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Noah Cowan Is Leaving Toronto's Bell Lightbox for Stateside Job (UPDATED)

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood January 22, 2014 at 1:48PM

With two plum film society berths in flux over the past few months, speculation has surrounded Noah Cowan, who once had Cameron Bailey's programming gig at the Toronto International Film Festival and now is the artistic director TIFF Bell Lightbox.
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Noah Cowan, the new head of the San Francisco Film Society.
Noah Cowan, the new head of the San Francisco Film Society.

With two plum film society berths in flux over the past few months, speculation has surrounded Noah Cowan, who once had Cameron Bailey's programming gig at the Toronto International Film Festival and now is the artistic director of TIFF Bell Lightbox. Well, Cowan has told his boss, TIFF CEO Piers Handling, that he is leaving, reports The Toronto Star, but can't reveal his U.S. destination for a few weeks as he irons out his immigration status.

Rumors have circulated that Cowan, 46, is going to take the executive director spot at the San Francisco Film Festival vacated by Ted Hope (now CEO at Fandor). Others suggest that Cowan is heading toward Rose Kuo's executive director slot at the Film Society of Lincoln Center, which has effectively been taken over by Kuo's second-in-command, Lesli Klainberg.

I'm told that the SFFS plans to make an announcement shortly, well in advance of the April film festival, so stay tuned.

Cowan, who arrives at the Sundance FIlm Festival Wednesday, will leave TIFF in mid-February. Another opportunity exists in L.A. for various curatorial jobs that have attracted many interested parties at the Academy Museum, which is partnered with the Los Angeles Museum of Art, which is soon to close its Bing Theatre as LACMA goes under renovation and construction. A new theater will be built in the May Company Academy Museum building on La Brea, I hear, and museum film programming may be coordinated from there. 

At TIFF, Cowan supervises a $5-million annual budget and a staff of 30 plus more part-timers and interns. He has learned how to lure moviegoers to first-run programming at the Bell Lightbox, and has curated a number of exhibitions including a groundbreaking look at cinema in China. He and Handling curated the David Cronenberg exhibit that just closed at the Lightbox's HSBC Gallery at the Lightbox.

Cowan logged some real-world distribution experience at Cowboy Pictures but returned to the Toronto Festival in 2004. He moved over to the Lightbox in 2008. 

This article is related to: New York Film Festival , San Francisco Film Society, San Francisco International Film Festival


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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.