New York Film Festival

New York Film Festival
Location New York City, New York, United States
Founded 1963
Language English

The New York Film Festival has been a major film festival since it began in 1963 in New York. The films are selected by the Film Society of Lincoln Center. The non-competitive festival, sometimes abbreviated as NYFF, was established by Amos Vogel and Richard Roud.

The present director is Kent Jones,[1] who is also the chairman of the Selection Committee which includes Dennis Lim, FSLC Director of Cinematheque Programming; Gavin Smith, Editor-in-Chief, Film Comment; Amy Taubin, Contributing Editor, Film Comment and Sight and Sound; and Marian Masone, FSLC Associate Director of Programming.

The festival has said that films are selected exclusively on their merits. However a few prominent directors regularly have their films screened at NYFF.

The festival is also known for its several sidebars, programs running concurrently with the main festival. The annual "Projections," previously billed as "Views from the Avant-Garde", a showcase of non-narrative experimental films conceived, programmed and produced by Mark McElhatten, had been running since 1997. Mark McElhatten stepped down in 2014 after 17 years and the "Views from the Avant-Garde" of the NYFF was also retired in his honor.

Founding the Festival and Richard Roud

The NYFF's first programmer, Richard Roud, was recruited by Lincoln Center President William Schuman in 1962. Boston-born Roud was 33 years old at the time and based in London where he worked as a film critic for The Guardian and programmed the London Film Festival. Though Roud maintained his home base in London, he recruited Amos Vogel of the legendary Cinema 16 film club as his New York-based co-programmer. The first edition of the festival opened on September 10, 1963 with Luis Buñuel's The Exterminating Angel. In 1966, Roud and Vogel formed the festival's first selection committee, consisting of Arthur Knight and Andrew Sarris; Susan Sontag was added the next year. Vogel resigned from his position as Festival Director in 1968. Though Roud was previously designated Program Director, he presided over the festival from 1969 to 1987.

Roud's 25 years at the festival were characterized by a focus on the European art cinema of the postwar years and rise of auteurism. [2]

The Richard Peña era

Richard Peña, then 34, took over as lead programmer in 1988. The Queens native was already an accomplished film historian, academic, and programmer. Prior to his work with NYFF, he worked at the Film Center of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Peña came to NYFF as a seasoned festival-goer who held Roud in high esteem. During his stint as programmer (which also listed 25 years), Peña honored the festival's traditions and unique character - retaining the selection committee process, the non-competitive format, the post-screening director Q&As, and the festival's strict selectivity - while also working to expand NYFF's somewhat Eurocentric focus. Filmmakers like Hou Hsiao-hsien, Manoel de Oliveira, Leos Carax, Raúl Ruiz, and Krzystof Kieslowski were introduced to NYFF audiences during the Roud era, and became regulars under Peña. After 25 years as Program Director and head of the NYFF selection committee, Peña led his final year at NYFF in 2012, during the festival's 50th presentation. [3]

NYFF today

After Richard Peña's departure, Robert Koehler briefly took over year-round programming duties, while Kent Jones, who left The Film Society of Lincoln Center in 2009 to serve as Executive Director of the World Cinema Foundation, returned to lead NYFF. Jones began his programming career at Film Forum and the Rotterdam Film Festival, before joining The Film Society of Lincoln Center in 1998 as Associate Director of Programming and a member of the NYFF programming committee.


  1. Cox, Gordon (September 2012), Variety, "Film Society names new heads".
  2. Smith, Gavin (September/October 2012). "Breaking the Waves". Film Comment.
  3. Smith, Gavin (September/October 2012). "Breaking the Waves". Film Comment.
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