San Francisco Film Festival Names Anne Lai as Executive Director

Anne Lai  - Publicity - H 2020
Courtesy of SFFilm

Lai comes to the festival from the Sundance Institute, where she worked to foster emerging voices in film.

The San Francisco International Film Festival, known as SFFilm, named Anne Lai as its new executive director on Tuesday. She is the first woman of color to hold the title. 

Lai, who is currently at the Sundance Institute as director of creative producing and artist support, will start her new role on March 11, ahead of the 63rd SFFilm festival kickoff on April 8. She replaces the festival's outgoing director, Noah Cowan. 

“Her depth of experience guiding artist development and artist education programs and her experience working with big-budget productions, independents, and nonprofits will be essential as we continue to integrate our presentation, artist development and education programs," Rachel Rosen, the festival's director of programming, said in a statement. "The diversity and quality of films that she has nurtured to fruition reveal that she shares SFFILMs values and passion for a wide range of films, filmmakers, and audiences.”

Lai added: “It’s an extraordinary opportunity to build upon a strong legacy and amplify not only the voices of [the festival's] supported films and artists but deepen the organization’s commitment to community and beyond through the festival, artist and education programs."

Lai is a seasoned veteran of film, having been vp production at Ridley and Tony Scott's Scott Free banner, working on movies such as Gladiator and Black Hawk Down. At the Sundance Institute, she has overseen the Talent Forum that takes place during the Sundance Film Festival, bringing projects to industry execs and advocates. Her work at Sundance has supported filmmakers such as Lulu Wang with The Farewell, Joe Talbot with The Last Black Man in San Francisco, Boots Riley's Sorry to Bother You and Marielle Heller with Diary of a Teenage Girl

In her new role at SFFilm, Lai will be tasked with furthering the festival's goals to develop audiences reflective of the "full demographic of the Bay Area," as well as implementing new artist development initiatives, the organization said. 

The SFFilm festival is billed as the longest-running film festival in America and an early supporter of filmmakers such as Spike Lee, Barry Jenkins, Ryan Coogler and Blindspotting filmmaker Carlos Lopez Estrada.