We sat down with Noah Cowan, Executive Director of SFFILM to find out about their long-term strategic direction and what it means to be a film institute in San Francisco. In early 2017 they changed their name to SFFILM from San Francisco Film Society.

SFFILM has year around programs and works with various organizations to help promote films,filmmakers, artist development and outreach programs for students. They host an annual international film festival, provide grants and support artists, and work with high schools to educate students on how to read films and apply them in learning other subjects. SFFILM has one of the biggest grant making programs for commercial films and were instrumental in the making of Patti Cake$, Fruitvale Station, Beasts of Southern Wild and other films says Cowan.

We are not a standalone entity but are part of the San Francisco Bay area fabric points out Cowan. They work with various organizations like San Francisco MoMa, San Francisco Opera, Pacific Archives and others. It is essential to connect with the technological change in cinema and evolve with the community points out Cowan. Earlier this year they introduced an online screening room and a mobile app for their members.

Cowan joined SFFILM in 2014 and prior to that he spent many years at the Toronto Film Festival.

This interview was aired on TV in the US.

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Noah Cowan of SFFILM shares what is in store for the 60th San Francisco International Film Festival, the oldest film festival in the US. The festival runs from April 5th to April 19th 2017 in San Francisco and Berkeley.

This year’s festival features over 180 films. And, for the first time the festival will honor a Bollywood star. Well-known Bollywood start Shah Rukh Khan will be in town on April 14th.

For tickets and information go to SFFILM’s website.

This interview aired on TV in the USA. Here is a list of TV stations in the US that broadcast our weekly TV show. You can subscribe to our  YouTube channel and podcast where every week we feature new interviews.

VIDEO: Noah Cowan on San Francisco International Film Festival

Today is the opening night of the longest running film festival in the Americas – San Francisco International Film Festival (SFIFF). The festival runs from today through May 7, 2015 and is studded with a wonderful array of films, guests and talks.

We sat down to speak with Noah Cowan of  San Francisco Film Society (SFFS) about this year’s film festival and the strategic vision and direction he has in mind for the organization.

What is different about this year’s festival is the acknowledgement of San Francisco bay area values in the programing says Cowan. He describes the essence of San Francisco values that includes a wide range of components from innovation and technology to the political and social dynamics of the area.

Cowan spent many years at the Toronto Film Festival and helped curate lots of special projects especially on Asian films from China and South Asia. He helped curate two special programs on India’s Mani Ratnam and Raj Kapoor. So naturally we had to ask if we can expect to see more South Asian films at SFIFF. Tune in to find out what he has to say.


VIDEO: Noah Cowan on 58th San Francisco International Film Festival


San Francisco Film Society (SFFS) is gearing up to host the 58th San Francisco International Film Festival (April 23 – May 7, 2015). This is the longest running film festival in the Americas points out Noah Cowan, Executive Director of SFFS.

What is different about this year’s festival I asked Cowan. The actual festival itself won’t feel different to long time film festival audience he points out. What is different is they have reorganized the programming to reflects the tastes of the audience. “You can find your own tribe,” is how he puts it. If you like bigger movies, you may prefer the Marquee section. Or, if you like beautiful films from around the world, you may like the World Visions section he adds.

What is the long term strategic direction of the festival? “There is no other place like San Franciso Bay area in the world,” he says. In the past they ignored San Francisco Bay area values and are acknowledging it this year’s festival. These bay area values include an interest and curiosity in technology and innovation, lifestyle, environment and food among other things. So, this year they look at film styles that reflect San Francisco bay area values on technology, innovation and lifestyle he adds.

This video is a highlight of our upcoming extended interview with Cowan.

Here is a trailer from Stanley Nelson’s “The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution.”




“Kinky and cofounding,” is how this film is described. “It is obscene” says Isabella Rossellini in the the video clip embedded at the end of this post. It is a “fun romp,” says  Noah Cowan, Executive Director of San Francisco Film Society. Now, don’t jump to conclusions. This “kinky and confounding” and “fun romp” is a well-known series of short films and now made into a film with Rossellini donning different avatars. But, it is not about what you are thinking. Continue reading

Noah Cowan on San Francisco International Film Festival

Noah Cowan

Noah Cowan

Noah Cowan is Executive Director of the San Francisco Film Society (SFFS) that hosts the annual San Francisco International Film Festival.

