New York Film Festival boss picked to run Utah’s Sundance festival

Eugene Hernandez, also co-founder of the movie site IndieWire, will run prestigious event starting in 2024.

(Sundance Institute) Eugene Hernandez will be director of his first Sundance Film Festival in 2024.

The man in charge of the New York Film Festival has been tabbed to be the permanent head of the Sundance Film Festival.

Eugene Hernandez — who has 25 years’ experience in the media and film industry, currently as director of the New York Film Festival, which he navigated through the COVID-19 epidemic — has been hired to be the Sundance Film Festival’s executive director, and to oversee public programming year-round for the Sundance Institute, the institute announced Wednesday.

Hernandez has been with the Film Society at Lincoln Center, the organization that stages the New York Film Festival, for the last 12 years. Before that, he co-founded the movie industry news site Indiewire, and was its editor-in-chief.

Hernandez will continue in New York to finish up this year’s festival — which runs Sept. 30 to Oct. 16 — and join Sundance’s core leadership team in November.

Hernandez will begin leading the festival in 2024 for its 40th season, while the upcoming 2023 festival will be led by Sundance Institute CEO Joana Vicente (herself the former co-head of the Toronto International Film Festival), along with director of programming Kim Yutani and others from the institute’s leadership team.

After two years as an online-only event, the 2023 festival will be in-person only for the first half, and a hybrid of in-person and online the second half. The festival is scheduled to run Jan. 19-29, in Park City, Salt Lake City and the Sundance Mountain Resort.

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

Hernandez’s duties include being in charge of the “festival’s overall vision and strategy” by planning the execution of the festival for in-person and online events.

The Sundance Institute’s founder, Robert Redford, said in a statement that “supporting independent artists has always been the bedrock of the institute and the fuel behind the festival” which is a “place to discover new films, ideas and artists.” For the last three decades, Redford said, Hernandez “has been working on a parallel path with many of the same values and objectives in mind.”

Hernandez, in his statement, commended Sundance’s leadership, artistic discovery and independent expression as a “catalyst” in his 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,” he said. “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 succeeds Tabitha Jackson, who served as festival director through the COVID-19 pandemic — overseeing two years in which the festival was presented online only, with only a few in-person screenings in other cities, none of them in Utah. Jackson announced her departure from Sundance in June.