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David Ansen named lead programmer of Palm Springs International Film Festival

Former film critic David Ansen will be the lead programmer for the Palm Springs International Film Festival.

Former film critic David Ansen will be the lead programmer for the Palm Springs International Film Festival.

(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

The Palm Springs International Film Festival attracts dozens of Oscar hopefuls to its red carpet every year, but now they’ll have a luminary working behind the scenes, too.

On Thursday, the festival announced it had hired former Newsweek film critic David Ansen as lead programmer. Ansen will work alongside six programmers under Palm Springs’ artistic director, Helen Du Toit, to put together the event’s slate.

Ansen most recently served as artistic director for the Los Angeles Film Festival, where he began working in 2009 — a year after leaving Newsweek, where he’d served as film critic since 1977. While at LAFF, Ansen often expressed a fondness for brainier cinema, including documentaries and global films.

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“There’s a certain kind of middlebrow, higher-end American independent that has stars in it, possibly well intentioned but in no way adventurous, that I’m not interested in,” he told The Times in 2010.

Ansen left LAFF in 2014 and was replaced by KCRW host Elvis Mitchell. He now begins preparing for the 27th installment of the Palm Springs event, which takes place Jan. 1-11 and attracts over 135,000 attendees. The festival hosts a glitzy black-tie gala that is well-attended by Hollywood A-listers and is also known for screening many of the films in the best foreign language category at the Oscars. (Foreign films in general are a particular highlight of the festival).

“As a longtime fan of the Palm Springs International Film Festival, I’m very excited to be working alongside [festival director] Darryl [Macdonald] and Helen, who have turned it into one of the country’s great festivals,” Ansen said in a statement released by the Palm Springs fest. “I love its emphasis on international cinema, its broad, eclectic spirit, and the adventurous and enthusiastic audiences. I’m looking forward to contributing all I can to this wonderful cinematic oasis in my favorite desert city.”

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