Top 8 Most Exciting Film Festivals of the Year

There are many film festivals each year, and while they all have something unique to offer, you can’t visit them all. The good news is that by narrowing down your choices to some of the best, you can make sure that you’re spending your time wisely and getting the most out of your travel expenses.

Something else to consider is that what makes a film festival the “best” is entirely subjective. Take a moment to consider what you want out of a film festival, and build your shortlist around that. This list of the top eight top upcoming film festivals will give you a great starting point when it comes to making an informed decision.

South by SouthWest

Typically abbreviated as SXSW, the South by SouthWest film festival is known for innovation and technology. It started back in 1987 and regularly featured interactive media and music festivals and the more traditional offerings. It is held in Austin, Texas, in the US, and typically happens in March.

Toronto International Film Festival

Another film festival that likes to abbreviate its name, the TIFF, as it has come to be known, is considered one of the most prestigious and high-profile film festivals in the world. This event is held in September with a healthy combination of master filmmakers and promising new talent and attracts film lovers and filmmakers alike.

Sundance Film Festival

The Sundance Film Festival is probably the most well-known in the US, and for a good reason. Not only is it the most significant independent film festival to be held annually in the US, but it is also one of the biggest, with nearly 50k in attendance back in 2016. What’s amazing is that Sundance started as a small time operation but grew to gain both national and international recognition. It’s held in January in the following locations:

  • Park City, Utah
  • Salt Lake City, Utah
  • The Sundance Resort near Provo, Utah

Hong Kong International Film Festival

Featuring a simple logo with a big box movie camera and the initials “HK,” the Hong Kong International Film Festival is proudly one of the oldest film festivals in all of Asia. Started in 1976, it showcases filmmakers from around the globe and typically screens around 230 films. It is also known that it was primarily responsible for introducing the world to the Chinese language and Asian cinema in general.

Rotterdam Film Festival

Held in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, the Rotterdam Film Festival was founded in 1972. Born near the end of January each year, it places a strong focus on experimental and independent filmmaking, making it an excellent place for up-and-coming talent in the film industry to show what they’re capable of. The distinct Rotterdam Film Festival logo is a black and white Tiger Face drawn ultra-simplistic style.

The Chicago International Film Festival

Held in October in Chicago, Illinois, as the name implies, the Chicago Film Festival is very high profile and is known for showing off the very best in the film industry. With that said, there is still a place at this festival for rising talent as well. Bringing in people from all over the US and the world, this festival offers a great blend of competitive and non-competitive works.

Raindance Film Festival

Like how Sundance is the largest independent film festival in the US, the Raindance Film Festival is the largest independent film festival in the UK. Held in London during November, it is also thought of as one of the top 10 most important international film festivals. It is a great place to showcase lesser-known directors, short films, VR/AR technology, and documentaries. Some would call it the #1 festival for documentaries in the world.

Calgary International Film Festival

While it isn’t the largest or most prestigious film festival in Canada, the Calgary International Film Festival offers excitement in the form of cash and prizes. As you would expect, held in Calgary, ON, Canada, it is generally held over 12 days in October and screens over 200 films, giving you an excellent selection to choose from. It should also be mentioned that the Calgary International Film Festival is a qualifying festival for both the Canadian Screen Awards and the Academy Awards.

Attending the Best Film Festivals

With so many film festivals to choose from, it can be challenging to make a decision. It’s best to start by figuring out which festivals offer what you’re looking for, such as independent filmmaking, major industry players, or more experimental genres using new technology such as AR/VR. Once you have an idea of what you want, you can see which festivals fit your travel budget and schedule. This will help you narrow things down and pick festivals to visit that you’ll enjoy the most.

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