When Adrienne Mancia (1927–2022) joined MoMA’s Department of Film in the mid-1960s, it began a 34-year career that witnessed the end of the Hollywood studio system, the growth of independent and experimental filmmaking, the rise of repertory-style programming, and the development of an international film festival circuit. The exhibitions she organized as a curator reflected her engagement with this history, her unbound enthusiasm for the genres that gave it form, and her support for the artists who shaped it. This series features 27 films and filmmakers that Mancia championed, including work from Brazil, Canada, Croatia, Czechoslovakia, France, Germany, India, Japan, Poland, Portugal, Russia, and the United States. As a close colleague once noted, “If only a little of Adrienne’s unmatched passion for cinema rubbed off on you, it was enough to fuel your career.”
Before becoming a world-renowned film “programmer” (a title she claimed to prefer), Adrienne Johnson had studied for a career in the theater but, after returning from Europe in 1961 with the married name Mancia, her interests shifted thanks to stints as a receptionist at the Village Voice, where she interacted with writers and artists on the alternative scene, and as a booker at 16mm-film distributor Contemporary Films. Leo Dratfield, head of the distribution company, introduced Adrienne to New York’s burgeoning repertory film scene—most memorably for her, William K. Everson’s New School programs and Amos Vogel’s Cinema 16. Familiarizing herself with Contemporary’s large and diverse library of films and subsequently organizing programs for universities and film societies was her introduction to curating film. At MoMA, Chief Curator of Film Willard Van Dyke encouraged personal engagement with filmmakers and attendance at international film festivals, which became the foundations of her curatorial practice. By the 1970s, alongside Department of Film colleagues Laurence Kardish and Stephen Harvey, Mancia helped to usher in a new vision of film exhibition at the Museum. Conceived to reflect filmmaking in all its forms from both contemporary and historical perspectives, their new scheme was rooted in collaborative outreach, mixing traditional retrospective and monographic programming.
During her later years at BAM and well into retirement, Adrienne Mancia continued pitching exhibition ideas to a generation of film programmers that she had mentored. Thanks to Adrienne’s family and her colleague and friend Jon Gartenberg, who assisted in the organization of this series, the Museum acquired the vast library of books and research materials she accumulated over a five-decade career at the head of her field.
Organized by Ron Magliozzi, Curator, with Francisco Valente, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Film.