Opening his keynote address to the Production Film Market in October ‘10, Jeremy Thomas expressed his opinion that festival programmers were more important than studio heads. The right festival strategy can define the future of your movie, so budgeting and submitting (or attending) the right one is increasingly important for upcoming filmmakers and marketing execs.
Through this list I’ve tried to regroup the 100-odd most ‘important’ film festivals, markets and showcases in the world. If you like this list please visit the top 10 Documentary Festivals and 10 Short Film Festivals lists I’ve compiled.
Film Festivals shouldn’t be compared like a university leagues table. The reality is that buyers, distributors and sales agents will focus on a number of different festivals for different purposes – both big and small, and depending on their business, geographical or political position in the world.
If you feel I’ve missed anything out please email us. Better yet send me the festival programme by post.
Please note at print time some festival dates are approximate.
23rd March – 1st April 2018
One of France’s largest documentary showcases held every year in Paris, the Cinema du Reel (not to be confused with Geneva’s Vision du Réel) screens about 200 relatively unseen.
8th – 11th April 2019
It’s easy to get confused with all the MIP conferences held in Cannes every year, but they are definitely one of the best known and attended largely due to their extensive marketing worldwide. Specifically aimed at television MipTV is also a stop for a decent number of sales agents selling directly to television but also as a meeting stop for discussing upcoming productions.
3rd – 22 April 2019
Specialising in world premieres for Latin American films, the BAFICI also hosts its own Talent Campus (in association with Berlinale) and Buenos Aires Lab. In 2009 the Latin American Film Market aka: Ventana Sur was set up in association with Cannes’ Marché du Film, which has rapidly become an important stop in the market circuit.
10th – 23rd April 2019
America’s oldest film festival is also one of the most risk-taking. Its huge programme blends both mainstream festival circuit hits as well as out-of-the-blue indies, which has set SFIFF a bande-apart from other city based festivals. Though closely watched by industry, its main audience comes from a huge local and loyal following.
18th April – 25th April 2019
Russia’s leading film festival, the Moscow Film Festival – for its first few years, divided itself bi-annually with Karlovy Vary. Hosted with a certain level of muscovite glamour the festival’s highlight is its European film strands. Despite never really having any following in the West it garners significant attention from the Balkan or Eastern European states – for which it is one of the first points of call in the festival circuit.
24th April – 5th May 2019
Set up by Robert DeNiro to reinvigorate the TriBeCa area, Tribeca Film Festival has now become one of the most watched (and best funded) festivals in the US offering a mix of independent and mainstream US premieres. Recently Tribeca has been involved (and a naming partner) of Qatar’s £3bn investment funding into arts through the Doha Tribeca Film Festival, as well as supporting documentary filmmakers through the Gucci Tribeca Documentary Fund.
25th April – 5th May 2019
The world’s most important documentary festival, Hot Docs in Toronto screens the who’s who of the documentary releases of the year. Hot Docs has kept clear from steering into the television realm, which has kept it leaps ahead of its closest rivals IDFA and Leipzig. Its huge international delegation, conference and market makes this the Cannes of the documentary world.
26th April – 4th May 2019
Udine’s young festival dedicates itself entirely to far eastern cinema, with strands focusing on different countries but also retrospectives.
The festival is worth attending for programmers looking at expanding their oriental slate, but tends to showcase somewhat predictable and festival circuit films.
2nd – 13th May 2018
Overlapping Hot Docs by a couple days, DOXA’s selection in recent years has included both a number of Hot Docs re-runs, but has also offered some of the most original and carefully curated films of the year which has garnered the festival particular focus from distributors from around the world.
14th- 25th May 2019
The king of festivals, Cannes is the most important date in filmmakers’ calendar. Attracting hundreds of parties, glamour, yachts and celebrities, it also runs in parallel with a number of other festivals all serving under the same banner. Expect champagne, tuxedos, lots of business cards, business and lots of bullshit. The festival includes the Cannes Short Film Corner and Producers Network alongside the below strands.
14th- 23rd May 2019
The Cannes Film Market is the biggest in the world, only ranked alongside the European, American and Asian Film Markets. Hosting 6000 odd screenings in two weeks, it is run specifically to sell films and spreads across the Palais des Festivals and the hotels and small cinemas spreading out across Cannes. In recent years Cannes’ market has consulted on the creation of satellites in Latin America.
