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.
September 27th – October 1st 2017
The unknown town of Dinard in Normandie has gained some following over the last 22 years for hosting one of the few British Focused film festivals (alongside Univerciné in Nantes) and in part thanks to the charter flights sponsored by the UK funding agencies (which has now apparently been retracted). It’s a good playground for some of the smaller independents to get noticed, but otherwise remains focused on many films which will have already achieved distribution.
5th – 15th October 2017
Reaching its 40th year in 2011, the Sitges Film Festival is the world’s best-known horror and fantasy film festival. Sitges is a major hub for film buyers looking to purchase the most saleable genres in cinema, and regroups both major theatrical and low budget horror.
12th – 21st October 2017
Since 1996 Pusan Film Festival has become Asia’s flagship festival. In 2010 its 73year-old founder Kim Dong-ho stepped down, news which was received with many questions about succession and who could match accomplishments reached over the last 15years: a funding budget of over $5million, one of the world’s few major film markets, and changing the face of the industrial port town of Pusan (Busan) as a hub for the arts. With the announcement of the construction of a new arts centre in the vibe of the TIFF Lightbox, the Dureraum. The festival emphasizes both an art house and commercial programme, and is stringent on filmmaker attendance – supported by generous hospitality offers for participating films.
16th – 19th October 2017
Outside of the Cannes Film Festival, MIPWorld organizes a series of conferences of which MIPCom is the most popular. Despite its online focus, it gathers a high number of television and film focused organizations who can take advantage of its informality, and relatively more focused attendance than other festivals like Cannes.
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10th – 20th October 2017
Belgium’s Flemish film festival has been supporting Belgian films since the 70s, and after many stages of restructuring over the years is now considered one of Belgium’s leading festivals. Over the years Ghent Film Festival has tried to determine its focus, at one time bringing films that were unlikely to screen otherwise, but 2009’s edition was astoundingly predictable, which suggests a different focus.
Submission are taken until August 1st 2017.
5th – 18th October 2017
Despite its short history and being held bi-annually Adelaide Film Festival has found a comfortable spot competing with its older rivals Melbourne and Sydney to which it pays them almost no attention. It’s programming is bolder and more daring, setting it as a much better festival for discovery and as a result has gained some prominence down under.
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13th – 27th October 2017
America’s oldest competitive festival has been presided over by Michael Kutza since 1964. Presenting a fair range of both indie art-house and Cannes/festival circuit films, the festival is an important publicity generating festival primarily for the Illinois region and gains a strong following of North American despite its timing over the busiest festival weeks in the calendar.
October 5th – 9th 2017
Based about 2 hours outside NYC, Hamptons International Film Festival is generally seen as a prestigious festival, focusing on the better known indies you’d normally expect to find circling the critics’ awards or Academies the following Spring. Its in-house labs are one of the biggest pulls for filmmakers in attendance, and the festival boasts an impressive lineup of (maybe not so indie) guests.
Information on submitting is available on their website
October 4th – 15th 2017
Easily one of the world’s most glamorous festivals, the London Film Festival gathers the year’s best of festivals films. Over the years the festival has consulted heavily on its industry reach which led to the creation of the London Production Market in parallel with the festival. LFF is one of Europe’s most important publicity generating festivals.
October 25th – November 3rd 2017
In its 30 years the Tokyo Film Festival has reached a notable position, particularly thanks to its programme of new Japanese cinema. Over the last few years TIFF has hosted a green eco-theme with its green ‘red carpet’, and is one of Japan’s most closely watched festivals. Films compete for the renown Grand Tokyo Sakura prize for best film.
Submissions for the 2017 open in April
October 19th – November 1st 2017
With over 400 films screening over a two-week period the Mostra Internacional De Cinema is Latin America’s most important film festival – whilst the largest Film Market is reserved by Ventana Sur in Argentina. Sao Paulo’s increasing funding levels has made it one of the world’s premiere showcases of the new releases of the year.
