Indie Film Executive Bingham Ray Dies at 57

Bingham Ray Headshot - P 2011
Getty Images

Bingham Ray Headshot - P 2011

The executive director of the San Francisco Film Society suffered a stroke at the Sundance Film Festival.

Bingham Ray, a veteran of the independent film scene, died Monday in Provo, Utah, following complications of a stroke. He was 57.

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His death was announced by the San Francisco Film Society, where he took over as executive director in November.

Ray, who began his career as manager/programmer of the Bleecker Street Cinema in 1981, left his mark on the independent film scene, where he helped bring such movies as Mike Leigh's Secrets & Lies and Lars von Trier's Breaking the Waves to American audiences.

He co-founded October Films in 1991 and served as its co-president until its sale to USA Networks in 1999. In 2001, he was named president of United Artists, which during his tenure released the Oscar-winning foreign language film No Man's Land, directed by Danis Tanovic, and Michael Moore's Oscar-winning documentary Bowling for Columbine.

In 2007, Ray joined Sidney Kimmel Entertainment, where he served first as president of Kimmel Distribution and then as president of creative affairs.

Ray accepted his current post with the San Francisco Film Society in November and had begun planning the 55th San Francisco International Film Festival.

On Jan 19, while attending  the Art House Convergence Conference in Salt Lake City, prior to heading to the Sundance Film Festival, he became ill and was taken to the Utah Valley Regional Medical Center in Provo.

“The board of directors and staff of the Film Society are stunned and deeply saddened by the untimely death of our executive director Bingham Ray," Pat McBaine, SFFS board president,said in a statement Monday. "We at the Film Society and the entire film community have lost far too early an energetic and visionary impact player who has helped shape the independent film industry for decades in so many important and valuable ways. He shall be dearly missed. Our deepest sympathies and condolences go out to Bingham's family and his legions of friends and colleagues all over the world who loved and respected him.”

Ray is survived by his wife Nancy King, their children Nick, Annabel and Becca, and his sisters Susan Clair and Deb Pope.