Cowan joined SFFS last year, and prior to that he spent a lot of his time at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). His last post was as artistic director of the Bell Lightbox at TIFF.

In this interview we talk to Cowan about why he moved from Toronto to San Francisco and the various facets of the 58th San Francisco International Film Festival that runs from April 26 to May 6, 2015. This is the first year where Cowan has worked on the festival from the start and we wanted to find out about his vision for the film society and the film festival.

We wanted to know how they chose Alex Gibney’s film on Steve Jobs “The Man In The Machine,” as their opening night film. Or, how they came to choose Alexander Winter’s documentary “Deep Web,” a film about Silk Road and bitcoin. Both these films are about entrepreneurship and technology, the twin subjects that are of deep interest to people in the San Francisco bay area.

Besides technology, food is another important ingredient in this year’s festival and Cowan shares some of the films screening at this year’s festival.

Finally, we talk about his favorite film and growing up in an artistic family in Canada.Curious to know what is Cowan’s favorite film (s) tune in to find out.

You can follow Noah Cowan on Twitter.



San Francisco Film Festival Highlights, The Man In The Machine to Mr. Holmes, Deep Web to Green Porno

The lineup of films, guests and events for the 58th San Francisco International FilmFestival (SFIFF)  was announced yesterday. This year’s festival is an interesting mix that reflects the “spirit of the bay area,” as Noah Cowan put it. Cowan is the executive director of the San Francisco Film Society that hosts the annual film festival, which is the longest running film festival in North America.

Alex Gibney’s “The Man In The Machine,” on Steve Jobs is the opening night film on April 23, 2015 and Michael Almereyda’s “Experimenter” about Yale psychologist Stanley Milgram is the closing night film on May 7, 2015.


Between the opening and closing night film is a veritable treasure trove of  179 films from 46 countries. There is something for everybody in this festival right from the big, marquee films like “The Diplomat” to “Far From Men,”  to the 1929 restored silent film “Monte-Cristo” to documentaries like “Court” by Chaitanya Tamhane to “The Wolfpack” that won the Sundance Documentary Grand Jury Prize and “Meru” that won the Sundance Documentary Award to “City of Gold,” about Pulitzer-winning food critic Jonathan Gold of Los Angeles.

Film festivals are also a great venue to catch premiers of new films. “Mr. Holmes” will have its US premiere at the festival. Directed by Bill Condon the film stars Ian McKellen, Laura Linney and Milo Parker. McKellen plays a 93 year old Holmes, who is now in retirement, but that does not mean he has given up on his detective work.

Isabella Rosellini’s wonderful film “Green Porno” that looks at the sex lives of animals and birds right from ducks to sea urchins. Rossellini is expected to attend the festival.

And for the first time SFFS is collaborating with Alamo Drafthouse to bring a program called “Dark Wave.” Curated and co-hosted by Tim League of Alamo Drafthouse the program features independent horror and sci-fi films like “Cop Car” and “Good Night Mommy.”

Films are just one aspect of the festival. There are live music performances and curated talks with filmmakers and actors. You can listen to director Guillermo Del Toro on April 25, 2015 at the Castro Theatre. Del Toro will receive Irving M. Levin directing award. And on the following day April 26, 2015 you can catch actor Richard Gere, who will receive the Peter J. Owens Award for excellence in film acting.

This year’s State of Cinema features Douglas Trumbull, an inventor and special effects pioneer who worked on “2011: The Space Odyssey,” “Blade Runner,” and “Close Encounters of The Third Kind.” You can catch this talk on Sunday, May 3, 2015 at the Sundance Kabuki Cinema.

Finally, there is a terrific mix of film and events that reflects various aspects of San Francisco bay area from its iconic entrepreneurs to the historic Royal Road – El Camino Real to musical performances by Kronos Quartet, the avante garde jazz ensemble. And then there is a special live program called “Boomtown: Remaking of San Francisco,” that looks at the boom and bust cycle and how does the city deal with these changes?

You can explore and find out about the various film, talks, live events and ticket information by visiting SFFIF’s website.

Stay tuned for interview with Cowan, who talks about the highlights of the festival.