Robert Koehler and Kent Jones at Lincoln Center yesterday. Photo by Eugene Hernandez

A programming duo will replace longtime Film Society of Lincoln Center Program Director Richard Peña. Kent Jones will return to the Film Society next year to lead the New York Film Festival and Robert Koehler will move from Los Angeles to New York to handle year-round programming duties at Lincoln Center.

Kent Jones left the Film Society in 2009 to become Executive Director of the World Cinema Foundation. Yesterday, at a meeting of the Film Society Board of Directors, Jones and Koehler were met with an enthusiastic round of applause as their appointments were approved.

Program Director Richard Peña, who also heads the selection committee for the New York Film Festival, will celebrate his 25th and final NYFF later this month. He announced his departure at the end of last year's festival and will design and organize a new educational initiative after he leaves his current roles at the end of this year. Peña will be honored at a Gala Tribute next month during the 50th New York Film Festival.

“Richard Peña has played a fundamental role in defining our organization and its commitment to discovering and supporting the best and most important cinema in the world. Kent Jones and Bob Koehler, whose thinking and writing about cinema I deeply respect, are the perfect team to build upon Richard's vision and carry it forward,” said Film Society Executive Director Rose Kuo in a statement.

Outgoing Film Society Program Director and Head of the NYFF Selection Committee Richard Peña. Photo by Tom Hall.

Kent Jones, a programmer, writer and filmmaker who began his programming career at Film Forum and the Rotterdam Film Festival, joined the Film Society of Lincoln Center in 1998 as the Associate Director of Programming and was a member of the New York Film Festival selection committee from 2002 through 2009. Jones is a 2012 Guggenheim Fellow and over the years he has worked closely with Martin Scorsese on a number of documentaries, including My Voyage to Italy (2001), A Letter to Elia (2010) and Val Lewton: The Man in the Shadows (2007). In 2007, his collection of writings, Physical Evidence, was published and he recently edited a volume on the writings of Olivier Assayas.

“The New York Film Festival has always been a beacon to me—when I was young and pouring over the yearly schedule in the Sunday Times, when I moved to New York in my 20s and started to actually attend the festival, and later when I served on the selection committee,” Kent Jones said in a statement today. “It means a lot to me to be entrusted with its stewardship after Richard Peña, to whom I owe a lot—I'm far from alone on that count. I’m excited to be working with Rose Kuo, with Bob Koehler, with Scott Foundas, with Gavin Smith, with Marian Masone, and with the whole team at the Film Society, many of whom are old friends and work colleagues. We’ll be working together to keep our part of cinema culture alive and thriving.”

Film critic and journalist Robert Koehler, who joined AFI Fest in Los Angeles as the director of programming in 2009, was an instructor and programmer for UCLA Extension from 2003 – 2007. He also presented a film series entitled “The Films That Got Away” at multiple venues in Los Angeles. Koehler was a theater critic for the LA Weekly and the Los Angeles Times and he has also written for numerous publications, including recent festival coverage for His books include Cine Argentino 1999 – 2009 and On Film Festivals.

“I'm delighted and honored to join the country's finest cinema presentation organization,” said Robert Koehler in a statement today, “especially at a time when it is embarking on a new, exciting and innovative chapter in its great history.”

The announcement of two directors to lead the programming department at the Film Society of Lincoln Center parallels the organization's recent expansion. Last summer saw the opening of the three-screen Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center across the street from the Film Society's Walter Reade Theater at Lincoln Center. New programs and series at the Film Society include first-run releases and family film screenings, as well as new media, educational and artist development programs.

“With Kent stewarding the New York Film Festival—which celebrates its 50 anniversary this month—and Robert overseeing the varied and expanding needs of our growing organization, we are primed to move forward and meet the evolving demands of the future of film,” said Film Society board chair Anne Tennenbaum in a statement today. “We are thrilled to welcome them both.”