After spending three years as Toronto International Film Festival’s executive director, Joana Vicente is leaving her post to join the Sundance Institute as its CEO.
She is succeeding long-time executive Keri Putnam, who stepped down earlier this year. In her new role, Vicente will oversee all areas of the Institute, including the annual Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah.
She will report to Sundance’s board of directors and work with key stakeholders, including artists, funders and industry donors, as well as lead a cadre of 200 year-round employees and an additional 250 seasonal staffers. Vicente begins her position in early November, working between the Institute’s Park City, Los Angeles, and New York City offices.
“This was a very comprehensive search to find the right person who would continue to move us forward with a vision that aligns with the founding values of the Institute’s founder, Robert Redford,” said Board of Trustees Chair Pat Mitchell and Chair-Elect Ebs Burnough, who led the search committee. “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.”
Vicente’s hiring comes with the blessing of Robert Redford, who founded the Sundance Film Festival.
“From the day we started the Sundance Institute, we have had a very specific mission to foster independence, risk-taking, and new and diverse voices in storytelling,” 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.”
Vicente has founded three production companies and has produced more than 40 films, including Alex Gibney’s Oscar-nominated documentary “Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room” and Nadine Labaki’s Cannes Jury Prize–winning “Capernaüm.” Over the course of her career, she has backed several projects that played at the Sundance Film 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. “This opportunity combines all of my passions: film, working with storytellers throughout the world, and leading mission-driven organizations. I have always felt that Sundance was a home for me, and this opportunity makes me feel as if I am going back home.”
As co-head of the Toronto International Film Festival, Vicente worked with Cameron Bailey to organize a hybrid event to run during COVID-19. Her exit from TIFF comes with the support of the organization’s leadership team, who is working with the Sundance Institute to ensure a seamless leadership transition for both groups.
Prior to TIFF, Vicente spent nearly a decade at the Independent Filmmaker Project (now the Gotham Film & Media Institute), a not-for-profit organization for independent directors. She previously co-founded HDNetFilms and HDNet International with Mark Cuban, Todd Wagner and partner Jason Kliot.
Vicente, who speaks several languages, graduated from Universidade Católica Portuguesa in Lisbon, Portugal, and she was selected for the National Arts Strategies Chief Executive Program with educational events at Harvard Business School and University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. She has taught The Business of Film at NYU Stern School of Business.