The Sundance Institute named long-time independent film champion Eugene Hernandez as director of the organization’s influential annual Sundance Film Festival and head of its year-round public-programming initiatives.
“Supporting independent artists has always been the bedrock of the Institute and the fuel behind the Festival,” said actor and director Robert Redford, who founded the institute in 1981. “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.”
Hernandez has been festival director of the New York Film Festival, and will remain there through this year’s event, which runs from Sept. 30 to Oct. 16. He originally joined the festival’s parent organization Film at Lincoln Center in 2010 as director of digital strategy, then became deputy director in 2014. Most recently, he was Sr. Vice President of Film at Lincoln Center, executive director of the New York Film Festival, and executive editor of the FLC’s publication Film Comment.
Sundance has been the most prominent of film festivals focused on indie creators, with many of its event winners going on to awards and other notable success despite their modest origins. Two of its most-awarded 2020 films, CODA and Summer of Soul, won a total of four Oscars earlier this year, including best documentary feature for Summer of Soul, and best picture for CODA.
The announcement closes a loop of sorts in Hernandez’s life, a quarter century after his first visit to the Sundance Film Festival in the mid-1990s fueled his interest and commitment to independent film.
“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 then cofounded and for 15 years was editor in chief of IndieWire, a Los Angeles-based publication focused on the sector that now is owned by Penske Media Group, which also publishes entertainment trade publications Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Deadline, and Rolling Stone.
“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, the institute’s CEO. “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.”
Hernandez joins the Sundance leadership in November, after the New York Film Festival wraps up, and will report to Vicente. He’ll be working between the organization’s Los Angeles and New York offices, while spending time as well in the festival’s Park City, Utah operations.
Hernandez is an at-large member of the Motion Picture Academy, which awards the Oscars. He serves on the boards of advisors for SXSW
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