• Festivals

Eugene Hernandez, from NYFF to Sundance: “The search never stops”

Eugene Hernandez joined Film at Lincoln Center in 2010 and is its current Senior Vice President. He has overseen the New York Film Festival (NYFF) for the past three years, and this will be his last as in early September he was named director of the Sundance Film Festival.

He is a member-at-large of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, and also serves on the board of advisors for SXSW (South by Southwest) and SeriesFest, among other movie festivals, and was co-founder and editor-in-chief of IndieWire, a publication focused on independent movies.

Established in 1963 as a non-competitive event by Richard Roud and Amos Vogel with the support of then-Lincoln Center president William Schuman, the NYFF is one of the longest-running and most prestigious film festivals in the United States.

It is held in the early fall with typically 20–30 feature films, many of them having their U.S. premiere. The quality of the catalog and the timing of the festival have positioned the NYFF as a reliable showcase for potential nominees for the upcoming award season. It also includes additional sections for experimental cinema and new restorations.


Hernandez answered our questions last week by email on the busy eve of the opening of the 60th edition of NYFF which runs from September 30 to October 16 at Lincoln Center, the cultural mecca of New York.

How does a movie qualify to be in the NYFF?

In selecting films for the New York Film Festival, we simply look for films that are meaningful to our selection committees for each section. We have four film programs: Main Slate, Spotlight, Currents, and Revivals (for older films), alongside our 5th section which features Talks. A few years ago we brought more people into our selection process, adding new voices -and opinions- from all around the world. We wanted to have more people participating and we know it has led to richer film programs. We continue to push ourselves to look farther and wider to find films to screen. The search never stops.

What makes the NYFF different from other festivals, especially this 60th edition?

The New York Film Festival has a long history, now 60 years old, surveying what is the most striking, and engaging in cinema each year. It’s an interesting question to consider how it’s different because the Festival was created in the early 1960s when only one or two other film festivals even existed in the United States. There were already festivals in places like Cannes and Venice, but in the U.S. it was a new idea. So each fall, a small program -then not even 25 films- would be selected and screened for packed audiences at Lincoln Center. There were few other places ever to see these films, so the NYFF was an essential gateway to international cinema for New York audiences.

In this 60th year, we try to remain true to the festival’s original vision of a curated program of new films for New York. At the same time, in the years since then, the program size has expanded, but not that dramatically. There are usually around 30 films -this year 32- in our Main Slate, with another dozen in our Spotlight section, and then 15 features in the Currents section. This is not a large program, but it’s a carefully curated one. Each film is chosen with intention.

For this 60th edition, we are excited to share the festival beyond Lincoln Center, in arthouse cinemas and spaces in all five boroughs of our city. We’ve been exploring taking the festival to other parts of New York City these past few years, notably starting back in 2020 when the festival happened in drive-ins. And this year we’ve fully embraced that NYFF is “New York’s Film Festival” bringing screenings to neighborhoods all around our city.

A summary of the movies shown this year at NYFF can be read here in detail https://www.goldenglobes.com/articles/60th-new-york-film-festival