In Memoriam: Adrienne Mancia


Born on June 5, 1927 in Brooklyn, Adrienne Mancia was the daughter of Harry Johnson and Fae (Weintraub) Johnson. She grew up in Paterson, N.J., and graduated from Eastside High School in 1944. At 20, she earned her bachelor’s degree at the University of Wisconsin, and went on to earn her master’s at Columbia University. 

In 1964, she joined MoMa as secretary to Richard Griffith, the curator of the museum’s film department. Soon after, she was given the title of curatorial assistant and began organizing exhibitions; she became curator in 1977. Ms. Mancia was a key component in providing audiences, especially Americans, early looks at films like those by Wim Wenders of Germany (Wings of Desire, 1987), Manoel de Oliveira of Portugal (The Cannibals, 1988). 

Her efforts to broaden their horizons proved successful. Film festivals throughout North America would pick up on her finds, and her influence earned her awards from foreign governments. President of the RAI Corporation, Renato Pachetti, said that “Adrienne Mancia has probably contributed more than any other person to the introduction of Italian cinema in America” when she received the Order of the Republic of Italy in 1988. Similarly, France recognized her in 1984, naming her a chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters.

Mancia’s influence at MoMA extended beyond the world of filmmakers who had already “made it”; she was also a helping hand to those still searching. She also helped establish Cineprobe, a program that presented works by and hosted discussions with independent and experimental filmmakers and hosted discussions with them. She also was instrumental in fostering connections between filmmakers and others involved in the industry. 

Jon Gartenberg, a friend of Mancias’s as well as the curator of MoMA’s film archive for part of her tenure, said that she was a “major bridge” between “creation and curation”, as “…without filmmakers, none of us would have any jobs”. He said she gave him a “sense of humbleness” around his curatorial work, and helped him realize his mission to support the creative works of others. 

While known for her work in expanding the boundaries of film, Mancia is best known for her love and true passion for the art form. Ron Magliozzi, longtime MoMA staff member and current film department curator, said in an email to colleagues upon her passing:

“If only a little of Adrienne’s unmatched passion for cinema rubbed off on you, it was enough to fuel your career.”

Mancia’s legacy will surely provide those interested in film and all its components with the inspiration to be passionate, both in their art and beyond. 

She is survived by a sister, Merle Johnson Pozner.


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