Next year marks Richard Peña's 25th year at the helm of the New York Film Festival and today he announced that it will also be his last. Peña will leave his posts as Program Director of the Film Society of Lincoln Center and head of the Selection Committee for the New York Film Festival at the end of the 50th Anniversary of NYFF next year.

Richard Peña will continue to be involved with the Film Society to work on the creation of a new education program at the organization and will remain a Professor of Film Studies at Columbia University. 

Peña said today that he feels his work is done in these roles with the Film Society and the Festival. He added that next year, as the Fest celebrates its 50th anniversary, is the perfect time for a transition. He'll carve out a new role at the Film Society by leading the creation of a new education program at the institution.

“I do think it's really healthy for an organization like the Film Society to have changes in leadership,” Richard Peña explained during an interview with this afternoon. More information is available in a Film Society press release.

Peña attended his first New York Film Festival in 1965, immediately falling in love with the festival at age twelve. He explained that his aunt brought him to the Festival to see Erich von Stroheim's The Wedding March back in '65. He's attended the Festival every year since, with the exception of one when he was traveling in South America. 

Calling the New York Film Festival “a beacon for people who truly believed film was important and interesting and should be challenging and provocative,” Peña today called the New York Film Festival his university. He immersed himself in the festival from a young age and it offered an education in cinema. “I saw so many great films in the festival. Films which really marked the way I think about film and certainly what my work would be in the future.”

“I would never have been able to work for the New York Film Festival if it hadn't taught me what I knew about cinema,” Richard Peña said during today's interview. This evening he planned to make the announcement on stage at Alice Tully Hall prior to the 2011 NYFF closing night screening of Alexander Payne's The Descendants.

“Richard Pena has been 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,” said Film Society Executive Director Rose Kuo, in a statement, “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.”

Given his long association with The Film Society and the New York Film Festival, FilmLinc asked Peña whether he faced a tough decision to make this change. “It would be more difficult if I felt there were more unfinished business,” Peña explained, “I think i've done enough.”

“We're excited that we have a year to properly celebrate Richard's accomplishments and contributions to the Film Society,” Rose Kuo added tonight.

Listen to the complete interview with Richard Peña below:

Richard Peña Interview by FilmLinc