The Reeler‘s Stu Van Airsdale asks N.Y. Film Festival director Richard Pena to respond to the A.O. Scott rap that the festival “isn’t programmed as much as it is curated,” which, Van Airsdale says, “implies a more abstract, individual mission than institutional mandate.”
Pena replies as follows: “I think of ‘curated’ more in the sense that it gives people the sense of having been carefully selected. And it is. Basically, we have a lot of films to look at, and we have a very small number of slots. We know there’s a point where we have to say, ‘No — we can’t just keep adding on one more film.’ That requires us to make choices.
“Because of that, hopefully the public really feels that this is a festival that is carefully selected. They might disagree violently with our selections, but they feel like somebody has selected these films — that somebody has said, ‘This film and not that film.’ I think that’s a good thing. I think our silent relationship with the public is really important that way. The public expects that we’re an honest festival — that no one can force their way into the New York Film Festival.”
Which raises an interesting question: which major film festivals are most commonly regarded as being subject to political manipulation and are therefore susceptible to this or that producer trying to force their way in? Frankly, I can’t think of a single festival — the New York Film Festival included — that doesn’t grapple with and occasionally give way to (or at least accomodate) political agendas.
Is Pena saying that entrenched relationships, emotional attachments and occasional offerings of olive-branch favoritism aren’t part of the selection process? I’m not sure Pena is in fact making this claim, but if he is then I have to say with due respect, “Bullshit.”