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New York Film Festival Lineup Set; Peña Offers Insight into Programming and Planning

New York Film Festival Lineup Set; Peña Offers Insight into Programming and Planning

New York Film Festival Lineup Set; Peña Offers Insight into Programming and Planning

by Eugene Hernandez

As the traditional summer season draws to a close and the fall festival
season kicks into high gear later this week in Telluride and Toronto, the
Film Society of Lincoln Center has revealed the complete lineup for the 35th
New York Film Festival (September 26 – October 12, 1997). Pedro Almodovar
makes his third trip to the festival with the world premiere of his new film,
Live Flesh” on closing night. The film stars Javier Bardem and
Angela Molina. Another festival regular who will be showcased in a
prominent part of the festival is Atom Egoyan, who brings his Cannes
Grand Prize winning film, “The Sweet Hereafter“, to the 1997 festival as
its Centerpiece Film. As previously announced, the festival’s opening night
film is “The Ice Storm” directed by Ang Lee, starring Kevin Kline, Sigourney
Weaver, Joan Allen, and Christina Ricci and produced by Good Machine. Lee is
making his first trip to the NYFF with his opening night screening at Lincoln

With the selection process complete and the lineup revealed late last
week, Selection Committee Chairman Richard Peña took time to talk with
indieWIRE from home where he is spending time with his wife and their one
week-old daughter. Commenting on some of the festival films that he is
most anxious to share with the New York audience, Peña highlights: Abbas
Kirostami’s Cannes Palme d’Or winner, “Taste of Cherry” (he calls it the
greatest film yet from Iran’s master director); “Hana-Bi“, directed by
noted Japanese artist and personality, Takeshi Kitano; two films (“Happy Together” and “Fallen Angels“) from a director that Peña calls “one of the
major talents of the 90’s” — Wong Kar-Wai; and “From Today Until Tomorrow“, a new film from noted avant garde filmmakers Danielle Huillet
and Jean Marie Straub. Peña is clearly excited to include four programs
of avant garde cinema at the 1997 festival. “Who knows, will this become
a continuing part of the festival or spin off and become its own
entity,” he teases, echoing the fate of the video programs which evolved
into the popular New York Video Festival.

For Richard Peña, who took the helm of the NYFF Selection Committee ten
years ago, the process of tracking projects and finding films for the
annual event is nearly a year round undertaking. The search begins in
earnest at the Berlin Film Festival and continues later in the year at
Cannes (those are usually the only two festivals he visits). Reflecting
on this year’s search, Peña calls the selection process, “physically and
intellectually challenging” — over 1,400 entries were received from
around the world. While Peña realizes that in the end he is in the
position of presenting nearly any film he sets his sights on, he is
cognizant of the fact that, “because there are so many festivals out
there, the sense of having works that are completely unique to the New
York Film Festival is difficult.” Despite this challenge, Peña maintains
a stance against policies which would guarantee that all NYFF films be
premieres, explaining that is a decision better left to a particular
films’ producers.

The greatest strength of the NYFF in Peña’s mind is the fact that it
remains a “curated” festival — “one that represents a point of view or
a vision.” He accepts the fact that audiences may not always agree with
the committee’s choices, but clearly considers that an asset, “New York
still keeps to its original vision, which is to have a (view) of world
cinema by five people — a very opinionated one — one that many people
agree with and one that people disagree with wildly.” With that in mind,
and singling out Sundance as a contrary example, Peña expresses relief
that the New York Festival has resisted the temptation to grow — it
consistently presents 27 to 30 films each year.

In total the 1997 New York Film Festival will present 28 films from 18
countries. Given that, Peña is initially quiet when provoked to discuss
whether the lineup contains an overall trend or theme. As he considers
the possibility, he becomes a bit more sure, “In terms of themes I don’t
know if I see any contextual themes, stylistically I see filmmakers
pushing certain kinds of envelopes. So much of what we see in the
commercial cinema nowadays can be considered cautious, one of the things
I like so much about the festival is films that are the opposite of that
— films that throw caution to the wind.”

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