The Rise of the Film Festivals : From Telluride to Timbuktu

Got a homeless film? There’s bound to be shelter for you. It could be the Hamptons International Film Festival, the Midnight Sun Film Festival or the Peachtree International Film Festival. The Cartagena Film Festival, the Mardi Gras Film Festival or the Temecula Film Festival. The Drambuie Edinburgh Film Festival, the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival or the Heartland Film Festival. And don’t forget Santa Clarita.

If a city has more than three movie theaters at sunrise, it could have a film festival by sundown.

Many festivals are born in the local chamber of commerce, a celluloid shot for tourism. “The original mission was to bring business to the city of Palm Springs,” says Craig Prater, executive director of the city’s festival (which runs through Jan. 26). Other festivals are founded by local arts organizations, a neat way to throw a big party. And some are even designed to promote film and filmmakers, bringing otherwise unseen works to a new audience.

“There can never be too many festivals,” says producer James Schamus, whose films “The Brothers McMullen,” “The Wedding Banquet” and “Eat Drink Man Woman” were launched at the Sundance, Berlin and Cannes film festivals, respectively.

“Sometimes the smaller regional

festivals are really important too.”

The best films, and the most industry attention, are found in just three festivals: Sundance in January, Cannes in May and Toronto in September. At all three, acquisitions executives feverishly forage for movies to distribute, even buying films sight unseen, as Miramax did with Jim Jarmusch’s “Dead Man” in 1995.


Like a lot of American pop culture, festivals hold the promise of art, only to be consumed by commerce. Hollywood descends on Sundance in such droves that it is nearly impossible for local film buffs to buy tickets to a hot screening. If you want to attend the pricey Venice Film Festival, start applying for a second mortgage now.

The smaller festivals--including those of Palm Springs and Santa Barbara--deliver fresh and invigorating independent films that moviegoers otherwise wouldn’t get to see. Today’s megaplexes, especially outside of the big cities, simply don’t book “Ma Saison Preferee” or “Antonia’s Line.”

“Festivals have almost become an alternative distribution network,” says Piers Handling, director of the Toronto International Film Festival. “A lot of work only gets shown now at festivals. A lot of foreign-language film that would get distribution 10 years ago doesn’t get seen anymore.”

With so much competition, less-

established festivals do not usually have the first (or even second) crack at deserving new works. Producers frequently hold films back for Sun-

dance or Cannes premieres.

Consequently, some festivals focus on specific genres--short, ethnic or international films. There’s the Krakow International Short Film Festival, the London Jewish Film Festival, the Brussels Festival of Fantasy, Thriller & Science Fiction Film and the Black Filmworks Festival of Film and Video in Oakland.

In an era of blockbusters, the festivals could be forging a new dynamic in audience taste. As more people gamble with festival films, they can develop a deeper appetite for non-studio fare.

“We’re just trying to build regional audiences,” says Dick Morris, who programs the Florida Film Festival in Orlando and Sarasota’s Cine-World Film Festival, both of which show a lot of foreign cinema.

Filmmakers, especially those working without studio money, are thrilled with the festival explosion.

“There are a lot of people making movies,” producer Schamus says. “And film festivals have almost taken the place of the college film society.”

Can the zooming growth last? Sundance is showing signs of strain, and some festivals are laboring to sell tickets.

“I would expect that a lot of them are really struggling to survive,” Toronto’s Handling says. “But it’s amazing what festivals can do. So I don’t think this growth is going to be curtailed.”



The film festival docket just keeps growing. Here is a list of the 250 events, compiled by the Calendar staff, that are confirmed for 1997. Where dates are tentative, only the month is listed. Is your passport ready?


Kid Film Festival, Dallas. Jan. 6-19.

Nortel Palm Springs International Film Festival. Jan. 9-26.

International Film Festival of India, New Delhi. Jan. 10-20.

BeatPix: International Festival of Music on Film, Sydney, Australia. Jan. 11-16.

International Film Festival Brussels. Jan. 15-25.

FIPA (Festival International de Programmes), Paris. Jan. 16-19.

Sundance Film Festival, Park City, Utah. Jan. 16-26.

Slamdance Film Festival, Park City, Utah. Jan. 17-23.

