SFFILM to Honor Pioneering Champion of World Cinema Tom Luddy with Mel Novikoff Award at 60th San Francisco International Film Festival

Beloved Icon of International Cinema and Essential Architect of Multiple Bay Area-Based Film Institutions Will Be Celebrated in a Program Featuring Onstage Conversation and a Screening of A Long Happy Life at the Castro Theatre April 9


San Francisco, CA  SFFILM will present the Mel Novikoff Award to Tom Luddy at the 60th San Francisco International Film Festival (April 5-19). The award presentation will take place on Sunday, April 9, 4:00 pm at the Castro Theatre, and will feature an onstage conversation with Luddy, followed by the screening of two films Luddy selected for the occasion: Une bonne à tout faire (1981), a rarely seen short directed by Jean-Luc Godard—from a copy given to Luddy by the famed director—and A Long Happy Life (1966), the first and only film directed by Russian screenwriter Gennady Shpalikov before his death. 

"While his resume is borderline absurd in its impact on contemporary film—Zoetrope, Telluride, Pacific Film Archive, our Festival, and so on—it is the personal and professional inspiration he gives every day to filmmakers and film professionals that defines the character of Tom Luddy. He makes connections that ensure great art continues to be created and he is among the greatest showmen in the medium's history," said SFFILM's Executive Director Noah Cowan. "When Tom says 'you've got to check this out,' you know it really matters. I cannot believe we are lucky enough to have convinced him into accepting this honor. This will be a special day indeed."  

The award, named for pioneering San Francisco art and repertory film exhibitor Mel Novikoff (1922-1987), acknowledges an individual or institution whose work has enhanced the filmgoing public's knowledge and appreciation of world cinema.  

Tom Luddy's influential presence in the international film community began while he was a student at the University of California, Berkeley, in the early 1960s, during which time his creative approach established his reputation as a thoughtful and adventurous writer and programmer. After graduating, Luddy aggressively showcased obscure and emerging filmmakers at film societies throughout the Bay Area, including the Surf Interplayer-where he worked closely with veteran exhibitor Mel Novikoff.  

Luddy joined the Pacific Film Archive at UCA Berkeley in 1972 and under his leadership, BAMPFA established itself as a place where cinema patrons, artists, students, and critics could watch the widest range of the world's films in the best technical and environmental conditions, and as a center for study, discussion, and exchange. In 1974, Luddy partnered with Bill Pence, James Card, and Stella Pence to co-found the Telluride Film Festival, where he now serves as Artistic Director, and Co-Director in partnership with Executive Director Julie Huntsinger. Their mission was to provide a stimulating international gathering, during which the lovers and creators of cinema could come together to watch and discuss the most interesting work of the past and present. Today, the Telluride Film Festival is considered a premiere venue for film enthusiasts and industry professionals to celebrate filmmaking legends, discover emerging talent, and bring a spotlight to smaller gems that have been overlooked.  

In 1979, Luddy began his longstanding association with Francis Ford Coppola's independent film production company, American Zoetrope, where he has supervised a number of the studio's most important "Special Projects" and worked collaboratively with such noted filmmakers as Jean-Luc Godard, Akira Kurosawa, and Godfrey Reggio. Also at American Zoetrope, Luddy produced or co-produced a number of films, including Paul Schrader's Mishima (1985), Carroll Ballard's Wind (1992), Dusan Makavejev's Manifesto (1988), Gregory Nava's Mi Familia (1995), Norman Mailer's Tough Guys Don't Dance (1987), Barbet Schroeder's Barfly (1987), and Agnieszka Holland's The Secret Garden (1993). Luddy's decades-long relationship with the San Francisco International Film Festival dates back to 1967, when he was hired by former Festival Artistic Director Albert Johnson. In 1980—together with Mel Novikoff, George Gund and Peter Buchanan—Luddy took legal responsibility for Festival after Claude Jarman retired as Executive Director and was Associate Director from 1980-83. Luddy was also a member of the Board of Directors for many years, and has maintained a close relationship with the Festival since.  

About A Long Happy Life (1966):
An autumnal drama of love and disenchantment with strong autobiographical overtones, Gennady Shpalikov's cinematic fairytale marries Chekhovian pessimism with the sunniness of Jean Vigo in this Siberian-set tale of a romantic encounter between a geologist and a young mother. The film begins with a long bus ride along a winding highway; it ends with a barge floating down one of the world's longest rivers, a Russian take on the archetypal road film made by a master of subtle moods and resonances. Screening immediately before A Long Happy Life will be Une bonne à tout faire (Jean-Luc Godard, 8 min, 1981), a rare short filmed at Coppola's American Zoetrope and revolving around a tableau vivant of a Georges de La Tour painting.  

Previous recipients of the Mel Novikoff Award are Janus Films and the Criterion Collection (2016), Lenny Borger (2015), David Thomson (2014), Peter von Bagh (2013), Pierre Rissient (2012), Serge Bromberg (2011), Roger Ebert (2010), Bruce Goldstein (2009), Jim Hoberman (2008), Kevin Brownlow (2007), Anita Monga (2005), Paolo Cherchi Usai (2004), Manny Farber (2003), David Francis (2002), Cahiers du Cinéma (2001), San Francisco Cinematheque (2001), Donald Krim (2000), David Shepard (2000), Enno Patalas (1999), Adrienne Mancia (1998), Judy Stone (1997), Film Arts Foundation (1997), David Robinson (1996), Institut Lumière (1995), Naum Kleiman (1994), Andrew Sarris (1993), Jonas Mekas (1992), Pauline Kael (1991), Donald Richie (1990), USSR Filmmakers Association (1989), and Dan Talbot (1988).   

Tickets to Mel Novikoff Award: Tom Luddy: A Long Happy Life are $13 for SFFILM members, $15 for the general public. Box office is open to SFFILM members now online at and opens for the general public Friday, March 17.   

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60th San Francisco International Film Festival
The longest-running film festival in the Americas, the San Francisco International Film Festival (SFFILM Festival) is an extraordinary showcase of cinematic discovery and innovation in one of the country's most beautiful cities. The 60th edition runs April 5-19 at venues across the Bay Area and features nearly 200 films and live events, 14 juried awards with close to $40,000 in cash prizes, and upwards of 100 participating filmmaker guests.