute’s year-round artists programs, the film festival, the online Sundance Collab and other programs, while also continuing Sundance’s advocacy work and advancing Sundance’s commitment to inclusion and equity.

Vicente, who was born and grew up in Portugal, has brought several titles to the festival as a producer, and brought four of her films through the institute’s lab programs.

“Sundance has been an essential part of my career — I feel that I grew up as a producer with the support of the festival and the Sundance labs,” Vicente said in a statement. “I have always felt that Sundance was a home for me, and this opportunity makes me feel as if I am going back home.”

She said the job “combines all of my passions: film, working with storytellers throughout the world, and leading mission-driven organizations.”

(Sundance Institute) Joana Vicente — seen here when she was on the jury for the World Cinema Dramatic competition for the 2013 Sundance Film Festival — has been selected to be the Sundance Institute's CEO, the institute announced Sept. 29, 2021. Vicente, a veteran independent film producer, has been co-head of the Toronto International Film Festival since November 2018.

Her first feature-film credit is as associate producer on Todd Solondz’s 1995 coming-of-age drama “Welcome to the Dollhouse,” which won the Grand Jury Prize for U.S. Dramatic films. She was a producer, with her husband Jason Kliot, on the 1999 Grand Jury Prize winner, Tony Bui’s Vietnam-set drama “Three Seasons.”

Other Sundance festival titles for which Vicente received a production credit include: Miguel Arteta’s 2000 drama “Chuck & Buck,” the 2000 reality-show satire “Series 7: The Contenders,” and Alex Gibney’s first documentary, 2005′s Oscar-nominated “Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room.”

Other films on which Vicente has worked include Jim Jarmusch’s 2003 comedy anthology “Coffee and Cigarettes” and Nadine Labaki’s Oscar-nominated 2018 refugee drama “Capernaum.”

Vicente and Kliot have co-founded three production companies: Open City Films, Blow Up Pictures and HDNet Films (with billionaire Mark Cuban and his business partner, Todd Wagner).

From 2009 until 2018, Vicente was executive director of the Independent Filmmaker Project, an incubator for up-and-coming artists making movies outside the Hollywood studio system. That organization is also known for giving out the IFP Gotham Awards.

Since November 2018, Vicente has been executive director of the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), and serves as co-head alongside artistic director Cameron Bailey. Toronto is the largest film festival in North America, screening hundreds of films every September and serving as one of the launchpads for prestige pictures seeking award-season recognition.

In a separate statement issued by TIFF, Bailey said that “working so closely with Joana has been a pleasure. Her global perspective and strategic approach have been invaluable to our work on festival and our year-round activities.”

Jennifer Tory, chair of TIFF’s board of directors, noted that Vicente and Bailey organized two festivals during the COVID-19 pandemic, and that “Joana has helped us navigate this new reality while delivering the groundbreaking and industry-leading work TIFF has always been known for.”

Tory also acknowledged Vicente’s “desire to return to her career in independent film and reunite with family in the U.S. after the pandemic has separated families across borders for so long.”

Sundance and TIFF are working together to give Vicente a seamless transition to her new job, both organizations said.