Payne follow-up added to main slate of 27 pics

Alexander Payne’s George Clooney topliner “The Descendants” will close the New York Film Festival on Oct. 16, capping a 27-feature slate that also will include pics from Martin Scorsese, Lars von Trier, Abel Ferrara, Steve McQueen and Wim Wenders.

Fest opens Sept. 30 with the previously announced Roman Polanski film “Carnage.” Titles represent the event’s signature mix of festival-circuit faves, including a pair of Cannes Grand Jury Prize winners, Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s “Once Upon a Time in Anatolia” and Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne’s “The Kid With a Bike.”

Von Trier’s “Melancholia,” which scored Kirsten Dunst the actress prize in Cannes, also is on the list, as are Berlinale vets “A Separation,” “Sleeping Sickness” and “The Turin Horse.” Sundance attention-getter “Martha Marcy May Marlene” also made the cut.

“There’s a certain political cast to the festival this year,” said Richard Pena, the fest’s selection committee chair and the program director of the Film Society of Lincoln Center, the org behind NYFF. “A lot of the films are about resistance in a some way.”

Films such as Scorsese doc “George Harrison: Living in the Material World” and Wenders’ “Pina” join a slate that already includes centerpiece screenings of Pedro Almodovar’s “The Skin I Live In” and David Cronenberg’s “A Dangerous Method” plus a gala presentation of Simon Curtis’ “My Week With Marilyn.”

With so many of the films selected after prior launches on the festival circuit, the majority of fest pics screen in Gotham with distributors already in place. Among those without distribution is “Shame,” McQueen’s drama starring Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan, and “4:44: Last Day on Earth,” Ferrara’s end-of-the world tale toplined by Willem Dafoe.

In an interview, Pena also underscored selections from first-time filmmakers with less familiar names, including “Policeman,” Nadav Lapid’s topical look at the class divide in Israel, and Alice Rohrwacher’s “Corpo Celeste,” about a 13-year-old Swiss girl confronting her newly religious surroundings when her family moves to the south of Italy.

As usual, the main slate is limited to a pool of between 25 and 28 films, although sidebar series and complementary screenings are also incorporated. This year, the festival’s first since the addition of two screens in the Film Center’s newly built Elinor Bunin Munroe Center, the sidebar lineup will include an extensive retrospective of films form Japanese production company Nikkatsu plus screenings of “Ben-Hur” and Nicholas Ray’s “We Can’t Go Home Again.”

New theaters in the Munroe will allow for more complementary programming than in past festivals. For “My Week With Marilyn,” for instance, NYFF plans a related screening of “The Prince and the Showgirl,” the 1957 pic for which “Marilyn” depicts the behind-the-scenes story.

By the time the 17-day festival opens, the cafe at the center also will be fully operational, a development that Pena said would finally give festgoers a centralized gathering place. “I’m hoping the festival will take on a more festive atmosphere,” he said.

“Descendants” stars Clooney as the heir to a family that owns major tracts of land in Hawaii. His decision regarding a particular parcel of land is complicated by a boating accident that injures his wife and forces him to take on new responsibilities in parenting his two young daughters. The Fox Searchlight pic will preem in Toronto ahead of a Nov. 23 release.

Additional sidebar programming remains to be announced.

The 49th New York Film Festival main-slate:

Opening Night Gala Selection
“Carnage,” director: Roman Polanski, country: France/Germany/Poland

Centerpiece Gala Selection
“My Week With Marilyn,”director: Simon Curtis, country: UK

Special Gala Presentations
“A Dangerous Method,” director: David Cronenberg, country: UK/Canada/Germany
“The Skin I Live In,” director: Pedro Almodóvar, country: Spain

Closing Night Gala Selection
“The Descendants,” director: Alexander Payne, country: USA

“4:44: Last Day on Earth,” director: Abel Ferrara, country: USA
“The Artist,” director: Michel Hazanavicius, country: France
“Corpo Celeste,” director: Alice Rohrwacher, country: Italy/Switzerland/France
“Footnote,” director: Joseph Cedar, country: Israel
“George Harrison: Living in the Material World,” director: Martin Scorsese, country: USA
“Goodbye First Love,” director: Mia Hansen-Løve, country: France/Germany
“The Kid With a Bike,” director: Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, country: Belgium/France
“Le Havre,” director: Aki Kaurismäki, country: Finland/France/Germany
“The Loneliest Planet,” director: Julia Loktev, country: USA/Germany
“Martha Marcy May Marlene,” director: Sean Durkin, country: USA
“Melancholia,” director: Lars von Trier, country: Denmark/Sweden/France/Germany/Italy
“Miss Bala,” director: Gerardo Naranjo, country: Mexico
“Once Upon a Time in Anatolia,” director: Nuri Bilge Ceylan, country: Turkey
“Pina,” director: Wim Wenders, country: Germany/France/UK
“Play,” director: Ruben Östlund, country: Sweden/France/Denmark
“Policeman,” director: Nadav Lapid, country: Israel/France
“A Separation,” director: Asghar Farhadi, country: Iran
“Shame,” director: Steve McQueen, country: UK
“Sleeping Sickness,” director: Ulrich Köhler, country: Germany/France/Netherlands
“The Student,” director: Santiago Mitre, country: Argentina
“This Is Not a Film,” director: Jafar Panahi and Mojtaba Mirtahmasb, country: Iran
“The Turin Horse,” director: Béla Tarr and Agnes Hranitzky, country: Hungary/France/Germany/Switzerland/USA

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more