October 26th – November 5th (TBC)
Rome Film Festival was the cause of some contention when the Berlusconi government announced it would be set up, with some funding diverted away from Venice and political reasons pointed out to be the main motivations. Despite some protests, Rome Film Festival soon emerged as one of Europe’s most talked about festivals, with an immediate ability to discover new indie and art house releases (in part Venice turned obsessed with Hollywood blockbusters) thanks to its requirements of a European premiere, which caused grumbles from a few other leading EU festivals.
2nd – 12th November 2017
Thessaloniki is the host of two festivals, the headline Film Festival, followed with the documentary festival in mid March. The festival’s been best known for supporting independent talent and recently has proved a hub for many far-eastern filmmakers. It has traditionally focused on Balkan filmmaking and steers away from the festival circuits you might expect to screen at Athens Film Festival.
3rd – 11th November 2017
One of the highlights of Geneva’s cultural calendar, Cinema Tous Ecrans always includes a much more daring programme than its new rival Zurich whilst cherishing new talent through a wealth of short film programmes. Readily one of the most diverse festival programmes around, Tous Ecrans has also steadily embraced new media platforms.
November 2017 (TBC)
Barely in its third year that Cine//B Film Festival has turned a few heads with its small underground indie slate of Latin American cinema. Based in Santiago, Chile, this is definitely a festival to watch closely.
6th – 12th November 2017
Set up post-war in Cottbus near the Polish border in 1991, Filmfestival Cottbus is an important stop for Eastern European cinema.
1st – 8th November 2017
The American Film Market started in 1981 but only received a prominent position in 2002 after it played some part in replacing MIFED. The AFM is an important hub for pre-sales and – predominantly – North American interests.
3rd – 24th November 2017
Despite the political rivalries between Taiwan and China, the Taipei Film Festival is one of the Chinese-speaking world’s most influential festivals and is committed to a strong Chinese focus every year. Other than that the festival has no obvious agenda, with almost spontaneous strands, 3D presentations (Avatar in 2010), and some international grasp. That said the Asian selections are second to none and supported by phenomenal attendance figures.
9th – 16th November 2017
The second festival in my list organised by AFI (the other being Silverdocs) is the AFI Fest held in parallel with the AFM in November. The festival focuses on everything from Art House to alternative, North American and World Cinema focuses. Possibly the best curated festival in America, it is both a hub for industry representatives and an important publicity festival with its awards increasingly seen as a trendsetter and precursor.
17th – 26th November 2017
Whilst Ventana Sur in Buenos Aires fairs for the top film market in Latin America, Mar Del Plata in the seaside fisherman town leads the way as Argentina’s prize showcase of homegrown talent, merged with the best of fests mainstream predictive features of the year.
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24th November – 2nd December 2017
Torino Film Festival maintains an impressive number of (in some cases European) premieres – and sizeable reputation thanks to its focus on relatively independent films and has set itself as one of the leading festivals in Italy.
8th – 19th November 2017
One of the most popular city festivals in Europe, Stockholm Film Festival comprises of some of the year’s most predictable entries and offers no opportunity for discovering new films.
21st – 30th November 2017
One of the first Middle Eastern film festivals to be set up, Cairo is best known for offering some of the best networking opportunities in northern Africa, whilst catering specifically for encouraging co-productions through the Cairo Film Connection.
27th November – 1st December 2017
Set up with the assistance of Cannes’s Marché Du Film, Ventana Sur film market’s first edition represented a slate of about 60 Latin American features. Sometimes referred to as the Latin American Film Market, Ventana Sur is bound to grow from strength to strength as was demonstrated by phenomenal turn out and sales at its second edition in 2010.
6th – 13th December 2017
Barely in its 7th year that Dubai has set itself as one of the hubs in the international film circuit (or at least as long as the hospitality budgets last). The 2010 festival launched with The King’s Speech, and included a slate of films screened just about everywhere else before it. That said its Arab film slate was of some interest.The festival runs in parrallel to Dubai Film Market.