The Film Society of Lincoln Center executive director Rose Kuo has finally announced a new programming structure just before the opening of the New York Film Festival and the impending departure of 25-year program director and NYFF selection committee head Richard Pena.
The Film Society, which lost programmer Kent Jones under former director Mara Manus, worked hard to court his return. (He will continue to work with Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Foundation.) But Pena’s job will be split in two, with Jones as the Director of Programming of the 50-year-old New York Film Festival and LA import Robert Koehler as Director of Programming for all the many venues at the Film Society, which has become a major New York exhibitor. Peña will continue to help the Film Society with an upcoming educational initiative.
Thus Kuo has realized long-time NYFF staffer and selection committee member Jones’s dream of taking over the NYFF. His close chums Gavin Smith (Film Comment), Amy Taubin (newest selection committee member) and NYT critic Manohla Dargis are all thrilled. Kuo has wisely brought continuity back to the NYFF. Film Society insiders describe Jones’ return as a homecoming.
Kuo has worked with critic/programmer Koehler before, at the AFI Film Festival (pictured). “Richard Peña has played a fundamental role in defining our organization and its commitment to discovering and supporting the best and most important cinema in the world,” says Kuo. “Kent Jones and Bob Koehler, whose thinking and writing about cinema I deeply respect, are the perfect team to build upon Richard’s vision and carry it forward.”
While Kuo was wooing Locarno fest director Olivier Pere, he went to Arte France instead. She interviewed many candidates, including TIFF/Bell Lightbox star Noah Cowan, but opted to stick with two comfortably familiar American faces. Koehler will join critic/programmer Scott Foundas at the Film Society, who also had his sights on the Pena post. By not going with a more established fest veteran as the NYFF director, Kuo will retain more influence over the festival.
Bios of the two new FSLC programmers are below.
Kent Jones’ writing on film has been published throughout the world in numerous magazines, newspapers, catalogues, websites and journals. In 2007 a collection of his writings, Physical Evidence, was published by Wesleyan University Press, and he recently edited the first English-language volume of writings on Olivier Assayas, published by Filmmuseum Synema Publikationem. He is a 2012 Guggenheim Fellow. Jones has collaborated for many years on documentaries with Martin Scorsese, beginning with My Voyage to Italy (2001) on which he served as co-writer. He and Scorsese co-wrote and co-directed A Letter to Elia (2010), an Emmy-nominated and Peabody Award-winning film about the director Elia Kazan. Scorsese was the producer and narrator of Jones’ 2007 documentary about Val Lewton, The Man in the Shadows.
Jones began in programming with Bruce Goldstein at Film Forum, and served as the American representative for the Rotterdam International Film Festival from 1996 to 1998. From 1998 to 2009, he was Associate Director of Programming at The Film Society of Lincoln Center, and from 2002 to 2009 he served on the New York Film Festival selection committee. He has also served on juries at film festivals around the world, including Rotterdam, Buenos Aires, San Francisco, Venice and Cannes. In 2009, he was named Executive Director of The World Cinema Foundation.
Robert Koehler is a film critic and festival programmer and has served as an instructor and programmer for UCLA Extension’s Sneak Preview program from 2003-2007. In 2003, he developed the successful, innovative film program, “The Films That Got Away,” an ongoing series presenting significant recent work that has previously not screened in Los Angeles. Institutions with which the series has collaborated include UCLA Film Archive, the American Cinematheque and the Los Angeles Film Festival. In 2009, he was appointed director of programming at AFI Fest Los Angeles, where he helped create a new and focused competition section titled “New Lights,” as part of AFI Fest’s programming concept as a festival-of-festivals.
A graduate of UCLA, Koehler was a theater critic for the LA Weekly and Los Angeles Times during the 1980s and 1990s. He has been a contributor to Variety since 1994. As a film critic, he has written for Variety, Cinema Scope, Cineaste, Film Comment, IndieWire, The Christian Science Monitor and Filmjourney.org, as well as Cahiers du Cinema (France and Spain) and Die Tagezeitung. His blog column analyzing film festivals can be read at Filmlinc.com, the website of the Film Society of Lincoln Center. He is a member of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association and FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics, and has served on festival juries in Cannes, Berlin, Locarno, Vancouver, Buenos Aires, Indie Lisboa,Copenhagen, Montreal, Mexico City, Santiago, Palm Springs, Bermuda and Miami. Among his published work are chapters in the books “Cine Argentino 1999-2009,” “On Film Festivals,” from Wildflower Press, and “American Comedy,” published by the San Sebastian Film Festival.