The Sundance Institute has named longtime 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 foundation of the Institute and the fuel behind the Festival,” said actor and director Robert Redford, who founded the Institute in 1981. a testament to the vitality of the Institute and of the festival platform as a place to discover new films, ideas and artists. For nearly three decades, Eugene has been working on a parallel path with many of the same values and goals in mind.”
Hernandez served as festival director of the New York Film Festival and will remain there during this year’s event, which runs from September 30 to October 16. He originally joined its parent organization Film at Lincoln Center in 2010 as its director of digital strategy, then became its assistant director in 2014. Most recently, he served as Sr. Vice President of Film at Lincoln Center, Executive Director of the New York Film Festival and Executive Editor of the FLC publication Film Comment.
Sundance was the most prominent film festival targeting indie creators, and many of the event winners went on to win awards and other notable success despite their humble origins. Two of the most awarded films of 2020, CODA and Summer of the soul, won a total of four Oscars earlier this year, including Best Documentary for Summer of the souland best photo for CODA.
The announcement closes a loop of sorts in Hernandez’s life, a quarter of a century after his first visit to the Sundance Film Festival in the mid-1990s sparked his interest and commitment to independent film.
“Almost 30 years ago, looking for direction and curious, I first went to the Sundance Film Festival. I immediately felt connected to his mission and it changed my life,” says Hernandez. “I am both energized and humbled to accept this opportunity to join Sundance. Supporting artists has been central to my career and for the past twelve years I have been privileged to grow and learn at Film at Lincoln Center and the New York Film Festival. I am ready for this inspiring challenge and unique opportunity to engage artists and audiences with Sundance, collaborate with the best-in-the-business team, and follow in the footsteps of exceptional leaders.”
Hernandez was then a co-founder and editor-in-chief of IndieWire, a Los Angeles-based industry-focused publication now owned by Penske Media Group, which also includes entertainment industry publications Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Deadline, and Rolling Stone.
“He has been at the forefront of supporting independent artists and has invested heavily 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 throughout the year, supporting our artist community, and expanding opportunities for both Sundance audiences and artists. He joins a critical moment in the industry for independent filmmakers, when the Institute has never played a more important role for artists, audiences and the field as a whole.”
Hernandez will join Sundance in November, after the New York Film Festival ends, and will report to Vicente. He will work between the organization’s offices in Los Angeles and New York, while also spending time in the festival’s Park City, Utah operations.
Hernandez is a major member of the Motion Picture Academy, which awards the Oscars. He serves on the advisory boards for SXSW