Q&A: Richard Peña by Caitlin Purdy & Chris Yong-García
It would be no understatement to say that Richard Peña has transformed the landscape of cinema. Peña’s taste for film knows no geographical bounds. He has a true talent for exploring global cinema’s most uncharted terrains, brining back the best foreign films to American viewers. During his twenty-five year tenure as the director of the Film Society of Lincoln Center the film aficionado introduced the world to a vast array of films representing various countries, from China to Iran to Argentina, helping to launch the careers of directors such as Abbas Kiarostami, Pedro Almodóvar, Edward Yang, and Bernardo Bertolucci.
Born in 1953, Peña grew up in East Harlem and Queens, the son of a Spanish mother and a Puerto Rican father. He fell in love with film at an early age; in 1965 at the age of 12 he attended his first New York Film Festival. He has returned every year since, missing only one festival in 1974 while traveling through Latin America.
Peña, who reportedly views an average of 2,700 films a year, graduated from Harvard in 1975, where he specialized in Latin American literature and history. He later earned a Master’s degree in film from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Prior to joining the Film Society at Lincoln Center in 1988, Peña taught ﬁlm studies at Berkeley and later directed the Art Institute of Chicago’s Film Center between 1981 and 1988. Peña is also a professor at Columbia University, where he teaches international cinema and film theory, founding the MA program in Film Studies: History, Theory and Criticism.
Published on LatinLover issue #05