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Let’s face it: The New York Film Festival has always been run by older white men, from its founder, the late great Richard Roud, through departing director Kent Jones, who now turns his focus to full-time filmmaking. New NYFF director Eugene Hernandez brings an exciting and welcome perspective to the 57-year-old festival, which is just five years older than he is. He’s an erudite cinema connoisseur, having scarfed up movies for decades at the major film festivals and beyond as a journalist mostly at IndieWire and, for the last decade, rising in the ranks at Film at Lincoln Center.
But he’s more than a passionate film lover. Hernandez will bring a change in focus to the NYFF in terms of long-term strategy, ongoing opportunism, and industry and filmmaker outreach. Dennis Lim will continue as the programming director for the October festival, which is the focal point of the Film at Lincoln Center’s year, as well as booking year-round repertory cinema at the Walter Reade Theatre and new films at the Elinor Bunin Center, and curating Rendezvous with French Cinema and Spring’s New Directors, New FIlms, in concert with the Museum of Modern Art.
The New York FIlm Festival has always been a fall gateway for emerging art films, but does so without a competition jury or awards. With more cinema venues, the festival has broadened its scope to VR and documentary showcases as well as more year-round events and retrospectives.
And going forward, given everything he has done so far, Hernandez will push for more inclusivity across the board. He knows the main film players in Hollywood and all over the world. He’s a charming, enthusiastic, embracing, bigger-than-life personality who brings the best out of everyone he meets, including me — he brought me into IndieWire just over 11 years ago, before he made his transition to run digital media at the Film Society under Rose Kuo.
Back then, Film Comment was locked into a strictly print focus, and the hidebound Film Society needed help bringing its programming and the festival into a larger conversation. Hernandez accomplished that and then some. When Lesli Klainberg joined the festival as managing director in 2011, she worked alongside Hernandez and when she ascended to executive director in 2014, she made Hernandez her deputy.
“Eugene was trying to do innovative things,” said Klainberg. “I saw what he had to offer. He has the deepest connections in the industry of anyone in the organization. He’s connecting us to the people who make...
Everything is delayed, canceled, or on hold at the moment due to the coronavirus COVID-19, which means that film festivals are having to make some tough choices. Cannes is postponed. SXSW was canceled, but they recently announced they would try to put together an online film festival with Amazon Prime Video. TIFF has yet to make a decision one way or another, but festival runners Joana Vicente and Cameron Bailey mentioned last week that they were considering a potential digital festival. Digital film festivals are a distinct possibility in several locations, but there’s one fest that has flat-out refused to go digital: the Venice Film Festival.
With the coronavirus continuing to upend film festivals across the globe, some are wondering if virtual, online film festivals might be the solution for the time being. And while some fests – SXSW, TIFF – are open to this idea, the Venice Film Festival isn’t having it. Speaking with Variety, a Venice spokesperson said: “The Venice Film Festival cannot be replaced by an online event,” adding that “there is obviously the possibility that we use technology for some initiatives, [but] it’s too early for this to be decided.”
The Venice Film Festival is supposed to run in September, and as of now, everyone involved with the fest is still operating under the assumption that the festival is still on. Organizers have put out a call for “projects for its Final Cut in Venice co-production workshop dedicated to supporting works from the Middle East and Africa, currently scheduled to be held during the fest.”
Venice artistic director Alberto Barbera was quoted as saying he and his team “are working just the same as in past years” and that they “cannot provide specifics about the future.” The only thing they can confirm is that no matter what happens, the festival will not go digital. While some are more than happy to accept the idea of a digital festival – no travel fees! – not everyone is okay with the idea. For one thing, if a film without distribution were to debut digitally and then immediately be pirated, it would hurt its chances at eventual purchase. Plus, many filmmakers and producers long for that festival buzz that can only be achieved by screening titles for a live audience.
But we remain in uncharted territory for the moment, and it’s unclear just when the coronavirus situation will end. As of now, Italy remains in strict lockdown, and if that continues into the fall, there’s very little chance the Venice Film Festival will go off as planned....
NBC medical drama “New Amsterdam” has decided to postpone airing an upcoming episode that would've focused on a fictional deadly flu pandemic in New York City.
Deadline reported that the series, created by David Schulner, had already shot an episode titled “Pandemic,” later renamed “Our Doors Are Always Open”. Schulner supported the network's decision and provided a short essay to Deadline about the episode's postponement, where he stressed that the “world needs a lot less fiction right now, and a lot more facts.”
“During a bad year, influenza can kill up to 80,000 Americans,” Schulner said in his letter. “We wanted to get this message out. And the best way to do that was to scare you so bad you'd be washing your hands during the commercial breaks. We showed what happens when our hospital has to erect tents in the parking lot because every bed is taken. When the doctors and nurses and medical techs have been working back to back shifts because their replacements are sick. When panic sets in. When people are quarantined. When people die. Sometimes, what the mirror reflects back is too horrifying to look at.”
Schulner also noted that members of the series' cast and crew had become sick, including Daniel Dae Kim, who Schulner said tested positive for the coronavirus several days after production was shuttered. All four of the show's infected individuals are recovering, according to Schulner. He added that while many consumers have become more interested in pandemic-related films such as “Contagion” — whose medical consultant tested positive for the coronavirus earlier this week — the episode's New York location mirrored the state's real-world coronavirus crisis too closely for comfort.
New York City has become the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the United States, with more than 17,000 cases and 200 deaths since March 1. Business Insider reported that 2,500 new cases were reported on Tuesday, with another 2,300 reported Wednesday morning. The city accounts for nearly a third of the nation's coronavirus cases.
“Our Doors Are Always Open” will air at a later date, though a specific date has not been determined. “New Amsterdam” has already been renewed for three additional seasons.
“New Amsterdam” is one of numerous television shows that has been impacted by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. IndieWire is keeping track of all of the entertainment industry's productions and events that have been impacted by the outbreak.
Schulner's full essay is available on Deadline.