NEW YORK, August 17, 2011 —The Film Society of Lincoln Center announced today that Alexander Payne’s THE DESCENDANTS will be the Closing Night Gala selection for the 49th New York Film Festival (September 30-October 16). NYFF’s main slate of 27 feature films was also announced as well as a return to the festival stage of audience favorite, On Cinema (previously titled The Cinema Inside Me), featuring an in-depth, illustrated conversation with Alexander Payne.

The 2011 edition of NYFF will also feature a unique blend of programming to complement the main-slate of films, including: the Masterworks programs, additional titles added to the previously announced BEN-HUR, Nicholas Ray’s WE CAN’T GO HOME AGAIN and Velvet Bullets and Steel Kisses: Celebrating the Nikkatsu Centennial, as well as Views from the Avant-Garde, and several special event screenings, all of which will be announced in more detail shortly.

“In many of the films in this year’s Festival, characters pass from recognition of a problem or situation to actual resistance,” says Richard Peña, Selection Committee Chair & Program Director of the Film Society of Lincoln Center, “This confrontational attitude is perhaps a sign of our increasingly polarized times.”

In his first film since the Oscar-winning SIDEWAYS, writer-director Alexander Payne once again proves himself a master of the kind of smart, sharp, deeply felt comedy that was once the hallmark of Billy Wilder and Jean Renoir. Based on the bestselling novel by Kaui Hart Hemmings, THE DESCENDANTS stars George Clooney as ‘Matt King’, the heir of a prominent Hawaiian land-owning family whose life is turned upside-down when his wife is critically injured in a boating accident. Accustomed to being “the back-up parent,” King suddenly finds himself center stage in the lives of his two young daughters (excellent newcomers Shailene Woodley and Amara Miller), while at the same time being forced to decide the fate of a vast plot of unspoiled land his family has owned since the 1860s. Rooted in Clooney’s beautifully understated performance, Payne’s film is an uncommonly perceptive portrait of marriage, family and community, suffused with humor and tragedy and wrapped in a warm human glow.

Screening at Alice Tully Hall on Sunday, October 16, Alexander Payne’s THE DESCENDANTS marks the filmmakers 3rd visit to the New York Film Festival; previous titles presented were ABOUT SCHMIDT and SIDEWAYS. Fox Searchlight is releasing the filmon November 23, 2011.

Since making his debut with CITIZEN RUTH in 1996, Oscar-winning writer-director Alexander Payne (ABOUT SCHMIDT, SIDEWAYS) has emerged as one of the most gifted voices in American movies today, the maker of wry, sharp-edged human comedies that recall the best of Billy Wilder, Ernst Lubitsch and Jean Renoir. He is also a passionate cinephile who has served as a past guest director of the Telluride Film Festival and an outspoken advocate for film preservation. In the third edition of NYFF’s now-annual master class, On Cinema, Payne will discuss his own personal history of cinema in extended conversation with NYFF selection committee chairman Richard Peña, featuring clips from the films that inspired and influenced him and an audience Q&A.

Rose Kuo, Executive Director, The Film Society of Lincoln Center, said, “We are delighted to welcome back Alexander Payne to the New York Film Festival. Payne’s nuanced character studies capture the moral chaos lurking just below the surface of everyday American lives. ELECTION, ABOUT SCHMIDT, SIDEWAYS and now THE DESCENDANTS are sophisticated comedy dramas that have marked him as one of the unique and distinctive talents in contemporary American cinema and we cannot think of a stronger conclusion to the festival’s remarkable lineup of films. From established masters to newly discovered talents, this year’s selection demonstrates the New York Film Festival’s commitment to providing a platform for the most exciting voices in cinema.”

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