New York Film Festival sticks to core mission despite coronavirus pandemic changes

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- The 58th New York Film Festival officially gets underway this week, but like so many other events in New York City, the pandemic has resulted in big changes for this event.

This year's diverse slate of movies will be shown on a virtual platform and in drive-ins located in three of the five boroughs.

If show business is always a balancing act between art and commerce, then the New York Film Festival comes down squarely on the side of cinema: The best movies past and present selected without regard for box office prospects.

"All of us who are part of the selection committee spent all summer watching movies and talking about movies," NYFF Director Eugene Hernandez said. "We were considering what movies made sense for our audience at this moment."

But this year, the festival can't have the traditional premieres like the one that launched "The Irishman" into the Oscar race last fall.

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One of the highlights of last year for me was watching the film and then talking about it directly afterwards with star Robert De Niro, who told me he enjoyed the experience of making it with old pal Martin Scorsese so much he "would've liked it if we shot for another six months."

The NYFF programming is always diverse, and that definitely hasn't changed.

A film from Steve McQueen's "Small Axe" anthology series opens this year's event, which will also feature "David Byrne's American Utopia," directed by Spike Lee.

Sofia Coppola's latest, "On the Rocks," reunites the director with Bill Murray, the star of the movie that won her an Oscar, "Lost in Translation."

The films aren't being shown at Lincoln Center this year, but many will be available on a virtual platform to be streamed into the homes of ticket buyers.

"It wasn't about changing the central idea, the mission, the core of the Festival, NYFF Program Director Dennis Lim said. "We still did what we do every year."

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The need for social distancing has led to a revival of drive-ins, so the NYFF is showing films outdoors in the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens in partnership with the non-profit Rooftop Films.

The New York Film Festival runs through October 11.

WABC-TV is a proud media sponsor of the event, and tickets to many events are still available.

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Suddenly, the brutal death of George Floyd while in the custody of police officers in Minneapolis filled the streets of a nation with rage and sorrow. New York was no different. Protesters put the fear of the virus aside and took to the streets by the thousands. Abandoning the safety and comfort of social distance, to demand social change.





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