Just like the Olympics, world cinema is also a very competitive field. Many countries have a very rich filmmaking culture, and these become highly evident in the many film festivals held in various parts of the world.
In these film festivals, full-length pictures, short films, documentaries, animated films, and even experimental/art-house fare are showcased. Awards are then given out to the most deserving filmmakers and actors.
This list will reveal to you the ten most prestigious film festivals in the world. Entry to the competition section of these film festivals is extremely fierce, and those filmmakers who are admitted to these A-list film festivals enjoy massive media exposure and generous distribution deals.
10. Sundance Film Festival – Utah, USA
Known as the Olympics of independent films, Sundance is one of North America’s most prestigious film festivals. Founded by Hollywood actor and director Robert Redford, the festival showcases the best in independent filmmaking. Many films who participate at Sundance, especially those that win top prizes, enjoy distribution deals both in the United States and in other parts of the world.
9. Busan International Film Festival – South Korea
Busan is the place to go for the best in Asian Cinema. It is simply the largest film festival that annually exhibits the best of Asia’s cinematic outputs. Together with acclaimed films from the more established Asian national cinemas like Japan and China, emerging Asian countries are also given generous spots at Busan.
8. Montreal World Film Festival – Canada
The Montreal World Film Festival features the largest competition section among the A-list film festivals. Held every year during the month of August, this film festival is very diverse and global when it comes to its selections. Latin American and Asian films enjoy the same recognition in this festival as do the more established European and North American films.
7. Toronto International Film Festival – Canada
The Toronto film festival earns a special spot in the film festival arena because it notches the Oscar-worthy “for your consideration” films and exhibits them in their annual film festival. It also boasts of a large attendance of celebrities, who attend the festival to further boost the exposure of their debuting films. Majority of the Academy Award nominated films have been showcased at Toronto well before the nominations even come out.
6. Karlovy Vary International Film Festival – Czech Republic
This festival used to be held every other year, alternating with the now more obscure Moscow International Film Festival. Today, Karlovy Vary is in a class of its own. Known to champion art films, with a particular emphasis on Eastern Europe, this festival never fails to showcase hidden cinematic gems that have been overlooked by the more established film festivals like Cannes or Berlin.
5. San Sebastian International Film Festival – Spain
The San Sebastian Film Festival is a niche film festival that mainly celebrates film from Spanish-speaking nations – and there are a lot of them! Mexican, Argentinean,and Chilean films have enjoyed considerable exposure in this festival, as do selected artfilms from Hollywood, Europe, and Asia.
4. Locarno International Film Festival – Switzerland
This film festival is unique as it exhibits most of its films outdoors – at the large Piazza Grande in the small city of Locarno. The festival is an arthouse film fan’s paradise – as it exhibits a generous sampling of art films from all parts of the world. Locarno has a soft spot for Asian and European films, especially those from emerging national cinemas like Iran and South Korea.
3. Berlin International Film Festival – Germany
Every film year is opened by the Berlinale – which is held every first week of February, the dead of winter, in the German capital. This puts the film in a great position to showcase the best films from the year that just passed as well as the best films of the current year. The competition section of this festival is particularly fierce.
2. Venice International Film Festival – Italy
The world’s oldest film festival remains to be one of the most significant in world cinema. Venice is a major film festival that only 1 film out of 10 submissions is accepted for screening. Celebrities and directors grace the film festival, and media from all over the world cover the Venezia and its daily activities leading to the awarding ceremonies.
1. Cannes International Film Festival – France
THE Olympics of world cinema, Cannes serves a mix of established filmmakers and emerging directors. Most of world cinema’s most acclaimed auteurs have graced this film festival and the dream of many young directors all over the world is to have one of their films shown at Cannes. Yes, it’s that big a thing!