New York Film Festival co-founder Amos Vogel died Tuesday, April 24, in New York. He was 91.
Vogel founded the avant-garde film club Cinema 16 in New York with his wife Marcia in 1947 and wrote the 1974 bestseller “Film as a Subversive Art.” He and Richard Roud founded the New York Film Festival in 1963, with Vogel serving as program director of the event until 1968.
The success of Cinema 16 is hard to imagine today. Operating until 1963, it had, at its height, 7,000 members. Its focus was on experiment and documentary efforts rather than narrative art films.
A champion of international and independent cinema, Vogel was a film consultant to Grove Press and National Educational Television and a program director of the National Public Television Conference. He also served as chairman of the American Selection Committee for the Cannes, Moscow, Berlin and Venice film festivals.
Vogel also taught at Harvard, the New School for Social Research and NYU. In 1973, Vogel started the Annenberg Cinematheque at the U. of Pennsylvania and later lectured at the university’s Annenberg School for Communication for two decades.
“If you’re looking for the origins of film culture in America, look no further than Amos Vogel,” said director Martin Scorsese in the wake of Vogel’s passing. “Between Cinema 16 (which he ran with his beloved wife Marcia and which opened our eyes to Maya Deren, Stan Brakhage, Bruce Conner, Kenneth Anger, Cassavetes’ ‘Shadows’ and hundreds of other visionary films and filmmakers), the New York Film Festival and his book ‘Film as a Subversive Art,’ Amos opened the doors to every possibility in film viewing, film exhibition, film curating, film appreciation. He was also unfailingly generous, encouraging and supportive of so many young filmmakers, including me when I was just starting to make my first pictures.”
Director Werner Herzog said, Amos Vogel was a mentor, a guiding light for me. With him an entire epoch ends. His traces are everywhere.”
Vogel was born in Vienna as Amos Vogelbaum and fled Austria with his parents in 1938. He studied animal husbandry at the U. of Georgia and later graduated from the New School for Social Research.
Vogel appeared in Martina Kudlacek’s 2003 documentary “In the Mirror of Maya Deren,” about the filmmaker whose work he championed at Cinema 16.