Exclusive Interview with Film Forum Director, Karen Cooper

Film forum April 8 2016BY DEAN MOSES

April marks the 15th annual Tribeca Film Festival. This means that there will be screenings of brand new movies, star-studded red carpets, and fascinating talks with A-list actors and directors. The Spring Creek Sun will be covering all the happenings at this celebrated event, so don’t fret if you did not manage to score a ticket. If you are a movie buff and would still like to celebrate indie, classic, or unique cinema, there is still a place for you: Film Forum. Located in Downtown Manhattan, Film Forum shows all kinds of movies you won’t find anywhere else, from documentaries and independent features to family friendly silent movies with live music. We spoke with the Director of Film Forum, Karen Cooper, about the cinema, and what drives it to be such a special choice for New York moviegoers.

Spring Creek Sun (SCS): For those who have yet to learn about Film Forum, how would you describe it and the work you do?

Karen Cooper (KC): Film Forum is an independent cinema, founded in 1970, dedicated to premiering foreign and American art films and documentaries as well as a detailed repertory program of classics, festivals, directors’ series, etc. We play films which take risks, are innovative, controversial, and provocative. For example: we recently played SON OF SAUL, a Hungarian drama set in Auschwitz, which just won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. We’ve had documentaries on politically relevant subjects like the Black Panthers as well as on the environment, on gender equality, the art world, and much else. We previously played a festival called “It Girls: Flappers, Jazz Babies & Vamps” from March 11 – March 24. Many of the programs are double-bills for a single admission charge. We print (7) calendars annually and are happy to send them out free of charge. Memberships for seniors and students cost $50 annually and make possible $8 tickets for all films at all times.

 SCS: Film Forum was founded in 1970, what motivated the founders of your organization to create a nonprofit cinema with thoughtfully curated films?

 KC: The founders played 16mm films in a loft space on the Upper West Side with 50 folding chairs. We now have a 3-screen cinema open 365 days of the year with state-of-the-art projection capability. Their motivation was the same as ours today: to present important and exciting work not on commercial movie screens.

SCS: As Director of Film Forum, what are your hopes and goals for 2016?

KC: I have been Director since 1972 so it has been a long journey. I hope for great movies, intelligent critical coverage, enthusiastic audiences…. and peace and justice in the world would be a big plus too.

SCS: When selecting a film, what are some key factors that dictate your decision? Can anyone submit his or her film?

KC: We probably show less than 5% of what we review for screening and can’t look at everything! Mike Maggiore [the Programmer & Publicist] and I select the new films. Anyone with work who wishes to submit it must first send an email with background on the film, information regarding previous screenings (festivals and the like), awards, etc. If we are interested, we’ll ask for a DVD or link with which to view the film. Factors: Selection is subjective and, inevitably, idiosyncratic. We want to be moved emotionally and engaged intellectually.

SCS: In addition to showing these unique and well-curated films, I also see that there is a layer of entertainment and historical information included in the experience. For example, accommodating a live pianist during a silent film. What is the goal or driving force behind providing these additional experiences?

 KC: We want to give the public the best possible viewing experience. Our repertory program often includes live piano for silent films. We even show silent films in our Film Forum JR. series on Sunday mornings for children. It is our belief that “entertainment” is about a lot more than car chases and shoot-‘em-ups. Please check out our web site for detailed information on our programming: www.filmforum.org Photo courtesy of Film Forum’s website.