After navigating through the coronavirus pandemic in 2020 and mounting a hybrid edition, the New York Film Festival will return to its Lincoln Center base this fall.
Film at Lincoln Center, the fest’s presenting organization, said Thursday that this year’s opening-night selection will be Joel Coen’s The Tragedy of Macbeth on September 24. The film, which stars Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand, will have its world premiere at Alice Tully Hall. Kathryn Hunter portrays the Shakespeare play’s trio of “weird sisters.”
The 59th annual New York festival will feature “a combination of in-person, outdoor, and virtual screenings,” Film at Lincoln Center said, “with a comprehensive series of health and safety policies in coordination with state and city medical experts.” It will run through October 10.
Movie theaters in New York have reopened as coronavirus trends have improved, but indoor screenings are still in an early stage of recovery. The international nature of any major festival, along with a mixed picture of vaccination patterns and travel restrictions, will continue to pose challenges. The Tribeca Festival, held in New York in June, became the first major North American fest to host in-person events, but all of its screenings were outdoors except for opening and closing night.
Macbeth‘s debut will establish the film in the Oscar race, which is familiar turf for Coen and McDormand. Last year’s New York Film Festival featured Nomadland, providing one of the first high-profile venues for the film, which eventually netted the star her third acting Oscar as the film captured Best Picture. Coen, along with his brother, Ethan, has been nominated for 14 Oscars, winning four. Most Oscar hopefuls make a stop in New York as they get established.
“The New York Film Festival is a place where I’ve been watching movies as an audience member and showing them as a filmmaker for almost 50 years,” Coen said. “It’s a real privilege and a thrill to be opening the festival this year with The Tragedy of Macbeth.”
Festival director Eugene Hernandez said that with the opening-night announcement, organizers are “setting the stage for a momentous return to our roots.” The singular 2020 fest, which featured online and drive-in screenings, he added was a “deeply meaningful edition” of the nearly six-decade-old mainstay. “Our festival traveled to Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and around the country via our virtual cinema,” he said. “This year we’re back in our Upper West Side home, but you’ll also find us exploring new venues and ways to connect with moviegoers in person, outdoors, and online.”
The return of the festival’s fortnight at Lincoln Center will highlight New York City’s efforts to rebound from Covid-19, which silenced cultural institutions for months. Broadway theater is looking to be back up and running by the fall, with tourism starting to return. Across the plaza from Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center, the Metropolitan Opera is aiming to resume performances in September after the longest shutdown in its history. An agreement with musicians must be reached in order for the opera to light up again.