In an exclusive interview with Dennis Lim, the artistic director of the New York Film Festival (NYFF), we delve into the inner workings of one of the most prestigious cinematic events in the world. Lim shares insights into this year’s NYFF, its goals, and the challenges faced in curating the film lineup.
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New York, NY – As the 61st edition of the New York Film Festival (NYFF) unfolds in Manhattan’s Upper West Side, Dennis Lim, the festival’s artistic director, is at the forefront of ensuring that cinephiles experience some of the year’s most exceptional cinematic offerings. Lim’s role is multifaceted, from introducing films to moderating Q&A sessions and, sometimes, sneaking into a cinema to watch a film “as a way to hide out.”
This year, NYFF has curated a lineup that includes buzzworthy films from Cannes and Venice, such as Todd Haynes’ “May December,” Bradley Cooper’s Leonard Bernstein biopic “Maestro,” and Sofia Coppola’s adaptation of “Priscilla.” Additionally, the festival will host the world premiere of Nathan Fielder and Benny Safdie’s genre-defying series “The Curse” and the intriguing sci-fi story “Foe,” starring Saoirse Ronan and Paul Mescal.
In an exclusive interview, Lim provides insights into the festival’s goals, selection process, and the impact of the recent SAG strike:
Goal of NYFF Lim explains that NYFF’s core identity remains unchanged: providing a snapshot of the year’s cinema. Unlike some festivals with competitions and prizes, NYFF aims to make a case for cinema as a vital art form. The focus is on the films that can best represent this case.
Curating the Film Lineup The process of selecting films for NYFF is a year-round endeavor. Lim and his team begin in earnest in January and February, with members scouting at Sundance and Berlin. After Cannes, the process intensifies, and the lineup is finalized in July. Lim and his team watch numerous films daily, sometimes up to four or five during festivals. This rigorous process is essential to ensure the lineup is diverse and captivating.
Opening Night Selection “May December” was chosen as the opening night film. Lim describes how the team fell in love with the film at Cannes, and it felt overdue to honor Todd Haynes in this slot. The film’s witty script, outstanding acting, and direction made it a perfect choice.
A Film That Needed to Be on the Lineup Lim expresses his regret for not including “Ryuichi Sakamoto | Opus,” a touching performance film featuring the late composer Sakamoto at the piano. The film pays tribute to Sakamoto’s incredible film scores, making it a significant omission.
Impact of the SAG Strike While the SAG strike has resulted in fewer actors being present, Lim mentions that the festival’s international scope mitigates its impact. Only around 20% of the films screened are American, and only a fraction of those were produced or released by AMPTP members. Consequently, the curatorial process remained largely unaffected.
Lingering Impact and Future Programming Lim acknowledges concerns about the strike’s lingering impact, particularly on future programming. He notes that it has affected production pipelines, but international and independent films have secured waivers and continued shooting, ensuring that NYFF will likely remain unaffected next year.