New York Film Festival director and selection committee chair Kent Jones will step down at the conclusion of this year’s festival, which begins next week. The news was first reported in Variety and confirmed by the festival this morning.
Last year, Jones made his feature directorial debut with the Mary Kay Place-starring “Diane,” which won the Best Feature award at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival, and his exit was reportedly inspired by his desire to continue making his own films. IndieWire first reported on the possibility of Jones’ exit earlier this summer. Jones will continue to work with Film at Lincoln Center in a to-be-determined advisory position. FLC executive director Lesli Klainberg will oversee the transition of leadership for NYFF. While no new director has been named, an announcement is expected soon.
“At some point when I was pretty young and already deep into movies, the New York Film Festival became a beacon for me,” said Jones in an official statement. “Throughout its history, it has been a true home for the art of cinema—that was how it began with Richard Roud and Amos Vogel, that was how it remained with my predecessor Richard Peña, and that was how I’ve done my best to maintain it. I thank my colleagues, I thank the board for sticking to the original mission, I thank our audiences, I thank our colleagues in the industry, but most of all I thank the filmmakers. It’s been a joy and an honor to present their work.”
Before stepping behind the camera, the longtime film critic and programmer had enjoyed an enviable and multi-faceted career, from working as Martin Scorsese’s archivist to writing for publications like Film Comment, Cahiers du Cinema, and The New York Times. He initially joined the organization then known as the Film Society of Lincoln Center in 1998 as associate director of programming, and from 2002 to 2009 he served on the NYFF selection committee.
After his first stint at NYFF, Jones edited a book of essays on the films of Olivier Assayas, co-wrote an Arnaud Desplechin movie that premiered in competition at Cannes, and made the documentary “Hitchcock/Truffaut.” In 2013, he returned to the festival as the director of programming, when he and Robert Koehler (who came on board as the year-round programming director of the FSLC) stepped in to replace veteran NYFF head Richard Peña.
Jones is hardly the only festival head to exit a starry position after a long tenure in recent months. In June, longtime Sundance director John Cooper announced that he would move into a newly-created “emeritus director” role following the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. In April, SFFILM head Noah Cowan announced that the 2019 edition of the festival would his last, while longtime TIFF director Piers Handling ended his tenure at the conclusion of last year’s festival, with TIFF veteran Cameron Bailey and former IFP head Joana Vicente stepping in to fill his role as co-heads of the lauded festival.
This year’s New York Film Festival kicks off on September 27 with the world premiere of Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman.”