New York Film Festival

The New York Film Festival (NYFF) is an annual film festival held every autumn in New York City, presented by the Film Society of Lincoln Center (FSLC). Founded in 1963 by Richard Roud and Amos Vogel with the support of Lincoln Center president William Schuman, it is one of the longest-running and most prestigious film festivals in the United States.[1] The non-competitive festival is centered around a “Main Slate” of typically 20-30 feature films, with sidebars for experimental cinema and retrospectives, and recently introduced documentary and trans-media sections. Programming is led by a rotating Selection Committee, chaired by the Director of the New York Film Festival, with many committee members remaining from year to year. Separate committees and individuals program the short film, experimental, and trans-media sections.

New York Film Festival
LocationNew York City, United States
Hosted byFilm Society of Lincoln Center (2019)

Kent Jones has been the festival Director since 2013.[2] As of 2018, the main Selection Committee included Jones (chair); Dennis Lim, FSLC Director of Programming; and Florence Almozini, FSLC Associate Director of Programming.[3]

The 57th New York Film Festival will take place from September 27 to October 13, 2019.[4]


As of 2018, the festival program is divided into the following sections:

Main Slate

The Main Slate is the Festival’s primary section, a program typically featuring 25-30 feature-length films, intending to reflect the current state of cinema. The program is a mix of major international art house films from the festival circuit, new discoveries, and studio releases targeting awards season. The studio films are often selected as Opening Night, Centerpiece, and Closing Night presentations.[5]

Spotlight on Documentary

First distinguished from the general Special Events category as a series of three individually-titled programs in 2013, the non-fiction sidebar has been a single program under the name “Spotlight on Documentary” since 2014. The section includes 10-15 feature-length films.[6][7]


Previously named “Views From the Avant-Garde”, Projections is the Festival’s experimental showcase, presenting many programs of short and feature-length work. Initiated in 1997 by co-programmers Mark McElhatten and Gavin Smith, the section was re-titled in 2014 following McElhatten’s departure. It has since been curated by Dennis Lim and Aily Nash, along with Smith through 2015.[8][9]

Revivals and Retrospectives

The Revivals section, previously called "Masterworks", screens new restorations or rereleases of classic films without any unifying theme. Retrospective programs are centered around specific filmmakers. Recent retrospective subjects include Jean-Luc Godard, Nathaniel Dorsky & Jerome Hiller, Bertrand Tavernier, and Robert Mitchum.[10][11]


Several programs of short films, categorized as a sub-section of the Main Slate prior to 2017.[12]

Special Events

These screenings are an assortment of special guest appearances, premieres, and documentaries, and include the annual Film Comment Presents selection.[13]


Inaugurated in 2012 by co-curators Matt Bolish and Eugene Hernandez, Convergence is the Festival’s program for interactive and transmedia storytelling.[14][15][16]


Founding the Festival and Richard Roud

The NYFF's first programmer, Richard Roud, was recruited by Lincoln Center President William Schuman in 1962. Boston-born Roud was 33 years old at the time and based in London where he worked as a film critic for The Guardian and programmed the London Film Festival. Though Roud maintained his home base in London, he recruited Amos Vogel of the legendary Cinema 16 film club as his New York-based co-programmer. The first edition of the festival opened on September 10, 1963 with Luis Buñuel's The Exterminating Angel. In 1966, Roud and Vogel formed the festival's first selection committee, consisting of Arthur Knight and Andrew Sarris; Susan Sontag was added the next year. Vogel resigned from his position as Festival Director in 1968. Though Roud was previously designated Program Director, he presided over the festival from 1969 to 1987.

Roud's 25 years at the festival were characterized by a focus on the European art cinema of the postwar years and the rise of auteurism.[17]

The Richard Peña era

Richard Peña, then 34, took over as lead programmer in 1988. The Queens native was already an accomplished film historian, academic, and programmer. Prior to his work with NYFF, he worked at the Film Center of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Peña came to NYFF as a seasoned festival-goer who held Roud in high esteem. During his stint as programmer (which also listed 25 years), Peña honored the festival's traditions and unique character - retaining the selection committee process, the non-competitive format, the post-screening director Q&As, and the festival's strict selectivity - while also working to expand NYFF's somewhat Eurocentric focus. Filmmakers like Hou Hsiao-hsien, Manoel de Oliveira, Leos Carax, Raúl Ruiz, and Krzystof Kieslowski were introduced to NYFF audiences during the Roud era, and became regulars under Peña. After 25 years as Program Director and head of the NYFF selection committee, Peña led his final year at NYFF in 2012, during the festival's 50th presentation.[18]

NYFF today

After Richard Peña's departure, Robert Koehler briefly took over year-round programming duties, while Kent Jones, who left The Film Society of Lincoln Center in 2009 to serve as Executive Director of the World Cinema Foundation, returned to lead NYFF. Jones began his programming career at Film Forum and the Rotterdam Film Festival, before joining The Film Society of Lincoln Center in 1998 as Associate Director of Programming and a member of the NYFF programming committee.


  1. Kern, Laura; Koch, Joanne; Peña, Richard, eds. (2012). New York Film Festival Gold. United States: The Film Society of Lincoln Center, Inc. pp. 16–18. ISBN 978-0-615-66360-9.
  2. Cox, Gordon. "Film Society names new heads". Variety. Retrieved 2017-04-05.
  3. "56th New York Film Festival Main Slate Announced". Film Society of Lincoln Center. Retrieved 2018-09-12.
  4. "57th New York Film Festival". Film at Lincoln Center. Retrieved 2019-08-06.
  5. "Main Slate | New York Film Festival". Film Society of Lincoln Center. Retrieved 2017-04-05.
  6. Salovaara, Sarah. "NYFF Announces Spotlight on Documentary Selections". Filmmaker Magazine. Retrieved 2017-04-05.
  7. "Spotlight on Documentary | New York Film Festival". Film Society of Lincoln Center. Retrieved 2017-04-05.
  8. "NYFF 2014. First Projections on Notebook". MUBI. Retrieved 2017-04-05.
  9. "Projections | New York Film Festival". Film Society of Lincoln Center. Retrieved 2017-04-05.
  10. "Revivals | New York Film Festival". Film Society of Lincoln Center. Retrieved 2017-04-05.
  11. "Retrospective | New York Film Festival". Film Society of Lincoln Center. Retrieved 2017-04-05.
  12. Murthi, Vikram (2016-08-29). "FSLC Announce Shorts Programs And New Section Explorations For 54th New York Film Festival". IndieWire. Retrieved 2018-09-12.
  13. "Special Events | New York Film Festival". Film Society of Lincoln Center. Retrieved 2017-04-05.
  14. "FSLC announces Inaugural Presentation of NYFF Convergence and NYFF Midnight Movies". Film Society of Lincoln Center. Retrieved 2017-04-05.
  15. "Convergence | New York Film Festival". Film Society of Lincoln Center. Retrieved 2017-04-05.
  16. "56th New York Film Festival Program Book". Retrieved 2018-09-12.
  17. Smith, Gavin (September/October 2012). "Breaking the Waves". Film Comment.
  18. Smith, Gavin (September/October 2012). "Breaking the Waves". Film Comment.
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