Film festivals

Film festivals

A film festival is an organised, extended presentation of films in one or more cinemas or screening venues, usually in a single city or region. Increasingly, film festivals show some films outdoors.[1] Films may be of recent date and, depending upon the festival’s focus, can include international and domestic releases. Some festivals focus on a specific film-maker or genre (e.g., film noir) or subject matter (e.g., horror film festivals). A number of film festivals specialise in short films of a defined maximum length. Film festivals are typically annual events.

The most well-known film festivals are the Venice Film Festival, the Cannes Film Festival, the Toronto Film Festival, Sundance Film Festival, and the Berlin International Film Festival, the latter being the largest film festival worldwide, based on attendance.[2][3] Venice’s festival is the oldest major festival, and the longest continually running one. A 2013 study found 3,000 active films festivals worldwide—active defined as having held an event in the previous 24 months.[4]


Venice held the first major film festival in 1932. Other major and older film festivals of the world include:

The Venice Film Festival in Italy began in 1932, and is the longest continually running film festival. Raindance Film Festival is the UK’s largest celebration of independent film-making, and takes place in London in October.[6]

North America’s first and longest running short film festival is the Yorkton Film Festival, established in 1947.[7][8] The first film festival in the United States was the Columbus International Film & Video Festival, also known as The Chris Awards, held in 1953. According to the Film Arts Foundation in San Francisco, “The Chris Awards (is) one of the most prestigious documentary, educational, business and informational competitions in the U.S; (it is) the oldest of its kind in North America and celebrating its 54th year.”

It was followed four years later by the San Francisco International Film Festival, held in March 1957, which emphasized feature-length dramatic films. The festival played a major role in introducing foreign films to American audiences. Films in the first year included Akira Kurosawa‘s Throne of Blood and Satyajit Ray‘s Pather Panchali.

Today, thousands of film festivals take place around the world—from high profile festivals such as Sundance Film Festival and Slamdance Film Festival (Park City, UT), to horror festivals such as Terror Film Festival (Philadelphia, PA), and the first U.S. film festival dedicated to honoring music in film: the Park City Film Music Festival:

Digital feature film distribution began in 2005, along with the world’s first online film festival, the GreenCine Online Film Festival, sponsored by DivX.[9]

Entry fee

Most film festivals require that new or relatively unknown filmmakers pay an entry fee to have their works considered for screening. This is especially common in larger film festivals, such as the Cannes Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival, Sundance Film Festival, South by Southwest, Montreal World Film Festival, and even smaller “boutique” festivals such as the Miami International Film Festival, British Urban Film Festival in London and Mumbai Women’s International Film Festival in India . Established filmmakers don’t usually have to pay entry fees.

Not all film festivals require an entry fee. Rotterdam Film Festival and Mumbai Film Festival in India, for example, do not. Many smaller film festivals in the United States, such as the Stony Brook Film Festival in Long Island, New York, the Northwest Filmmakers’ Festival, or the Sicilian Film Festival in Miami, Florida, do not charge entry fees. However, acceptance of films is usually more limited, and such film festivals do not necessarily attract big names in their audiences like Sundance and Telluride do. Some festivals, such as the Portland International Film Festival, charge an entry fee but waive it for filmmakers within a certain region, such as the Northwestern United States.

Notable festivals

The three most prestigious film festivals are generally considered to be Cannes, Berlin and Venice.[10] These festivals are sometimes called the “Big Three.”[11] Polish director Krzysztof Kieślowski‘s The Three Colors Trilogy were each made for these festivals, with Blue for Venice, White for Berlin, and Red for Cannes.[10]

The Toronto International Film Festival is North America’s most popular festival. Time wrote it had, “…grown from its place as the most influential fall film festival to the most influential film festival, period.”[12] Seattle International Film Festival is credited as being the largest film festival in the USA, regularly showing over 400 films in a month across the city.[13] The Sundance Film Festival, Tribeca Film Festival, Austin Film Festival, New York Film Festival, Montreal World Film Festival, and Vancouver International Film Festival are also major North American festivals.

The most notable online film festival is hosted by Culture Unplugged Studios[14][not in citation given] where over 20,000 film makers from over 120 countries participate on the online venue. The festivals are themed as We Speak Here, Humanity Explored, Green and Spirit Enlightened. The venue was the first one to launch the international scale documentary film network worldwide.[15]

Competitive feature film

The festivals in Berlin, Cairo, Cannes, Goa, Karlovy Vary, Locarno, Mar del Plata, Montreal, Moscow, San Sebastián, Shanghai, Tokyo, Venice, and Warsaw are accredited by the International Federation of Film Producers Associations (FIAPF) in the category of competitive feature films.[16]

Experimental films

Ann Arbor Film Festival started in 1963. It is the oldest continually operated experimental film festival in North America, and has become one of the premiere film festivals for independent and, primarily, experimental filmmakers to showcase work.[citation needed]

Independent films

In the US, Telluride Film Festival,[citation needed] Sundance Film Festival,[17][18] Austin Film Festival,[19] Austin‘s South by Southwest, New York City‘s Tribeca Film Festival and Slamdance Film Festival are all considered significant festivals for independent film. The Zero Film Festival is significant as the first and only festival exclusive to self-financed filmmakers.[20] The biggest independent film festival in the UK is Raindance Film Festival.[6]

North American

The San Francisco International Film Festival, started in 1957, is the oldest continuously annual film festival in the United States. It highlights current trends in international filmmaking and video production with an emphasis on work that has not yet secured U.S. distribution. The Toronto International Film Festival, begun in 1976, is regarded as North America’s most major and most prestigious film festival, and is the most widely attended.

