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Kent Jones. Courtesy of Philippe Halsman and Cohen Media Group.

New York Film Festival Director Kent Jones to Step Down

Writer and filmmaker Kent Jones will step down as head of the New York Film Festival (NYFF) and chair of the NYFF selection committee following this year’s edition, which kicks off on September 27 and runs through October 13. Jones has been involved with Film at Lincoln Center, which presents the festival, for more than two decades and has helmed NYFF for the last seven years.

Under Jones’s leadership, NYFF achieved soaring attendance numbers (last year’s event was the best-attended festival to date); expanded its program to include various sidebars and new sections such as the Spotlight on Documentary and Convergence; and featured a documentary as a headliner for the first time (Ava DuVernay’s 13th opened the festival in 2016).

“Beginning as a year-round programmer, Kent has shared his knowledge and passion for the movies with our Film at Lincoln Center audiences for almost twenty years,” said Film at Lincoln Center’s executive director, Lesli Klainberg. “On behalf of the board and staff, I’m delighted to support him as he continues into the next phase of his career, making more of his own cinematic dreams come true, and we can’t wait to enjoy the results.”

Jones joined Film at Lincoln Center in 1998 as associate director of programming. He organized retrospectives of Hou Hsiao-hsien, Alain Resnais, Michael Powell, Ermanno Olmi, Jacques Tourneur, and Jean-Luc Godard, with Jake Perlin, and has served in a number of other roles. He was a member of the New York Film Festival selection committee from 2002 to 2009 and was a frequent contributor to Film Comment magazine, of which he eventually became editor at large. In 2012, he was appointed director of the festival.

The internationally recognized filmmaker told Variety that his reasons for leaving were simple: “I’m a filmmaker,” he said. He also cited the making of Diane (2018), Jones’s first narrative feature film, as a turning point—the film won three awards (Best Feature Film, Best Cinematography, and Best Screenplay) at the TriBeCa Film Festival last year. His other works include Val Lewton: The Man in the Shadows (2007), which he wrote and directed; A Letter to Elia (2010), which he made with Martin Scorsese; and the documentary Hitchcock/Truffaut (2015), which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival.

“At some point when I was pretty young and already deep into movies, the New York Film Festival became a beacon for me,” Jones said in a statement. “Throughout its history, it has been a true home for the art of cinema—that was how it began with Richard Roud and Amos Vogel, that was how it remained with my predecessor Richard Peña, and that was how I’ve done my best to maintain it. I thank my colleagues, I thank the board for sticking to the original mission, I thank our audiences, I thank our colleagues in the industry, but most of all I thank the filmmakers. It’s been a joy and an honor to present their work.”

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