Tabitha Jackson Exiting Post as Sundance Fest Director

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The Sundance Institute has announced that film festival director Tabitha Jackson will be stepping down after two years at the post.

Jackson will depart as the director of the Sundance Film Festival and public programming following the upcoming Sundance Film Festival: London. Today’s announcement was made by Sundance Institute CEO Joana Vicente, who will be heading the festival’s development and planning in the interim.

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A public search, led by Vicente, is underway to find Jackson’s replacement.

Also announced today was the promotion of director of programming Kim Yutani to the institute’s senior leadership team. Yutani, who is entering her fifth year leading the festival’s programming, will now manage industry and artist relations.

Jackson was named to her post in 2020, taking over for John Cooper, who had been leading the festival for 11 years. She had the difficult job of guiding the festival through the COVID-19 pandemic. The 2021 festival, which debuted Oscar winners CODA and Summer of Soul, was completely virtual, followed by a 2022 festival that had to pivot from being in-person to online due to the omicron COVID-19 surge this past winter.

“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,” said Jackson, who first joined Sundance in 2013 as the director of the documentary film program. “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. Going forward, working with and for artists and their freedom of creative expression will continue to be my guiding light.”

Vicente offered that the Sundance Institute was grateful to Jackson for guiding the festival through the pandemic, noting, “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.”

Jackson’s departure comes a year after longtime CEO Keri Putnam stepped down, eventually being succeeded by Vicente.

Sundance has weathered the pandemic with largely virtual offerings but continued to boast several high-figure sales, most notably for CODA, Summer of Soul, and this year’s Cha Cha Real Smooth. The 2023 festival is planned as a hybrid festival, with both in-person and online programming.

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