There are a TON of film festivals out there. And while I have only been to our hometown one here at HIFF, there are a few that I like to keep track of to kind of find out what projects there are out there that people are talking about, what’s generating buzz, and could possibly be coming to a theater near me sometime later in the year.
The importance of film festivals provides filmmakers the opportunity to showcase a film they’ve made or funded on their own–in the hopes that it will secure some form of distribution (films made by big studios often have distribution deals set up before the film goes into production). This is why having your film selected at a big name festival can really make your career as a filmmaker. With the Sundance Film Festival going full steam right now till January 30, here’s a short list of festivals that I try to keep tabs on.
mid-late January :: Park City, Utah-United States :: Focus: American Independent Cinema
Probably the most well known film festival in the United States, the Sundance Film Festival has been a launchpad for a number of directors that include: Christopher Nolan, Kevin Smith, Quentin Tarantino, and Bryan Singer just to name a few. Though so many films go through Sundance unnoticed, unseen, and unheard of; a good number seem to break through to wide distribution to the rest of us later in the year. The best descirption of why Sundance is so important can probably be summed up best by /Film’s Germain Lussier:
“Plain and simple, the best films that you will see in theaters for the next 12 months are being shown at Sundance now. And while you probably haven’t heard of them in January, you’ll definitely have heard of them by December. Don’t you want in on the ground floor?”
Check out his full post on /Film here.
mid May :: Cannes, France :: Focus: European Cinema
In terms of glamour, ceremony, and prestige, the Cannes Film Festival has all other film festivals beat. Filmmakers, stars, distributors, producers, and studios from all over the world flock to the small resort town in the south of France each May hoping to discover new talent and vision from filmmakers across the globe. The big award here is the Palme d’Or (Golden Palm) which is awarded to the top film of the festival.
Toronto International Film Festival
mid September :: Toronto, Ontario-Canada :: Focus: Awards Season Films
The last big festival of the year, the Toronto International Film Festival is the first stop on any film’s run to potential awards season gold. Once dubbed “the festival of festivals” (because it got other film festival leftovers) TIFF has now become known as a launchpad for films with (or hoping for) awards season potential. While many festivals want to host exclusive premieres of big films, Toronto’s openness to attendees, ease of getting to the city, and volume of features shown provide studios with opportunities to show their films to a greater media audience. Also different from other festivals is the fact that there is no jury that selects the festival’s top prize: The People’s Choice Award. This award is selected by the entire festival going populace.
late September :: Austin, Texas-United States :: Focus: Horror, Fantasy, Sci-Fi Cinema
If you are a fan of the horror, fantasy, or sci-fi genres in cinema, then you have to one day make sure that you get yourself to Fantastic Fest. It is the biggest genre festival in the United States and features films that come from all over the world that fit these categories. Partly organized by Ain’t It Cool News movie website master Harry Knowles and run at the prestigious Alamo Drafthouse Cinemas, Fantastic Fest brings in a lot of cult programming, filmmakers, and events for fans and attendees.
Telluride Film Festival
Labor Day Weekend :: Telluride, Colorado-United States
What makes the Telluride Film Festival very unique and at the same time very big on the film festival circuit is that they have an informal tradition of requiring films to not having been shown in North America to be eligible for entry AND they do not announce their lineup until the first day of the festival. It is these two aspects that have made Telluride a ‘must stop’ for film and cinema media since a number big films and award season contenders are shown. Somewhat of an ‘anti-Sundance,’ since attendees do not know what they will be seeing beforehand, media hype and promotion is very subdued and makes walking the streets of Telluride not as difficult of a challenge as it is in Park City.
Hawaii International Film Festival
mid October :: Honolulu, Hawaii-USA :: Focus: Asian Cinema
You didn’t think we were going to complete this list without listing the hometown Hawaii International Film Festival did you? It may not be as prestigious as the other film festivals I’ve listed here but, they do bring in a lot of quality films that we might not otherwise see here and it’s the only festival I’ve been to (which definitely gives it a leg up on the other festivals in my opinion). Besides, where else can you go to a festival in shorts, slippers, and t-shirt? Gotta support the local fest!