Steve Apkon, Kent Jones, Joanne Koch and Richard Peña Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze
New York Film Festival Gold: A 50th Anniversary Celebration Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze
Taking the train from Grand Central to Pleasantville, New York on September 11, a steamy 90 degree Wednesday that felt more like the height of summer than early autumn, I journeyed to the Jacob Burns Film Center for an evening that would usher in the 51st New York Film Festival, which officially starts on September 27. The 45-minute train ride, a little bit Ozu, a little bit like a Doris Day and James Garner commute in Move Over, Darling, set the tone for the night's programme celebrating 50 years of New York Film Festival.
Hanna Schygulla with Rainer Werner Fassbinder presenting The Marriage Of Maria Braun (image Helaine Messer) Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze
Richard Peña, who is most often asked how he chose the films for the festival responded: "The only way to choose them is to see them." Due to the limited amount of films presented in the festival, those that won't make the top 100 can be put aside earlier, after 20 minutes, although they might find their spot on one of the Film Society's many other programmes throughout the year.
Richard Peña and Michael Haneke Photo: Godlis
The first clip shown that evening was from Roger And Me, Michael Moore's first film, selected by Peña in his second year. "Little did we know what we were unleashing into the world," he joked about his dear friend, host of last year's tribute to him.
Joanne Koch added: "General Motors was a big contributor to Lincoln Center. I had a visit from the chairman of Lincoln Center who asked "are you really going to show this film?" And I said "yes". And George Weissman, who was a very intelligent, mature man said "okay" and that was the end of it. I was amazed that by the following year General Motors contributed even more to Lincoln Center. It was the right decision."
Faye Dunaway and Barbet Schroeder at the 25th New York Film Festival for Barfly.
In order to show the clip with a better picture, the switch resulted in a scene from La Ciénaga without subtitles, which prompted Apkon to bring up his discussions with Burns Center board member, Jonathan Demme, about the importance of looking at films and turning the sound off. Martel, he said, though, "paints with sound." Jones brought up Robert Bresson in this context, as a filmmaker for whom sound was most important, "when he'd pick actors, he would listen to their voices on the phone."
The next clip, illustrating the importance of world cinema, was from Jafar Panahi's This Is Not A Film, which was smuggled from Iran to Cannes in a birthday cake. "Because of his involvement in filming some of the protests against the fraudulent election a few years ago," Peña explained, "he was arrested and as a result of that election forbidden to film… There are few testaments more wonderful to the power of creation to what the spirit and creativity of a real artist can do, just armed with a camera."
Grand Central Terminal in the heat of the night Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze
You can read our early reviews from this year's festival plus coverage from previous editions here.