10 cool film festivals from around the world
These cinematic showcases premiere new films to the world while paying homage to the classics.
From Berlin to Toronto, film festivals help shine light on little-known movies while also celebrating the many years of cinema that have come before them.
From hardcore cinephiles to folks who rarely get to the theater, most people now have heard of the Cannes and Sundance film festivals. Some of these cinematic events are massive, money-making extravaganzas, but they also specialize in matching filmmakers with movie distributors and financiers, as well as exposing folks to obscure films they might not otherwise get the chance to see.
Here's a look at 10 of the world's coolest film festivals.
1. Cannes Film Festival, France
The opening ceremony and "Grace of Monaco" premiere at the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, France. (Photo: cinemafestival/Shutterstock)
The annual Cannes Film Festival is the most famous and influential confab of movie people in the world. The history of the festival, which takes place at the Palais des Festivals in Cannes, France, dates all the way back to the 1930s, and the invite-only event remains one of the biggest, and most impressive, film festivals in the world today. The festival's highest honor, known as the Palme d'Or since 1955 (it was previously known as the Grand Prix du Festival International du Film), was first awarded to American director Delbert Mann's film "Marty" in 1955. Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan took home the 2014 prize for his film "Winter Sleep."
2. Berlin International Film Festival, Germany
Germany's Berlin International Film Festival (also known as the Berlinale) has been an important event since its inception in West Germany in 1951, but it wasn't until 1978 that it became an annual tradition. Judging by actual attendance, the Berlinale is actually the biggest film festival in the world. The event is a journalist and industry haven where studios come to show off their latest films and an elite group compete for its Golden Bear and Silver Bear awards. The Golden Bear award goes to the festival's Best Motion Picture while several Silver Bear awards are given for various individual areas, including direction, music and acting. The first year that a single film won the Golden Bear (the inaugural year of the festival 5 Golden Bear awards were handed out) was in 1952, with Sweden's Arne Mattsson taking home the statue for his film "One Summer of Happiness." Chinese director Diao Yinan's film "Black Coal, Thin Ice" won the award in 2014.
3. Jerusalem Film Festival, Israel
Created in 1984 by Israeli film trailblazer Lia van Leer (she also founded the Haifa Cinematheque, the Israel Film Archive and the Jerusalem Cinematheque), the Jerusalem Film Festival came to fruition after she participated in the Cannes Film Festival as a judge and decided that Israel needed its own festival to celebrate native cinema. Some of the screenings that took place during the 2014 festival include critically acclaimed films "Under the Skin," "Howl's Moving Castle," "Rebel Without a Cause" and "Short Term 12."
"I was honored to be a part of the festival," director Nancy Spielberg-Katz, who screened a film at this year's Jerusalem Film Festival, told From The Grapevine. "The films coming out of Israel are extraordinary, and Israel is finally being recognized as a rich source for strong filmmaking."
Awards handed out annually at the festival include the Haggiag Award for Best Israeli Feature, the Anat Pirchi Award for Best First Film, the Van Leer Award for Best Israeli Full-Length Documentary, and the Audience Favorite Award.
4. London Film Festival, England
The London Film Festival is run by the British Film Institute, which is why it's often called The BFI London Film Festival. Inspired by the Cannes Film Festival and the Venice Film Festival, the first LFF included just 20 films (including those directed by legends Akira Kurosawa and Luchino Visconti), but the festival has now become the largest of its kind in the U.K. and screens more than 300 films from countries around the globe. The London Film Festival also hands out many awards, but The Sutherland Trophy (which rewards the festival's most original and imaginative feature film debut) and The Griersons Award (for best documentary) are among its most prestigious. In 2009, LFF began awarding prizes for Best Film and Best British Newcomer. "Ida," directed by Pawal Pawlikowski, won 2013's Best Film award, and Best British Newcomer went to screenwriter Jonathan Asser for "Starred Up." Anthony Chen took home The Sutherland Award for "Ilo Ilo," while The Griersons Award went to the documentary "My Fathers, My Mother and Me." The 58th annual BFI London Film Festival starts Wednesday and runs through Oct. 19.
5. Toronto International Film Festival, Canada
Installation for souvenir photos in front of Roy Thomson Hall, a major venue of the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival. (Photo: ckchiu/Shutterstock)
The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) is one of the most highly anticipated annual film festivals in North America. Initially known as The Festival of Festivals, TIFF has been around since 1976, but its reputation (and size) has grown steadily through the last few decades. Award-winning films like "Black Swan," "American Beauty," "Ray" and "127 Hours" all premiered at the Canadian festival, and many of the films shown at TIFF have gone on to win Academy Awards. Unlike many of the other film festivals, Toronto International Film Festival does not have a jury and is not a competitive event, but they do give an annual People's Choice Award with the winners based on votes from festival attendees. Claudia Weill's "Girlfriends" took home the first prize in 1978, while Steve McQueen's Oscar-winning film "12 Years a Slave" won in 2013. The 2014 winner is "The Imitation Game," featuring Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch.