Premiers Plans, Paris. Jan. 17-26.

MIDEM (film market), Paris. Jan. 19-23.

Solothurn Film Festival, Solothurn, Switzerland. Jan. 21-26.

Max Ophuls Preis Film Festival, Saarbruken, Germany. Jan. 22-26.

Tromso Film Festival, Bergen, Norway. Jan. 22-26.

Women in Cinema Film Festival, Seattle. Jan. 24-30.

Travelling, Rennes Film Festival, Rennes Cedex, France. Jan. 27-Feb. 4.

Wuerzburg Film Weekend, Wuerzburg, Germany. Jan. 28-Feb. 2.

Gerardmer Fantastic Arts, Neuilly, France. Jan. 29-Feb. 3.

PanAfrican Film Festival, Los Angeles. Jan. 29-Feb. 9.

International Film Festival Rotterdam, Rotterdam, the Netherlands. Jan. 29-Feb. 9.

Internale Filmwochenende, Wuerzburg, Germany. Jan. 30-Feb. 2.

Cinequest Film Festival, San Jose. Jan. 30-Feb. 5.

Clermont-Ferrand Short Film Festival, Clermont-Ferrand, France. Jan. 31-Feb. 8.

International Film Festival, Belgrade, Yugoslavia. Jan. 31-Feb. 8.

Goteborg Film Festival, Goteborg, Sweden. Jan. 31-Feb. 9.

Miami Film Festival. Jan. 31-Feb. 9.


CineMart (Market for Independent Film), Rotterdam, the Netherlands. Feb. 2-6.

European Youth Film Festival, Antwerp, Belgium. Feb. 3-16.

Brussels Cartoon and Animated Film Festival. Feb. 5-16.

Fantasporto, Oporto, Portugal. Feb. 6-15.

Santa Clarita International Film Festival. Feb. 7-13.

MILIA (film market), Cannes, France. Feb. 9-12.

Fajr Film Festival, Tehran. Feb. 9-18.

Mardi Gras Film Festival, Sydney, Australia. Feb. 12-26.

Berlin International Film Festival. Feb. 13-24.

European Film Market, Berlin. Feb. 13-24.

Portland International Film Festival, Portland, Ore. Feb. 13-March 3.

International Forum of New Cinema, Berlin. Feb. 14-24.

Imagina, Monaco. Feb. 19-21.

PanAfrican Film and TV Festival of Ouagadougou, Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. Feb. 22-March 1.

Green Screen, London. Feb. 24-March 2. Tours seven British cities and seven foreign capitals.

Comedy Film Festival, Southampton, England. Feb. 27-March 2.

American Film Market, Santa Monica. Feb. 27-March 7.

National Film Festival, Copenhagen. Feb. 27-March 9.

Hungarian Film Week, Budapest, Hungary. Early February.


Fribourg Film Festival, Fribourg, Switzerland. March 2-9.

Dublin Film Festival, Dublin, Ireland. March 4-14.

Tampere Short Film Festival, Tampere, Finland. March 5-9.

Remembering Krzysztof Kieslowski, New York. March 5-13.

Viewpoint: Documentary Now, Gent, Belgium. March 6-12.

San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival, March 6-13.

Cartagena International Film Festival, Cartagena, Colombia. March 7-14.

S x SW Film Festival and Conference, Austin, Texas. March 7-15.

Cinema du Reel (International Festival of Anthropology), Paris. March 7-16.

Santa Barbara Film Festival. March 7-16.

Brussels Festival of Fantasy, Thriller & Science Fiction Film. March 7-22.

Bergamo Film Meeting, Bergamo, Italy. March 8-16.

Local Heroes International Screen Festival, Alberta, Canada. March 9-15.

Ann Arbor 16mm Film Festival, Ann Arbor, Mich. March 11-16.

International Festival of Films on Art, Montreal. March 11-16.

Nordic Film Festival, Roven, France. March 12-23.

Cleveland International Film Festival. March 13-23.

London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival. March 13-27.

Creteil International Festival of Women’s Films, Creteil, France. March 14-23.

Days of Independent Film, Augsburg, Germany. March 16-23.

Film Festival for Young People, Laon Cedex, France. March 17-27.

