film festivals 101

You love the lights, camera and action of the movies. You go to your local cinema and see the latest Hollywood release or most talked-about foreign film being offered at the independent art house. You love the smell of popcorn, sharing laughter and sighs with your fellow audience members. You even look forward to the thrill of holding a ticket and standing in line. You, my friend, are a movie lover.

Fear not. You are not alone! Global box office figures for 2010 so far show that worldwide film releases have earned nearly $4.5 billion. Clearly, there are more than a few people who love to see the movies. This doesn't even include the $6.5 billion in worldwide Blu-Ray DVD sales alone. Other add in other sales from DVDs, cable, satellite, digital downloads and the like, and movie lovers continue to enjoy filmed entertainment to a high degree. Of this you're likely aware.

What you may not be aware of, however, is that before a film is coming to a theater near you, it may be coming to a film festival somewhere in the world. We thought it would be fun to give you a little primer about film festivals to give you an opportunity to think about whether making a trip to one of them would be of interest.

Film festivals come in many shapes and sizes. Some of them have gotten so big and fancy they're almost exclusively the domain of industry insiders. However, there are a some 1,000 festivals to suit many tastes and interests, and, even some of the bigger ones can offer an opportunity for you to get your fix of film and hobnobbing with filmmakers and other film lovers.


Here's a beginner's list of film festivals that you can use as a jumping-off point for exploring the world of film festivals and film festivals of the world. Don't forget too that many cities have their own local film festivals.


Cannes - Taking place in the dreamy beach town in France, this is one of the most well-known film festivals in the world. From Oscar hopefuls to highly anticipated foreign-language films.

Sundance - Originally started to encourage more filmmakers to Utah, Sundance, and closely associated with the efforts of its Chairperson Robert Redford, the Sundance Film Festival in Utah was designed to showcase American-made independent films. Since 1978, it has grown into one of the most star-studded and highly anticipated festivals in the world. As its reputation and film profile has grown, an offshoot called Slamdance sprung up in 1995. Slamdance is touted as a festival "by filmmakers for filmmakers," to appeal to an even more independent crowd honoring films with lower budgets, less glitz and more grit.

Berlin - Known as the Berlinale This fest came shows up to 400 films every year,many of them being premiers. Nearly 300,000 tickets are sold to the public annually, with more than 19,000 film professionals from 128 countries, and 4,000 journalists from around the world in attendance.  It is said to enjoy the largest  audience of any film festival.

Venice - Founded in 1932, the Venice Film Festival is the oldest film festival in the world. Originally with a strictly European films, the festival now features films from  around the world. With an opportunity to visit Venice, lots of stars with worldwide box office appeal have attended the festivities.

Toronto - Unlike many film festivals, the Toronto film festival is non-competitive. In recent years, it has become known for the celebrity and mainstream Hollywood presence it garners, and has become somewhat of a springboard for starting Oscar-buzz by the studios.

South by Southwest - Originally a local film festival for the Austin, Texas creative crowd, this blossoming event known affectionately as SXSW has made its presence known. In conjunction with the largest music festival in the country, SXSW has become an all around fun place to be.

London - Under the auspices of the British Film Institute, the London fest has become a major event for those who love the 'red carpet' treatment, with both Opening and Closing galas, world premier screenings, and a flurry of star presence from the U.S. and elsewhere.

This is just a sprinkling of some of the largest and best-known film festivals. There are wonderful and international film festivals in Adelaide, Capetown, Dubai, Edinburgh, Chicago, Ghent, Guadalajara, Jerusalem, Los Angeles, Marrakech, Tokyo, Pyongyang, Telluride, Shanghai, Cairo, Sarajevo, Tribeca, Warsaw and many others. If you are a film lover it is worth taking a little time to see if one of the festivals coincides with your travel plans - or make your next travel plans with a film festival in mind! Just be sure to plan in advance as some of the festivals are more difficult to obtain tickets for than others. Each also has its own various programs through which you may obtain a discount for tickets to multiple screenings. And don't forget your local cinema to see if they participate in a film festival or special screenings.

Film festivals offer a wonderful opportunity for film lovers to get an intensive dose of cinematic pleasure and also insights into film culture, and when international in nature, ideas and insights from creative minds around the world.