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.