The Film Society of Lincoln Center on the death of Amos Vogel
BY EUGENE HERNANDEZ
The leading figure of modern American film culture, a rebellious champion of independent and international cinema and the co-founder of the New York Film Festival, Amos Vogel died yesterday in New York, the city where – in 1947 – he created the landmark film society Cinema 16.
From basement screenings in the 1940s to the grand halls of Lincoln Center in the 1960s, Amos Vogel shepherded alternative cinema to increasingly ravenous audiences at a time when discerning moviegoers were discovering influential auteurs. “The man was a giant,” Martin Scorsese told the Film Society of Lincoln Center last night, summing up the life of Vogel, who died Tuesday morning at the age of 91.
Born Amos Vogelbaum in Vienna on April 18, 1921, he fled Austria in 1938 and came to America, fully intending to ultimately head to Israel. However, Vogel quickly fell for New York. He enrolled in The New School and eventually developed a curiosity for alternative cinema. He wanted to see political, experiment and documentary films, but they weren’t available on New York City movie screens. Moved by the work of Maya Deren, Amos Vogel and his wife Marcia, a key co-conspirator, formed Cinema 16. They planned early programs at the small Provincetown Playhouse downtown because Deren had screened her own work there. The two ran the organization together through the early 1960s, working closely with Jack Goelman.
A pioneer of presenting what would eventually be called “independent film,” Amos Vogel embraced non-mainstream cinema. 16mm documentary, educational, scientific and experimental films were eventually screened for thousands of people weekly at venues in New York City as Cinema 16 outgrew the Playhouse.