New York Film Festival Names Eugene Hernandez as New Director

Eugene Hernandez - Publicity - H 2020
Henny Garfunkel

He replaces Kent Jones who stepped down after the 2019 edition of the festival, while Dennis Lim becomes the event's new director of programming.

With Parasite’s stunning best-picture Oscar win amid shifting industry trends, Eugene Hernandez senses the perfect moment to being named the new director of the New York Film Festival as it continues to introduce U.S. audiences to world cinema.

"It's such a great opportunity for us, and a reflection of how open our audiences are, I hope that audiences are more open and willing than ever to explore," Hernandez told THR ahead of Film at Lincoln Center, which presents the NYFF, unveiling the 17-day event's new leadership Wednesday.

FLC's director of programming Dennis Lim will expand his duties to include filling the same role for the NYFF. And Hernandez replaces Kent Jones after he stepped down as NYFF director following the 2019 edition.

In 2010, Hernandez, the founder and editor in chief of IndieWire, left the online site dedicated to indie filmmaking to become director of digital strategy for the then Film Society of Lincoln Center, the predecessor to FLC, before in 2014 being promoted to deputy director.

Hernandez sees the job of festival programmers to sift through so many unknown filmmakers to spot new talent in world cinema having been made easier in the wake of Bong Joon Ho's Oscar sweep for Parasite. "It's not about any one festival. It's about film culture as a whole. This is a victory for film culture," Hernandez said of the Korean language pic breaking language and cultural barriers at the Academy Awards just as film viewing increasingly shifts from movie theaters and DVDs to online streaming platforms.

So as the job of running film festivals moves beyond picking movies to holding events and inspiring film communities year-round, FLC executive director Lesli Klainberg said staying in-house to choose Hernandez to succeed Jones made perfect sense. "In terms of the goodwill people have toward Eugene, from the larger industry, we really wanted a person who has deep connections that are varied and are very meaningful," Klainberg told THR.

Besides heading up FLC’s artist, industry and education initiatives and continuing as publisher of Film Comment, Hernandez will oversee the strategic direction and leadership of the NYFF and serve on its film selection committee. Elsewhere, Lim will oversee the programming strategy for the NYFF, chairing the committee that selects the main slate, among other sections, while continuing to oversee year-round programming for FLC.

As the NYFF faces up to the streaming era, its 2019 edition opened with Netflix's organized crime epic The Irishman at Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall, with director Martin Scorsese and stars Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci on hand to introduce the world premiere.

And while the streaming era has major festivals needing to raise their game to stay relevant to film lovers, Hernandez says some things don't change in a New York film culture that since 1963 has sustained the NYFF through 58 years. "We're in a city that's international, and is open and excited about films and art forms from all over the world. The festival gives us a way to take that experience deeper," he said.

Hernandez added the NYFF will make announcements over the coming months about new additions to its programming team and event lineup ahead of the 58th edition running Sept. 25 to Oct. 11.