New Directors/New Films, New York. March 21-April 6.

Montevideo International Film Festival, Montevideo, Uruguay. March 22-30.

Moving Pictures/The Travelling Canadian Film Festival, Vancouver, Canada. March 24-April 23.

Hong Kong Film Festival, Kowloon, Hong Kong. March 25-April 9.

Sedona International Film Festival, Sedona, Ariz. March 28-30.

Istanbul International Film Festival. Istanbul, Turkey. March 29-April 13.

New England Film and Video Festival, Brookline, Mass. March 31-April 5.

Bradford Film Festival, Bradford, England. March.

Guadalajara Film Festival. March.


Aspen Shortfest, Aspen, Colo. April 2-6.

Grenzland Film Days, Wunsiedel, Germany. April 3-6.

Los Angeles Independent Film Festival. April 3-7.

Newport Beach International Film Festival. April 3-13.

Chicago Latino Film Festival. April 4-10.

Worldfest-Charleston, Charleston, S.C. April 4-13.

Worldfest-Houston. April 4-13.

Cartoons on the Bay, Rome. April 5-9.

Taos Talking Picture Festival, Taos, N.M. April 10-13.

Palm Beach International Film Festival, Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. April 10-20.

Minneapolis/St. Paul International Film Festival, Minneapolis. April 11-26.

Cape Town International Film Festival, Cape Town, South Africa. April 14-May 4.

The GEN ART Film Festival, New York. April 16-22.

USA Film Festival, Dallas. April 17-24.

St. Louis Film Festival-Spring Sampler, St. Louis. April 18-20.

Visions de Reel (Nyon International Documentary Film Festival), Nyon, Switzerland. April 21-27.

Italian Film Festival, Edinburgh, Scotland. April 22-30.

FilmFest DC, Washington. April 23-May 4.

Hermosa Beach Film Festival. April 24-27.

Golden Rose of Montreux, Geneva. April 24-29.

Oberhausen International Short Film Festival, Oberhausen, Germany. April 24-29.

Munich International Documentary Film Festival, Munich, Germany. April 24-May 4.

San Francisco International Film Festival. April 24-May 8.

Philadelphia Festival of World Cinema. April 30-May 11.

Turin International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Turin, Italy. Late April.


Boston International Festival of Women’s Cinema. May 1-4.

Emden Film Festival, Emden, Germany. May 7-14.

Cannes Film Festival, Cannes, France. May 7-19.

Augsburg Short Film Festival, Augsburg, Germany. May 8-11.

Los Angeles Asian Pacific American Film and Video Festival. May 15-22.

Seattle International Film Festival. May 15-June 8.

Inside/OUT Lesbian and Gay Film and Video Festival of Toronto. May 22-June 1.

Troia International Film Festival, Setubal, Portugal. May 29-June 7.

Krakow International Short Film Festival, Krakow, Poland. May 30-June 3.

Balticum Film and Television Festival, Svaneke, Denmark. May.

Ethnogenre African American Film Festival, Rochester, N.Y. May.


Toronto Worldwide Short Film Festival. June 2-8.

U.S. International Film and Video Festival, Elmhurst, Ill. June 4-5.

CineVision, Innsbruck, Austria. June 5-9.

Montreal International Festival of New Cinema. June 5-15.

Shots in the Dark, Nottingham, England. June 5-15.

Sydney Film Festival, Glebe, Australia. June 6-21.

Banff Television Festival, Banff, Canada. June 8-14.

Norwegian Short Film Festival, Oslo. June 10-15.

Midnight Sun Film Festival, Helsinki, Finland. June 11-15.

Showbiz Expo West, Los Angeles. June 13-15.

Florida Film Festival, Maitland, Fla. June 13-22.

San Francisco International Lesbian & Gay Film Festival. June 13-22.

Marseilles Documentary Film Festival, Marseilles, France. June 18-21.

Hamburg International Short Film Festival, Hamburg, Germany. June 18-22.

E3, Los Angeles. June 19-21.

OUTFEST: The Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Los Angeles. June 19-29.

Prix Italia, Rome. June 19-29.

La Rochelle International Film Festival, Paris. June 27-July 1.

Il Cinema Ritrovato, Bologna, Italy. June 28-July 5.

