The 2022 New York Film Festival is both the 60th edition of the event and the last one for executive director Eugene Hernandez. Before he departs to head up the Sundance Film Festival, the movie industry veteran spoke to about his best memories from overseeing NYC’s landmark movie conference and shares what to expect from this year’s lineup.
How do you feel about this being your last New York Film Festival?
It’s emotional. My relationship with this festival goes back 28 years. The organization [Film at Lincoln Center] and the festival really shaped, educated, informed and entertained me. The New York Film Festival has been such a formative part of my professional life and my life as a cinephile in New York. The last three years have been tough. They’ve been super hard for everybody, on organizations, on leaders, and this year’s festival feels like a culmination of something.
The past two years have been fraught — 2020 was a mix of drive-in and virtual screenings and last year’s was a bit overshadowed by the delta variant.
When I took over this new leadership role starting in 2020, we started talking about, “How can we be New York’s film festival?” Little did we know that when the pandemic really settled in that we would have to reboot the festival outside of Lincoln Center. Last year was coming back in a different way because it wasn’t our full audience — that’s why this year feels more like a culmination.
What made White Noise, All the Beauty and the Bloodshed and The Inspection right as the respective opening-night, centerpiece and closing-night films?
These three films are among the strongest works of cinema of the year. With the centerpiece, [Bloodshed‘s] Laura Poitras is at just a peak of her craft and her work. It’s going to be a nice homecoming. The Inspection is a very moving film because it’s Elegance Bratton’s story. We knew we had witnessed an arrival. To conclude our 60th year with a first feature is, to us, a signal and a nod to the future. [White Noise] is fun; it’s sharp. They all have a strong New York connection.
What about world premieres She Said and Till — why did you want to bring those to the festival?
In the case of She Said, film festivals are at the heart of Harvey Weinstein’s horrible actions — to watch it and consider it for the festival was a grounding and heavy experience. It’s a great New York movie, these two lead performances, portraying these two awesome journalists from The New York Times. They’re out on the streets of New York doing everything possible just to get this story.
It’s a serious film that’s also a reminder of what great work these two journalists have done to raise awareness and hold someone who was a big figure in our industry to account. [With Till,] we know the story and it’s heavy and we’re watching a true and tragic piece of our own country’s history and Chinonye [Chukwu] directs it with such assurance that, as hard as the film can be, you’re always in the hands of a confident and true artist.
With the lineup, is it important to have premieres over films debuting at other festivals?
We’re very agnostic to the world premiere conversation. Everything we show is brand-new to New York, to our audience, and that’s our guiding principle.
The 60th New York Film Festival runs from Sept. 30-Oct. 16.
Interview edited for length and clarity.
5 NY Film Fest Must Sees
NYFF regular Noah Baumbach debuts his Don DeLillo adaptation starring Adam Driver and Greta Gerwig. The movie, which had its world premiere at Venice, is “both witty and incisive,” Hernandez says.
Director Chinonye Chukwu helms the story of Mamie Till-Mobley’s quest for justice after the lynching of her son, Emmett Till. The film, Hernandez says, is a “knockout.”
ALL THE BEAUTY AND THE BLOODSHED
Laura Poitras’ Golden Lion-winning All the Beauty and the Bloodshed, which Hernandez calls “astonishing and magnificent” explores the opioid epidemic through interweaving narratives about the downfall of the Sackler family and the life and career of festival poster artist Nan Goldin.
Zoe Kazan and Carey Mulligan star in Maria Schrader’s retelling of the New York Times’ exposé of Harvey Weinstein. Hernandez calls the movie, “the book come to life in a way that’s truly engaging and thrilling.”
Elegance Bratton makes his narrative feature debut, Hernandez says, “with such elegance, grace and confidence,” with this movie based on Bratton’s own experiences as a gay man in the Marine Corps basic training.
This story first appeared in the Sept. 28 issue of magazine. Click here to subscribe.