Mike Fleming

BREAKING: Just before the New York Film Festival closed tonight with the premiere of the Alexander Payne-directed The Descendants, the Film Society of Lincoln Center announced that its longtime program director and Selection Committee head Richard Pena  will stepping down after next year’s 50th annual festival. Pena will have been involved in 25 of those fests by the time he leaves. The festival said that he will stay on to help design and organize a new educational initiative at the Film Society after he steps down.

“For the past 24 years, Richard Pena has served as the chairman of the Selection Committed for the Festival as well as the Program Director of the Film Society,” said FSLC Board of Directors president Dan Stern. “Richard has informed the Board at the end of 2012–after the Festival’s 50th anniversary and his 25th at its helm–he will step down from both posts. Richard has been with the Film Society through the opening of the Walter Reade Theater as well as the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center and we are please that he has accepted our invitation to stay on to help create a new educational initiative at the Film Society.”

The choice was made by Pena, who said that “Heading into the 50th anniversary of the Festival, it seems a perfect time for a transition, both for me personally and for the organization. Working at the Film Society has been beyond a dream come true, but in the years left me would like to possibly explore other areas of interest, both within and beyond the cinema. I also feel that, like at any other cultural institution, change can be important as it will bring in fresh ideas and approaches to lead the Film Society into its next fifty years.”

This year’s festival began with the Roman Polanski-directed Carnage, and has helped shape the upcoming Oscar race. There was in work-in-progress screening of Martin Scorsese’s dazzling 3D film Hugo, as well as screenings of films like Shame, The Artist and tonight’s closer The Descendants.

Rose Kuo, the FSLC executive director called Pena “a shining light for more than two decades at the Film Society, guiding us in the discovery of artists like Pedro Almodovar, Mike Leigh, Lars Von Trier, Hou Hsiao-hsien, Hong Sang Soo and many more. It has been an honor and a privilege to work with Richard and I am delighted that he will continue with us as he transitions to a new period in his career and life.”

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