I've been lucky enough to cover the Sundance Film Festival the last several years and South By Southwest the last two years, and I've enjoyed mingling with my fellow movie critics there. One topic that's always ripe for discussion when we gather is Who the eff chose some of these movies? Most festival entries have a reasonable level of quality, and the ones that utterly fail usually at least do so in interesting ways. But then there are always a few head-scratchers, where you figure it was politics or shmoozing or favoritism that got the thing added to the lineup, because there's NO WAY a committee watched it and thought it was good.

So I'm fascinated by Variety's John Anderson's behind-the-scenes look at how movies are chosen for the New York Film Festival: by a committee of film critics. My people!

NYFF (currently running through Oct. 14) is headed by festival director John Peña, associate programmer Kent Jones (who's also an editor at Film Comment magazine), and a rotating board of three full-time movie critics. Currently, those three are Entertainment Weekly's Lisa Schwarzbaum, The Village Voice's J. Hoberman, and L.A. Weekly's Scott Foundas.

Anderson's article says that since the critics aren't concerned about appealing to a mainstream audience or selling festival tickets, they feel free to choose movies that more populist fests -- like fellow New York attraction Tribeca -- might skip.

In some cases, this attitude means saving worthy films from obscurity. Anderson quotes Peña as saying that a certain film several years ago was causing headaches for its distributor, who didn't know how to market it. There was talk of sending it straight to video. But a NYFF programmer saw it, loved it, and it was invited to the fest. The film? Rushmore.
categories Cinematical