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New York Film Festival Founder Amos Vogel Dies at 91

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Some consider Amos Vogel the leading figure of modern film culture as he ushered in political and experimental films as well as documentaries in the late 1930s and early 1940s.

Born in 1921 in Vienna, Vogel fled a Nazi-occupied Austria in 1938 and came to New York. According to the Film Society of Lincoln Center, he quickly discovered the films that interested him were not shown on New York movie screens. That led to the founding of Cinema 16, where alternative movies from small independent filmmakers were shown at the Provincetown Playhouse and other downtown venues.

At a time of conservatism and censorship in the film industry, it didn't sway Vogel, and in 1963 he co-founded the New York Film Festival.

In the 2004 documentary, "Film As a Subversive Art: Amos Vogel and Cinema 16," Vogel declared, "I think it's possible to gain greater insights and greater understanding of the fabric of life really, in such films than there is in the obvious Hollywood film." 

Vogel also inspired a new generation of filmmakers. 

"If you're looking for the origins of film culture in America, look no further than Amos Vogel," Martin Scorsese said in a statement to the Film Society of Lincoln Center. "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. No doubt about it -- the man was a giant."

Vogel is survived by two sons. 

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