The 7 most influential film festivals you should keep an eye on
Curious about potential Academy Award winners? Well, since every single Best Picture winner in the last 13 years premiered in four of the seven film festivals we mentioned in this article, you might want to pay close attention to them. Also, you might find the next big names in the industry in some of the more low-key events we are about to discuss.
Sundance Film Festival
Usually held in: January
Was held this year: between January 28 to February 3, 2021 (online event)
Founded by none other than the legendary actor, Robert Redford in 1976, the Salt Lake City film festival became maybe the most influential one, held in the US. Showcasing independent American pictures, the Sundance Film Festival jumpstarted the career of now highly renowned filmmakers such as Daren Aronofsky, Steven Soderbergh and Quentin Tarantino.
Sundance doubles as a marketplace, where independent movies compete for the distributors’ attention, so it’s not really a people’s festival at heart. Getting into some of those smaller theatres, where these movies are being screened might be tough, unless you are bigwig studio executive with your check book at hand.
There’s also dozens of different awards handed out at the festival, with the US Dramatic Grand Jury Prize won last year by “Minari”.
Berlin Film Festival
Usually held in: February
Was held this year: between March 1 to March 5, 2020
The first of the “Big Three” (along with Cannes and Venice), the Berlinale was founded in West Germany in 1951. During the festival 3 Golden Bears and potentially 10 Silver Bears would find their rightful owners, along with numerous other special prizes.
Since the festival accepts international nominees, and has the tendency to choose the Golden Bear winner based on technical and artistic values, regardless of the budget, political message and mainstream entertainment values, therefore Berlin offers no help predicting the Oscars. In fact, there’s only been one movie which won the Academy Award for Best Picture and the Golden Bear: “Rain Man” (1988).
For the first time, the jury will have no president this year. By the way, the list of decision makers is already available and it includes the Hungarian winner of 2017, Ildikó Enyedi, writer and director of “On Body and Soul” (Testről és lélekről).
Tribeca Film Festival
Usually held in: mid April
Now expected: June 9 to June 20, 2021
Conceived as an attempt to revitalize the cultural life of Lower Manhattan after the September 11 attacks, the Tribeca founders (including Robert De Niro) decided to combine a socially sensitive initiative with a beneficial notion towards American and New York movie culture.
Last year they’ve partnered up with YouTube and 20 other film festivals (including every one on this list with the exception of Telluride) to create the We Are One online event, which collected donations to benefit the World Health Organization. The non-competitive selections included new and classic movies, streaming for 10 days.
Cannes Film Festival
Usually held in: May
Now expected: July 6 to July 17, 2021
Officially founded in 1939 after the scandalous 1938 Venice Film Festival (where Fascist and Nazi propaganda movies won by a landslide, thanks to Mussolini), the countries soon to be known as the Allied powers decided to establish an alternative event. Re-launched after the war in 1946, Cannes gave home to the glamorous annual festival until last year. The organizers decided to postpone, then later cancel the event. But this year, it seems, is going to be different. Although besides the dates currently not much is known about the event.
The two most important awards at Cannes would be the Palme d’Or (basically a Best Picture equivalent) and the Grand Prix, the latter of which was awarded in 2015 to Lászlo Nemes’ “Son of Saul” (Saul fia). There’s a really minor overlap between the winners at Cannes and the Oscar recipients. There’s been only three cases, only one of which occurred after 1955; in 2019, the Palme was given to Bong Joon-ho for “Parasite”.
Venice Film Festival
Usually held in: Late August or early September
Now expected: September 1 to September 11, 2021
Going strong since 1932, Venice hosts the world’s oldest film festival, that started life as an offshoot of the famous Venice Biennale. Showcasing international motion pictures, this glamorous event honors one of about 20 selected movies with the prestigious Golden Lion and the year’s best director with the Silver Lion. Many Oscar winners in the last few years have made their debut in the City of Canals, such as: “La La Land”, “The Shape of Water”, “Roma” (the first movie produced by Netflix to do so). The most recent winner being “Nomadland”, the Frances McDormand movie seems to have decent shot at this year’s Academy Awards.
Telluride Film Festival
Usually held in: First Monday of September
Now expected: On hiatus
The word “festival” fits Telluride like a glove, in fact no other entry on this list (with the possible exception of TIFF) is anything like it. We’re talking about something that’s like Burning Man for movies. No need to rent a tuxedo, Telluride is a great big, informal celebration of quirky independent films with over 500,000 attendees a year.
The festival is currently on hiatus for the foreseeable future, because of the COVID-19 pandemic. At this point, there’s no information available on the next date.
Toronto International Film Festival
Usually held in: First Monday of September
Now expected: September 9 – September 19, 2021
A close second, when it comes to the number of people attending, the TIFF takes Hollywood across the Canadian border every year, much to the delight of some 480,000 movie fans.
A cavalcade of genres and styles, TIFF features movies from all around the globe. Previously named, quite aptly, the Toronto Film Festival took movies from other events, and screened them one after the other for the Canadian audience. Nowadays, there’s plenty of films premiering there, so they are certainly not “lagging behind” anymore.
The colorful palette means that compared to others, sometimes highly specialized festivals, TIFF offers a great chance for potential Oscar winners to go toe-to-toe against one another for Best Picture. Although since non-American movies can also compete, the winner of the festivals’ most prestigious award, the People’s Choice Award. The last time, the award went to “Nomadland”.