Munich Film Festival, Munich, Germany. June 28-July 5.

Bradford Animation Festival, Pictureville, Bradford, England. June.

London Jewish Film Festival. June.

Sochi International Film Festival, Moscow. June.

French Filmdays Tuebingen, Tuebingen, Germany. Mid-June.

Human Rights Watch Film Festival, Los Angeles. Mid-June.

Pesaro Film Festival, Rome. Mid-June.

Art Film, Bratislava, Slovak Republic. Late June.

Mystfest (International Mystery Film Festival, Cattolica, Italy. Late June.

Oslo Gay & Lesbian Film Festival. Late June.

Prague International Film Festival, Prague, Czech Republic. Late June.

Vila do Conde International Short Film Festival, Vila do Conde, Portugal. Late June.


Cinedecouvertes, Brussels. July 1-14.

Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, Prague, Czech Republic. July 4-12.

Montevideo International Film Festival, Montevideo, Uruguay. July 7-18.

Outdoor Short Film Festival, Grenoble, France. July 8-12.

Wellington Film Festival, Wellington, New Zealand. July 11-26.

Cambridge Film Festival, Cambridge, England. July 13-27.

Hometown Video Festival, Washington. July 17.

Wine Country Film Festival, Glen Ellen, Calif. July 17-Aug. 10.

Asian American International Film Festival, New York. July 18-20 and 25-27.

Melbourne International Film Festival, Melbourne, Australia. July 24-Aug. 8.

Giffoni Film Festival, Giffoni, Italy. July 27-Aug. 4.

Fantasy Filmfest (International Film Festival for Science Fiction, Horror & Thrillers), traveling to Munich, Berlin, Frankfurt, Stuttgart, Cologne and Hamburg, Germany. July 30-Sept. 3.

Palm Springs International Short Film Festival. July 31-Aug. 4.

Durban International Film Festival, Durban, South Africa. July.

Jerusalem Film Festival. July.

Moscow International Film Festival. July.

Vevey International Comedy Film Festival, Vevey, Switzerland. July.


Montreal International Festival of New Cinema, Juan-Les-Pins, France. Aug. 1-7.

Brisbane International Film Festival, Brisbane, Australia. Aug. 1-11.

Festival of Latin Film, Gramado, Brazil. Aug. 8-16.

Drambuie Edinburgh Film Festival, Edinburgh, Scotland. Aug. 10-24.

Odense International Short Film Festival, Odense, Denmark. Aug. 12-16.

Norwegian International Film Festival, Haugesund, Norway. Aug. 15-24.

Sa~o Paulo International Short Film Festival, Sa~o Paulo, Brazil. Aug. 21-30.

Montreal Film TV and Video Market. Aug. 21-Sept. 1.

Montreal World Film Festival. Aug. 21-Sept. 1.

Edinburgh International Television Festival, London. Aug. 22-25.

Espoo Cine, Espoo, Finland. Aug. 22-31.

Telluride Film Festival, Telluride, Colo. Aug. 29-Sept. 1.

Festival Internacional de Cinema, Portugal. Aug. 29-Sept. 8.

Gramado International Film, TV and Video Market, Gramado, Brazil. August.

Locarno International Film Festival, Locarno, Switzerland. Early August.

Venice International Film Festival, Venice, Italy. Late August.


Toronto International Film Festival. Sept. 3-12.

Boston Film Festival. Sept. 5-18.

Latin American Film Festival, London. Sept. 5-18.

Independent Feature Film Market, New York. Sept. 15-22.

Cinefest: The Sudbury Film Festival, Sudbury, Canada. Sept. 16-21.

Umea International Film Festival, Umea, Sweden. Sept. 17-24.

Aspen Filmfest, Aspen, Colo. Sept. 24-28.

Showbiz Expo East, New York. Sept. 25-27.

New York Film Festival. Sept. 26-Oct. 12.

Alexandria International Film Festival, Cairo. September.

Arsenals International Film Forum, Riga, Latvia. September.

Breckenridge Festival of Film, Breckenridge, Colo. September.

British Short Film Festival, London. September.

Copenhagen Film Festival. September.

Drama Short Film Festival, Athens. September.

