In 1962, Lincoln Center President William Schuman recruited Richard Roud as the first programmer of the New York Film Festival. At the time, Roud was based in London where he programmed the London Film Festival and worked as a film critic for The Guardian. Roud didn’t want to relocate to New Yorm full-time, so he recruited Amos Vogel as his co-programmer. Vogel was well-known among New York film connoisseurs as the founder of the legendary film society Cinema 16.
The inaugural New York Film Festival opened on September 10, 1963 with Luis Buñuel’s The Exterminating Angel that received the FIPRESCI award at the 1962 Cannes Film Festival. Roud participated in film selection at NYFF for 25 years. These years were characterized by a focus on the European art cinema.
In 1988, film historian Richard Peña took over as the festival’s film programmer. He expanded the Eurocentric focus of the festival while honoring NYFF’s unique character and traditions. As of 2016, the director of the festival and the chairman of the selection committee is Kent Jones.
New York Film Festival is known for its selection committee process and strict selectivity, the non-competitive format, and the post-screening director Q&As. The films are selected solely on the basis of their artistic merit, a big director’s name isn’t enough for the film to be included in the program.
Along with the main program (Main Slate), NYFF’s programming includes the Projections program, the Retrospective program, classical film restorations and rereleases, documentaries, experiences and installations, special talks, screenings of major new movies, meetings with surprise guests, and many other events. The festival lasts for 17 days which is barely enough to acquaint the audience with the best movies from all over the world.