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Veteran Nonprofit Cultural Arts Executive to Take Helm on March 3
2/19/2014
The San Francisco Film Society (SFFS) announced today that Noah Cowan has been appointed Executive Director of the organization, effective March 3. Cowan, a leader in facilitating and creating internationally-recognized film programming for more than two decades, will oversee the Film Society’s expanding programs in exhibition, education and filmmaker services. Cowan joins SFFS after five years at the helm of TIFF Bell Lightbox, the landmark cinema museum space in Toronto where he served as the facility’s founding Artistic Director.

“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.”

Since 2008, Cowan has served as Artistic Director of TIFF Bell Lightbox, where he has been responsible for the creative and artistic vision for the multi-purpose film venue and home of the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). During his tenure, he curated many critically-acclaimed exhibitions and installations, including showcases of work by such diverse figures as David Cronenberg, Grace Kelly and visual artists Yang Fudong and Candice Breitz, as well as major retrospectives related to the history of Chinese cinema and the Indian superstar Raj Kapoor. He was also responsible for a large educational portfolio, including the TIFF Cinematheque, the TIFF Kids International Film Festival, several significant learning programs for students of all ages and large-scale collaborations between film and visual arts institutions around the world.

Cowan has had a long history with TIFF, beginning as a programmer for the Midnight Madness program in 1989, which remains one of the Festival’s most popular offerings. He subsequently curated major national cinema retrospectives on India and Japan for the organization, becoming a recognized new voice in contemporary international film programming by the mid-1990s. From 2004–08 Cowan was Codirector of the Toronto International Film Festival, alongside TIFF Director and CEO Piers Handling. During Cowan’s tenure, the TIFF grew to become a world-leading public festival and marketplace as well as a daring innovator with recent initiatives such as the celebrated citywide meeting of the visual arts and cinema, Future Projections.

From 1997–2004 Cowan worked in New York City, where he cofounded 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 joins the San Francisco Film Society—now in its 57th year—during an exciting period of expansion in each of its three main program areas: exhibition, education and filmmaker services.

The San Francisco International Film Festival (April 24–May 8, 2014) is the longest-running film festival in the Americas and a beloved showcase of cinematic discovery and innovation. Additional year-round exhibition programs include a Fall Season slate of specialized film series featuring the best work from France, Italy, Switzerland, Taiwan, Hong Kong and the San Francisco Bay Area, and a wide variety of individual public and members’ screenings and events.

The SFFS Education department produces year-round media literacy programs to over 10,000 K–12 learners, in addition to college and university programs that introduce students to careers in filmmaking.  SFFS recently celebrated the launch of FilmEd (filmed.sffs.org), a new online community and toolkit that provides curricula and media to facilitate classroom instruction and connects filmmakers and educators across the globe.

Filmmaker360, the Film Society’s filmmaker services program, supports emerging independent filmmakers nationwide and oversees one of the largest film grant programs in the country, dispersing nearly $1 million annually to incubate and support innovative films and filmmakers. Recent Filmmaker360 success stories include such acclaimed independent films as Ira Sach’s Love is Strange, Kat Candler’s Hellion, Jesse Moss’ The Overnighters, Destin Cretton’s Short Term 12, Ryan Coogler’s Fruitvale Station, Zachary Heinzerling’s Cutie and the Boxer and Benh Zeitlin’s Beasts of the Southern Wild.

“We’re very excited to have Noah join us at SFFS,” said Director of Programming Rachel Rosen. “His impressive experience in the film industry—his excellent programming at TIFF, distribution and granting experience at Cowboy and the Global Film Initiative, and innovative leadership at the TIFF Bell Lightbox—reveal that he shares the Film Society’s passion for cinema and for supporting a wide range of films and filmmakers.”

To request an interview, contact Bill Proctor at bproctor@sffs.org.
For photos, visit sffs.org/pressdownloads.

San Francisco Film Society
Building on a legacy of more than 50 years of bringing the best in world cinema to the Bay Area, the San Francisco Film Society is a national leader in exhibition, education and filmmaker services. These three core areas of programmatic activity are led by Director of Programming Rachel Rosen, Director of Education Joanne Parsont and Director of Filmmaker360 Michele Turnure-Salleo.
 
The Film Society presents more than 100 days of exhibition each year, reaching a total audience of more than 100,000 people. Its acclaimed education program introduces international, independent and documentary cinema and media literacy to more than 10,000 teachers and students. Through Filmmaker360, the Film Society’s filmmaker services program, essential creative and business services, and funding totaling millions of dollars are provided to deserving filmmakers of all levels.
 
The Film Society seeks to elevate all aspects of film culture, offering a wide range of activities that engage emotions, inspire action, change perceptions and advance knowledge. A 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation, it is largely donor and member supported. Patronage and membership provides discounted prices, access to grants and residencies, private events and a wealth of other benefits.
 
For more information visit sffs.org.

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