By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood November 9, 2009 at 5:21AM
When Rebecca Yeldham came in to run the Los Angeles Film Festival this year, programming director Rachel Rosen played out her last fest and then moved back to her old stomping grounds, the San Francisco Film Festival. Now Yeldham announces that Newsweek critic David Ansen is joining the LAFF as artistic director. Since he accepted a Newsweek buyout last March, Ansen has been delivering the slimmed-down magazine a reduced number of reviews and features a year. Who better than a critic to make the final picks on the LAFF?
Ansen has served on countless festival juries as well as an eight-year term on the New York Film Festival selection committee. He was on the LAFF documentary jury this year and is currently looking at films to nominate for the Independent Spirit Awards in March. "This job doesn't start until January, but it's starting," says Ansen. "I have 50 to 60 DVDs to get through." Ansen will continue to write for Newsweek as a freelance contributor, including a number of year-end stories and his annual Oscar round-table. He figures he'll devote most of the first half of the year to the LAFF, which takes place in July, and then focus on Newsweek--when the better films open anyway.
"It's not a great time to be a film critic," admits Ansen. "I wasn't getting to review as many movies as I wanted to at Newsweek. I'm not ready for semi-retirement. This job puts all my years of being a critic to use in a different way." Ansen promises some changes in the fest going forward, and will lean on Doug Jones, newly promoted associate director of programming.
As journalism becomes more and more inhospitable to film critics, film festivals become a viable alternative. Ansen landed at LAFF. After nine months, there is still a position open at the Film Society of Lincoln Center (which mounts the New York Film Festival and books the Walter Reade Theater) for a full-time programmer to replace Kent Jones, who left to work with Martin Scorsese's World Cinema Foundation. Dennis Lim replaced Jones on the Film Fest selection committee, but the staff post remains unfilled. Several critics are in contention for that slot, including LA Weekly survivor Scott Foundas. Film Society of Lincoln Center honcho Mara Manus expects to make the announcement later this month. I'd argue for Foundas to keep doing what he does so well. But what future can he reasonably count on, as New Times keeps slashing their ranks? Even venerated food critic Meredith Brody lost her gig at San Francisco Weekly last week.
There are some new options on the horizon for film writers. Two publishers of European movie magazines see an opportunity to take advantage of a gap in American cinema coverage. Even in this unforgiving climate, new Cahiers du Cinema owner, Phaidon Press's Richard Schlagman, may move forward with a rejuvenated U.S. edition after he relaunches the classic cinephile magazine. And the world's most successful film mag, Empire, is also eyeing a U.S. edition.
FILM INDEPENDENT ANNOUNCES RESPECTED NEWSWEEK FILM CRITIC DAVID ANSEN AS ARTISTIC DIRECTOR OF
THE LOS ANGELES FILM FESTIVAL
- Doug Jones upped to Associate Director of Programming -
LOS ANGELES (November 9, 2009) – Film Independent, the non-profit arts organization that produces the Spirit Awards and the Los Angeles Film Festival, announced today that esteemed Newsweek film critic David Ansen is joining the organization as Artistic Director of the 2010 Los Angeles Film Festival. Senior Programmer Doug Jones has been promoted to Associate Director of Programming for the Los Angeles Film Festival.
“As a consummate movie lover, David is one of the finest critics thinking, watching, and writing about movies today. To have David join our exceptional programming team is a dream come true, and will only further ignite the excitement building around LAFF, its direction, and its future,” said Festival Director Rebecca Yeldham.
“I’m tremendously excited to join the Los Angeles Film Festival. For me, it’s a chance to put into action my many years as a movie critic at Newsweek, an experience I hope will contribute to LAFF’s success as a world-class cultural event in Los Angeles,” said Ansen. “LAFF is uniquely positioned to draw on the industry’s history and broad range of talent to create a festival that will not only showcase the best new work from around the world, but provide unforgettable filmgoing experiences for the audience.”
“With one of the most respected tastemakers joining forces with a talented producer like Rebecca, we continue to build a top-notch team that makes the Los Angeles Film Festival a platform for nurturing the diversity of films being made and bringing them to the everyday film goer,” said Film Independent Executive Director Dawn Hudson.
David Ansen was Newsweek's movie critic from 1977 through 2008, and continues to write for them as a Contributing Editor. He's written several documentaries for television on Greta Garbo (TNT), Groucho Marx (HBO), Elizabeth Taylor (PBS), and the Ace Award winning All About Bette (Bette Davis) for TNT. He was on the selection committee of the New York Film Festival from 1990 to 1998, and has served on film festival juries around the world, including the Los Angeles Film Festival in 2009. Ansen is a member of the New York Film Critics Circle, the National Society of Film Critics, and the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, and is a three-time winner of the Page One Award from the Newspaper Guild of New York. He's written for New York Times, Los Angeles Times Book Review, Film Comment, Interview, Cineaste, and other publications. Ansen earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Harvard.
Doug Jones has been with Film Independent since 2002 when he joined as Senior Programmer for the Los Angeles Film Festival. He has written on film and the festival circuit for indieWIRE, Film Comment, Twitch, flatbed, and other publications. Jones is currently on the nominating committee for the Cinema Eye Honors for Nonfiction Filmmaking. Previously, he curated films for the Oak Street Cinema in Minneapolis, the Mill Valley Film Festival in Northern California, the Noise Pop Film Festival in San Francisco. From 1996 to 2001, Jones was Film and Video Programmer for the San Francisco Film Society and San Francisco International Film Festival. Jones found his first job working in film at age 14 behind the concession stand of the Hollywood Theater in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. He then went on to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree in Film Studies from Metropolitan University, followed by a few years working in film production.
The 2010 Los Angeles Film Festival runs June 17 through June 27, and is presented by the Los Angeles Times. Submissions for the Festival are being accepted via Withoutabox.com until February 5, 2010 for short films and music videos and March 1, 2010 for feature-length narrative and documentary films.
[Photo by Larry Laszlo]