Focus on Asia Fukuoka International Film Festival, Fukuoka, Japan. September.

Lo-Con Festival for Film and Video Artists, Santa Monica. September.

Lucas ’97 International Film Festival for Children and Young People, Frankfurt, Germany. September.

Oldenburg International Film Festival, Oldenburg, Germany. September.

Rio de Janeiro Film Festival, September.

San Sebastian International Film Festival, San Sebastian, Spain. September.

Santa Fe de Bogota Festival, Santa Fe de Bogota, Colombia. September.

Temecula Valley International Film Festival, Temecula, Calif. September.

Tokyo International Film Festival. Late September.


Black Filmworks Festival of Film and Video, Oakland. Oct. 4-5 and 11-12.

Chicago International Film Festival. Oct. 9-19.

Lone Pine Film Festival, Lone Pine, Calif. Oct. 10-12.

Chicago International Children’s Film Festival. Oct. 10-19.

Festival de Cinema International, Ste-Therese/Ste-Adele, Canada. Oct. 10-19.

New Orleans Film & Video Festival. Oct. 10-19.

Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival, Hot Springs, Ark. Oct. 12-19.

Denver International Film Festival. Oct. 16-24.

AFI Los Angeles International Film Festival. Oct. 16-30.

MIFED (film market), Milan, Italy. Oct. 19-24.

Showeast, Atlantic City, N.J. Oct. 21-23.

Festival du Cinema International en Abitibi-Temiscamique, Rouyn-Noranda, Canada. Oct. 25-30.

International Leipzig Festival for Documentary and Animated Film, Leipzig, Germany. Oct. 28-Nov. 2.

Film Arts Festival, San Francisco. Oct. 29-Nov. 2 and Nov. 7-9.

Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival, Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Oct. 29-Nov. 16.

Virginia Festival of American Films, Charlottesville, Va. Oct. 30-Nov. 2.

St. Louis Film Festival. Oct. 31-Nov. 9.

Austin Heart of Film Festival, Austin, Texas. October.

Austrian Film Days, Wels, Austria. October.

Central Florida Film and Video Festival, Orlando, Fla. October.

Hamptons International Film Festival, Long Island, N.Y. October.

Hungarian Film Festival of Los Angeles. October.

Mill Valley Film Festival, Mill Valley, Calif. October.

Olympia Film Festival, Olympia, Wash. October.

Pordenone Silent Film Festival, Italy. October.

Rencontres Internationales de Cinema, Paris. October.

Vancouver International Film Festival, Vancouver, Canada. October.


Peachtree International Film Festival, Atlanta. Nov. 1-8.

San Luis Obispo International Film Festival. Nov. 1-9.

Worldfest-Charleston International Film Festival, Charleston, S.C. Nov. 3-12.

Heartland Film Festival, Indianapolis. Nov. 6-9.

Banff Festival of Mountain Films, Banff, Canada. Nov. 7-9.

Hawaii International Film Festival, Honolulu. Nov. 7-14.

Northwest Film & Video Festival, Portland, Ore. Nov. 7-16.

Duisburger Filmwoche, Duisburg, Germany. Nov. 10-15.

Amiens International Film Festival, Amiens, France. November.

Augsburg Children’s Film Festival, Augsburg, Germany. November.

Cinanima, International Animation Film Festival, Espinho, Portugal. November.

Festival Internacional de Cine e Artes Audiovisuales, Buenos Aires. November.

Film Art Fest, Ljubljana, Slovenia. November.

Israel Film Festival, Los Angeles. November.

London Film Festival. November.

Mar del Plata International Film Festival, Buenos Aires. November.

Ourense Film Festival, Ourense, Spain. November.

Sarasota French Film Festival, Florida. November.


Noir in Festival, Courmayer, Italy. Dec. 2-8.

XVIII International Festival of Latin American Cinema, Havana. Dec. 2-12.

PIA Film Festival, Tokyo. Dec. 5-19.

Cairo International Film Festival. December.

The Forum. Amsterdam. December.

MIP-ASIA (film market), Hong Kong. December.

Rencontres d’Annecy du Cinema Italien, Annecy, France. December.


* Check out the World Wide Web site for more information on film festivals around the world.