In what may be a bit of a stunner for U.S. fest insiders, Los Angeles Film Festival director of programming Rachel Rosen has been named director of programming for the San Francisco Film Society, which produces the annual San Francisco International Film Festival and other events in the Bay Area. Rosen returns to SFFS after eight-years with LAFF, which is organized by Film Independent. She had previously served as an associate of programming at SFFS back in the 90s.
"My inclination would be never go back to a job that you left, that seems like a good rule of thumb," Rosen admitted, but added, "It's a completely new job." She acknowledged that she is making the move at a time of tremendous change, for organizations, festivals and the cinema. "I've been watching what Graham's been doing, it's interesting and exciting. I think the changes have been really dramatic and impressive." The enagaged San Francisco audience, which has shown ongoing support for international and independent cinema locally, was also a factor in her decision, she added.
In the midst of packing up her LA office, Rosen told indieWIRE that she is starting immediately with the San Francisco Film Society and plans to move to the Bay Area prior to this year's Toronto festival.
Pressed to share some of the goals she has for the new job, Rosen confessed to being a bit of a missionary, speaking of her ongoing passion for "re-awakening a general interest in unusual cinema." She is excited to tackle not only the festival, but year-round programs and screenings at a time when other institutions are scaling back.
"I would like to think that festivals are not just seeing the end of days for independent and foreign film," she said, emphasizing the importance of what she called the "community public screening component" of presenting international and independent film today. "I really feel like it's important to figure out this [aspect and how] it fits into the future...and to showcase those kinds of films that I want to support."
Rosen is replacing Linda Blackaby, a fixture at SFFS, who worked at the organization prior to the appointment of Film Society head Graham Leggat in 2005. "One of the most respected film programmers on the international scene, Linda has played a primary role in the expansion and success of the Film Society in recent years," Leggat said, in a statement, about Blackaby who joined the organization in 2001. "She leaves behind many friends and admirers. We wish her all the best in her future endeavors." In addition to her work at SFFS, Blackaby is currently chair of the Princess Grace Foundation film panel in New York City.
"Getting to know and working with the San Francisco film community has been very meaningful to me," said Blackaby, in a statement. "There is so much talent and expertise here, and such passion for good cinema, that it has been particularly gratifying to have contributed to the growth of the festival and SFFS." She added that she'd been considering a sabbatical. "After eight years at the San Francisco Film Society I look forward to taking a little time to travel, read and take on new challenges. I wish all of my colleagues at SFFS the best."
Prior to her previous time at SFFS and LAFF, Rosen worked as a film publicist for five years in New York. In 1988, she enrolled in Stanford University's documentary film program and while completing her thesis film, worked for the New York Film Festival as directors' liaison and for SFFS in addition to working in various capacities on student and professional film productions. Additionally she served as programming and publicity associate at Film Forum in NYC, and screened her documentary project, "Serious Weather" at the San Francisco and Vancouver International Film Festivals and the British Short Film Festival. Rosen was born and raised in Washington, D.C. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree in comparative literature from Brown University.
"We're thrilled to welcome Rachel back to a leadership role in the organization after her extraordinarily successful tenure in Los Angeles," said Graham Leggat, SFFS executive director. "Her intelligence, flair for innovation and keen eye for exciting new work are just what we need as we enter our next phase."
"Rachel's discerning eye, dazzling knowledge of film and support of independent filmmakers have been essential to [LAFF's] success during her years at Film Independent," commented Film Independent's Executive Director Dawn Hudson, in a statement, about Rosen's new appointment. "I so appreciate Rachel's extraordinary talents and her unstinting commitment to the organization, and we wish her the best as she enters this new phase in her career."
"I think what Graham and the Film Society team have accomplished in the past few years with both the San Francisco International Film Festival and year-round programming is incredibly exciting," said Rosen, in a formal statement. "I'm grateful to have a chance to be a part of it. I'm thrilled to be returning to an organization and a city that loves great cinema."