Sundance Film Festival Director Tabitha Jackson to step down |

Sundance Film Festival Director Tabitha Jackson to step down

Kim Yutani joins leadership team to plan 2023 event

Tabitha Jackson shares a laugh with Andy Beerman, at the time the mayor of Park City during the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. Sundance Institute announced Jackson, who was named festival director in 2020, will step down from her post this weekend.
Park Record file photo

The Sundance Film Festival will lose director Tabitha Jackson this weekend at the end of Sundance Film Festival: London 2022.

The Sundance Institute announced Jackson’s plan to depart, but it gave no reason as to why in a press release.

“Being part of driving forward the mission and purpose of the Sundance Institute has been a deep privilege and a profoundly meaningful part of my life,” Jackson said in the release. “This incredible organization has only increased my unshakeable belief in artists as a transformative societal force and, in this complex and challenging historical moment, a force more necessary than ever.”

Sundance Institute CEO Joana Vicente will lead the search for Jackson’s successor. Kim Yutani, the festival’s director of programming, will join the nonprofit’s senior leadership team, which includes Strategic Initiatives leader John Nein and New Frontier chief curator Shari Frilot, in planning the 2023 festival in the interim, according to the release.

The Sundance Institute announced a hybrid in-person and virtual film festival that will run Jan. 19-29, 2023.

“I look forward to leading the festival in the interim and working more closely with Kim and our exceptional team of film programmers,” Vicente said in a statement.

Jackson, who was born in Great Britain, succeeded longtime festival director John Cooper in February of 2020, just before COVID-19 spread throughout the United States. She is the first woman and person of color to lead the festival.

She oversaw two virtual editions of the festival that yielded films such as Sian Heder’s Academy Award-winning drama “CODA” and Questlove’s Academy Award-winning documentary “Summer of Soul.”

Sundance under Jackson’s direction also launched its satellite-screen program with arthouses across the country to bring the festival to film lovers during the pandemic.

Jackson joined the Sundance Institute in 2013 as the director of the Documentary Film Program, and ushered in new programs and resources, including the Art of Nonfiction Initiative that explored the creative process by centering the artist rather than the project, the announcement said.

“We are grateful to Tabitha and her contributions to the Sundance mission over the last eight and a half years as a leader at the organization,” Vicente said. “She helped lead the Sundance Film Festival through the ongoing pandemic, helping transform it for the future, all while keeping independent artists as our north star.”

Vicente said Jackson will leave an “indelible imprint” on the Sundance Institute and the festival.

“She leaves us with the Festival never more vital than during this time of great change in our industry and in a place to continue to make a meaningful contribution to culture,” Vicente’s statement said. “The strength and experience of our existing Festival leadership and programming team means there is no shortage of talent to continue forward with the work we are doing for next year’s Festival.”

Although Jackson didn’t specify what her next step will be, she said she looked forward to continuing working with the creative community.

“Going forward, working with and for artists and their freedom of creative expression will continue to be my guiding light,” she said.

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