Toronto’s Hot Docs is the leading North American documentary film festival. Toronto also has the largest amount of film festivals in the world, ranging from cultural, independent, and historic films. The largest festival, in terms of the number of feature productions, is the Seattle International Film Festival, which screens 270 features, and approximately 150 short films.[citation needed] The Whistler Film Festival gets bigger every year, with more than 80 screenings and an industry summit.

The New York Film Festival only shows a few films in each year. The Sundance film festival is a major festival for independent film. The Vail Film Festival in Vail, Colorado, is one of the “Top 10 destination film festivals in the world,” (MovieMaker magazine) It screens over 90 films, mostly by new filmmakers and rising stars.

For short film enthusiasts and cinema professionals, Sagunenay International Short film Festival (REGARD sur le court métrage au Saguenay, in French) is popular. The Slamdance Film Festival is self-governed “…by filmmakers for filmmakers.”[21]

Latin American

The Cartagena Film Festival, founded by Victor Nieto in 1960, is the oldest film festival in Latin America.[22] The Festival de Gramado (or Gramado Film Festival) Gramado, Brazil, along with the Guadalajara International Film Festival in Guadalajara and the Morelia International Film Festival in Morelia, MichoacanMexico, are considered the most important film festivals of Latin America. The Huelva Ibero-American Film Festival has been held since 1975 in that Spanish city.

The Expresión en Corto International Film Festival is the largest competitive film festival in Mexico. It specializes in emerging talent, and is held in the last week of each July in the two colonial cities of San Miguel de Allende and Guanajuato. Oaxaca Film Fest. For Spanish-speaking countries, the Dominican International Film Festival takes place annually in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic. The Valdivia International Film Festival is held annually in the city of Valdivia. It is arguable the most important film festival in Chile.[citation needed]


Many film festivals are dedicated exclusively to animation.

A variety of regional festivals happen in various countries. Austin Film Festival is accredited by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences®, which makes all their jury award-winning narrative short and animated short films eligible for an Academy Award®.

Asian Film Festivals

Notable Asian film festivals include the Annual Mumbai Film Festival in India, with its 200,000 USD cash prize (, Mumbai Women’s International Film Festival (MWIFF) is an annual film festival in Mumbai featuring films made by women directors and women technicians. Osian’s-Cinefan Film Festival, which recently expanded to include Arab Cinema, and the Hong Kong International Film Festival (HKIFF) Ma Boli International Punjabi Film Festival Vancouver (Mipff), Jagran Film Festival (JFF) [1] Chennai Women’s International Film Festival (CWIFF[2]) and Busan International Film Festival (BIFF). Alpavirama South Asian Short and Documentary film festival. International Film Festival of India, the official International film festival organised by Government of India held at Goa every year is a famous film festival.[23] International Film Festival of Kerala organised by Government of Kerala held at Thiruvananthapuram every year in the month of December is the biggest film festival in India in terms of public participation.[24] International Documentary and Short Film Festival of Kerala (IDSFFK) hosted by the Kerala State Chalachitra Academy on behalf of Department of Cultural Affairs, Government of Kerala is a major documentary and short film festival.[25]

African festivals

Significant African festivals include the biannual Panafrican Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou FESPACO in Burkina Faso, the annual Durban International Film Festival, which has grown in importance for industry with the addition of a co-production forum and talent campus.More recently the The Zanzibar international Film Festival (ZIFF)has established itself as a regional centre for the East and Central Africa for the growing African and the Indian Ocean World cinemas.

European festivals

The biggest European festival is the Cannes film festival in France along with Berlin and Venice. List of film festivals in Europe.

  • Emerging Filmmakers: The KahBang Film Festival, part of the KahBang Music-Art-Film Festival in Bangor, Maine, is one of the newest film festivals in the United States to discover and showcase the work from Emerging Filmmakers throughout the world. Their programming is unique by also showcasing new comedy features, music documentaries, and Maine-made films. Each year they honor one notable actor, actress, or filmmaker with the “Kevin Norwood Bacon Award for Achievement in Cinema”, acknowledging the success the recipient has achieved in being so closely connected to Kevin Bacon. One of their films is screened in the KahBang Off Screen Category, “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon,” which connects the honored back to the man himself. The London Short Film Festival is a BAFTA-affiliated festival that takes place in January every year and is dedicated to finding and showcasing the work of new UK talent, including specific screenings for low budget work.
  • National Cinemas: There has been an increasing presence of film festivals celebrating national cinema. Large national cinema festivals include Italian, French, Russian, Korean, Spanish, German and many more.
  • Interdisciplinary: There are an increasing number of interdisciplinary film festivals crossing film exhibition with content form other cultural and professional spheres. Rich Pickings uses short films as a discussion aid for public conversations with scientists, technologists, psychoanalysts and filmmakers.

See also

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