Feasting on Cinema

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higher-profile films at new york film festival

by jerry portwood

the new york film festival, the city's premiere film fest, has been lambasted over the years for being too exclusive, academic and, as a.o. scott wrote in the new york times last year, "as the grimmest in memory." but recent additions to the programming staff-many of whom are now in their thirties-has shown a marked contrast with what appears to be higher-profile and more mainstream titles. this year's opening night film, for example, is the hotly anticipated the social network from director david fincher, and the closing night film is clint eastwood's hereafter, which stars matt damon. that doesn't mean that there aren't many foreign art films, but it does seem to speak to a broadening of the audience the festival wishes to attract.

one of the newest staff members is 32-year-old scott foundas, associate director of programming, who is also a recent transplant from los angeles, where he had been the film editor and critic at la weekly. foundas downplays the influence of younger members on the selection committee and says the nyff has always had a reputation for a broad range of excellent films.

"godard has been screened during the festival something like 25 times," foundas says. "we really look for the cream of the crop. you can come every night and see the best films in the world."

that may be the case, but the film society of lincoln also presents another daylong series this week, "john hughes: we can't forget about him," which may have never been slated without foundas' support. the retrospective of the director's work takes place sept. 19, and is a significant achievement for foundas.

"it's something i've been working on pretty much since day one," foundas explains. "one of the fascinating things about john hughes, for all the post-mortem tributes to him, is that in his lifetime he was not recognized by critics or the industry outside of a commercial base. he was not nominated or received any of the major awards. it's really only in his death that he's been appreciated."

as the organization continues to evolve-with two new spaces set to open early next year-and seeks to attract newer and younger audiences, we will have to wait and see how foundas and the other members of the selection committee continue to program for new generations of film fans. in the meantime, the world's cinema awaits.


sept. 24-oct. 10, new york film festival, lincoln center, www.filmlinc.com/nyff; $20-$40.

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