14th – 23rd May 2019
Over the last four-odd years the Association Du Cinema Independent et pour sa Diffusion has gained a prominent place running its sideline strand of relatively private independent and newcomer screenings outside of the festival bubble.
Submission information is available on their Website
15th – 25th May 2019
The Quinzaine Des Realisateurs was launched in 1969 and hosts 20 feature and 10 short film screenings, run by the Société des réalisateurs in Paris. Screened in the Salle Jean Cocteau/Miramar, it shows very few films in order to offer them more visibility and looks at art-house world cinema.
15th – 25th May 2019
Screening 7 shorts and 7 features since 1962, the Critics week screens only first or second time films.
Bertolucci, Ken Loach and Gaspar Noé all started here.
16th May – 9th June 2019
One of the many North American film festivals to follow a recent trend in purchasing its own cinema, the festival has the unfortunate of overlapping Cannes though defending its timing as an audience festival rather than an industry event. That said the festival attracts a stellar number of northern American premieres and an extremely wide and diverse range in programming. If I weren’t in Cannes, I’d be here.
24th May – 1st June 2019
One of the oldest festivals of its kind in the world, the Zlin International Film Festival for Children and Youth screens over 570 films aimed specifically for youths.
28th – 30th May 2019
Specifically targeted at Television, Video and New Media, the World Content Market in Moscow attracts a large delegation of film sellers and buyers, mostly from the Middle East and Eastern Europe. The WCM is an informal affair specifically targeted at acquisitions.
28th May – June 2nd 2019
The unlikely home for the world’s largest showcase of Japanese cinema, Nippon Connection, has reached a comfortable position in its 20 year history. Their large programme selection means the festival is generally seen more as a film market than a film festival, making it a must of film buyers from around the world. Its delegate centre sets up in the JWG University, and for 4 days hosts one of the most informal and down to earth festival focuses.
31st May – 9th June 2019
The youngest addition to the list, Transylvania’s small town festival has managed to reach some stature amongst the eastern European block both with its mix of glamour and informality. 2010’s programme included a number of Far East titles that barely screened this side of the Rhine, as well as some of the best Eastern European films of the year. Definitely worth following.
Keep an eye on their website for details regarding 2018 submissions.
5th- 16th June 2018
Sydney Film Festival’s an interesting addition to this list. On one hand it celebrates Australian/New-Zealand productions – the only category eligible to submit, whilst all other international features are screened by invitation only – which has resulted in a fairly predictable programme of festival circuit films, often duplicated off the big player festivals. Whilst considerably older than Melbourne or Adelaide, SFF has been trailing behind though its domestic films still seem to keep it in the limelight.
10th- 15th June 2019
The world’s most important animation festival, Annecy is a year shy of 60 and welcomes the largest numbers of animation professionals in Europe. With a huge following by film studies groups and animation study courses, the festival has become one of the funnest to attend – maybe in part due to the swarms of students who attend, and meetings are hosted between the stands and the picturesque lake.
13th – 23rd June 2019
Established in 1996, this festival is one of our favourites. Defiantly independent with a terrific programme of films and events. Worth a trip to LA.
18th – 24th June 2019
Palm Springs Shortfest is the most important short film festival in North America. Combined with the Film Market, it offers a chance for debut filmmakers to be discovered and an important stepping stone in the short film circuit, alongside Clermond Ferrand and Cannes Short Film Corner.
19th – 23rd June 2018
Created in 2003 by AFI and held in Maryland, about an hours drive from Washington DC, the week-long festival takes place in parallel to the International Documentary Conference, focusing on seminars and workshops for various industry members and participants.
19th – 30th June 2019
One of the leading (and oldest) festivals alongside Venice and Cannes, the EIFF is innovative in showcasing both art-house and mainstream discoveries alongside. One of the most significant festivals in the UK, EIFF’s British film showcase remains second to none.
24th – 27th June 2019
Largely inspired by the London Screenings which ran until 2002, The LUFF was set up by Film London in 2004 for essentially the exact same reasons – to host new British films to international buyers. Confusingly, it was then renamed London Screenings again in 2014 – let’s hope it sticks this time. The four-day event has become an important date for UK sales agents and is held in BFI’s Southbank.