The San Francisco Film Society has named Noah Cowan its new Executive Director, confirming rumors that had swirled since the beginning of the year. Cowan who has served as Artistic Director of TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto since 2008, will assume the position March 3 and will oversee the organization's programs in exhibition, education, and filmmaker services.
Cowan has had a long history with TIFF, the group that produces the annual Toronto International Film Festival, beginning as a programmer for the festival's Midnight Madness program in 1989. He also curated major national cinema retrospectives on India and Japan for the organization. From 2004–08 Cowan served as co-director of the Toronto International Film Festival, alongside TIFF Director and CEO Piers Handling.
From 1997–2004 Cowan worked in New York City, where he co-founded Cowboy Pictures, a pioneering distributor of award-winning international art house films. In 2002, Cowan founded the Global Film Initiative, a nonprofit organization devoted to “worldwide understanding through film.” In partnership with the Museum of Modern Art, the foundation funded, acquired, created, and distributed educational material for socially meaningful cinema from the developing world.
Cowan takes over from Ted Hope who served as Executive Director before stepping down late last year. He succeeded the late Bingham Ray, who suddenly passed away after joining the organization as its head the previous year and Graham Leggat, who died in 2011 from cancer. Both Ray and Leggat had worked at Film Society of Lincoln Center before heading west to San Francisco.
“The board and staff of the San Francisco Film Society are thrilled to have Noah Cowan join us to lead this organization into the future,” said David Winton, SFFS board president. “His intimate knowledge of the international film scene and his many achievements in Toronto make him the perfect person to continue building on the Film Society’s mission of showcasing the best in world cinema, promoting media literacy in our schools and supporting exceptional independent filmmakers.”
“I am grateful to the Board of Directors of the Film Society for providing this remarkable opportunity,” said Cowan. “The Bay Area has a storied relationship to cinema’s century-plus history and is currently home to the technology companies that will decisively influence the medium’s future. SFFS is uniquely positioned to work with filmmakers, educators and enthusiastic local audiences to embrace the dynamic and exciting changes taking place within the industry and continue to ensure that great cinema is made, seen and appreciated.”
SFFS produces the annual San Francisco International Film Festival (April 24 – May 8). Additionally, the organization, now in its 57th year, organizes year-round education programs such as SFFS Education and Filmmaker360, a filmmaker services program which supports emerging independent filmmakers nationwide and oversees one of the largest film grant programs in the country, dispersing nearly $1 million annually.