Noah Cowan Named Executive Director of the San Francisco Film Society

Noah Cowan
Noah Cowan
 Courtesy of Toronto International Film Festival/George Pimentel/WireImage

The San Francisco Film Society has named Noah Cowan as its new executive director, effective March 3. Cowan stepped down in January as artistic director of the Bell Lightbox at the Toronto International Film Festival, where he spent more than 10 years in various roles. He steps into the post that was left vacant at the end of 2013 when Ted Hope resigned.

As executive director of SFFS, Cowan will oversee the annual San Francisco International Film Festival.

"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."

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"I am grateful to the Board of Directors of the Film Society for providing this remarkable opportunity," Cowan commented. "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 served as artistic director of TIFF Bell Lightbox, where he was responsible for the creative and artistic vision for the multipurpose film venue and home of the Toronto International Film Festival. During his tenure, he curated 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 also was 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 first worked at TIFF as its Midnight Madness programmer, beginning in 1989. He subsequently curated major national cinema retrospectives on India and Japan, and from 2004 to 2008 was co-director of the festival, alongside TIFF director and CEO Piers Handling.

From 1997 to 2004 Cowan worked in New York City, where he co-founded the art house films distributor Cowboy Pictures. In 2002, he founded the Global Film Initiative, a nonprofit organization devoted to worldwide understanding through film. 

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