6. Moscow International Film Festival, Russia
Closing of the 32nd Moscow International Film Festival at Pushkinsky Cinema in Moscow, Russia. (Photo: magicinfoto/Shutterstock)
The Moscow International Film Festival (MIFF) began in 1935, but was not held regularly until 1959 (and didn't become an annual event until 1995). Until then, MIFF was held every other year. The festival's coveted prized has always been a statue that features St. George (similar to Moscow's Coat of Arms), but its name has changed four times. It was called Grand Prix until 1967, Golden Prize until 1987, Golden St. George until 2003, and its current moniker is Golden George. Russian director (USSR at the time) Sergei Bondarchuk's "Destiny of a Man" took home the 1959 prize while Japan's Kazuyoshi Kumakiri won 2014's Golden George with his film "My Man." More notably, however, is the festival's Stanislavsky Award, named for the legendary school of acting created by Constantin Stanislavsky. Helen Mirren, Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson are just a few of the international stars who have taken home Stanislavsky's prize.
7. Telluride Film Festival, Colorado
Inaugurated in 1974 by James Cards, Tom Luddy, Bill Pence, Stella Pence and the Telluride Council for the Arts and Humanities, the Telluride Film Festival is held annually in Telluride, Colorado. The fact that the festival has a prime spot in the calendar by falling between the Cannes Film Festival and the Toronto International Film Festival is one of the things that makes Telluride such a popular and important festival around the world, especially for film and talent discovery. The festival has been the home of many American premieres of now-classic films, including "Blue Velvet," "The Crying Game," "Roger and Me" and "Brokeback Mountain." There are no traditional awards handed out at Telluride, but the festival does honor three people each year (all of whom receive the Telluride Film Festival Silver Medallion). Former recipients include Catherine Deneuve, Clint Eastwood, David Lynch, Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson.
8. Haifa International Film Festival, Israel
The Haifa International Film Festival was the first international film festival in Israel. Founded in 1983, the annual celebration has since become a huge attraction in the country. It features hundreds of international film screenings, as well as outdoor screenings from multiple genres of film.
Invited to present his latest film at the 2013 Haifa Film Festival, Ari Folman, writer and director of the Golden Globe-winning film "Waltz with Bashir," told reporters he was proud to be able to show the film in his hometown.
"I was born and I grew up just half a mile from here," Folman said. "My family still lives here. My mother still lives in the same house where I was born, and it was built 200 years ago, so it's really like coming back home ... I'm happy to be here."
Some of the other notable films screened during the 2013 event include "Gravity," "Only Lovers Left Alive," "Stories We Tell," "Tokyo Story," "Children of Paradise" and "Blue Ruin."
The festival's two most sought-after awards are The Golden Anchor and The Directors of Tomorrow prizes. Notable stars in attendance in recent years include Harvey Keitel, Sophie Marceau, Joseph Fiennes, Paul Giamatti and Willem Dafoe.
The 30th Haifa International Film Festival starts today and runs through Oct. 18.
9. Venice Film Festival, Italy
With its 70th festival taken place in 2013, the Venice Film Festival is the oldest one of its kind in the world. The festival takes place on the island of Lido in Venice, Italy, and has done so since its inauguration in 1932 by legendary Italian businessman Count Giuseppe Volpi.
The festival's prizes are highly sought after. The Golden Lion (Leone d'Oro) goes to the festivals best film, while the Silver Lion (Leone d'Argento) is given to the festival's Best Director and the Volpi Cup (Coppa Volpi) is reserved for the best actor and actress. The first Golden Lion was handed out in 1949 to Henri-George Clouzot's "Manon," while Gianfranco Rosi's "Sacro GRA" took home the prize in 2013. Alexandro Avranas won the Silver Lion in 2013 for "Miss Violence." The 2013 Volpi Cups were given to Themis Panou ("Miss Violence") for Best Actor and Elena Cotta ("A Street in Palermo") for Best Actress.
10. Sundance Film Festival, Utah
The annual Sundance Film Festival, which takes place in and around Park City, Utah, started in Salt Lake City in 1978. Originally known as the Utah/U.S. Film Festival, the first event included the legendary films "Midnight Cowboy," "Deliverance" and "A Streetcar Named Desire." The festival moved to its current home in Park City in 1981 and adopted its well-known moniker in 1984 when management changed hands to the Sundance Institute. What was originally a fairly relaxed, low-profile festival to showcase independent films (and help fund them) has grown to become a major source for Hollywood films, with bidding wars among producers and distributors now common place. Whether you're a fan of the change or not, the Sundance Film Festival has truly become a cinematic institution.
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