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Joana Vicente is leaving the Toronto International Film Festival as executive director and co-head to become CEO of the Sundance Institute.
Vicente, who has a long career in film production, will officially step down Oct. 31 from TIFF after three years running the business end of the Toronto-based organization, alongside co-head and artistic director Cameron Bailey. In her new post at the Sundance Institute, Vicente will oversee strategies for the nonprofit, which includes its year-round artist programs, the Sundance Film Festival, Sundance Collab, and public and field-building programs.
As in Toronto, a focus for Vicente will be spearheading efforts to bring more diversity into the Sundance fold and, by extension, the independent film space. She succeeds CEO Keri Putnam, who stepped down earlier this year.
Sundance Institute founder and president Robert Redford said in a statement: “Throughout her entire career, it is evident that Joana shares this same uncompromising vision, and we know that she possesses a deep understanding of the evolving landscape, and can reach a new generation of independent creators working more fluidly across disciplines, communicating across borders, and engaging directly with audiences.”
Before TIFF, Vicente served as executive director of the Independent Filmmaker Project and Made in NY Media Center, based in New York City. While in Toronto, she navigated how TIFF will meet the challenge of showcasing Hollywood and world cinema as younger filmmaking talent increasingly opts for streaming platforms rather than the traditional cinema house to get their latest work viewed by worldwide audiences.
More recently, Vicente and Bailey faced having to stage the Toronto festival amid the pandemic as a hybrid in-person and virtual event. On Tuesday, the Sundance Film Festival said it will go ahead with its 2022 edition amid the coronavirus pandemic, from Jan. 20 to 30, with a hybrid event that combines virtual screenings with physical screenings in Salt Lake City and seven other indie art house cinemas elsewhere.
The 2021 iteration of the famed Sundance festival went online due to restrictions surrounding COVID-19. Vicente will begin her Sundance Institute role at the start of November, working between the Institute’s Park City, Los Angeles and New York City offices.
Board of Trustees chair Pat Mitchell and chair-elect Ebs Burnough added in their own 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. She comes to Sundance as a true champion of preserving, discovering, incubating and encouraging independent artistry in all forms.”
Vicente also brings her roots in indie cinema, having produced over 40 films, including Alex Gibney’s Oscar-nominated documentary Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, Nadine Labaki’s Capernaüm and Jim Jarmusch’s Coffee and Cigarettes.
She also ran three production companies, and as president of Open City Films, Vicente produced four Sundance-supported lab projects and has had 13 features and six short films debut at the Sundance Festival.
“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. It is such an extraordinary opportunity to lead an organization that has defined independent storytelling for 40 years,” said Vicente on Wednesday.
The Sundance Institute and TIFF said they are working together to secure a seamless leadership transition for both organizations.
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