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5 Film Festivals We’re Most Excited For in 2023

For cinephiles, film festivals function as the beating heart of cinema. Every year, events like Cannes, Berlinale, and TIFF become spaces where the purpose of film as an art form is collectively celebrated and contested; and the glitz and glamour of these festivals lend them an almost magical allure. 

In other words, if you’re anything like us – a lover of all things cinema – you likely have fond feelings for film festivals. But at the same time, you’re overwhelmed when it comes to deciding which festivals to pay attention to. There are, after all, approximately 3,000 film festivals that take place every year. 

To help you narrow things down, we’ve put together a list of five film festivals that we are most excited for in 2023. 

So, throw on your finest imaginary evening wear and let’s hit the red carpet!

berlin international film festival

Berlin International Film Festival 

Location: Berlin, Germany

Date: February 9-26

First on our list is the Berlin International Film Festival, also known as Berlinale. BFF is considered to be one of the “Big Three” European film festivals, alongside Cannes and Venice. It attracts tens of thousands of visitors and typically screens some of the year’s most buzzed-about premieres. It also hosts the European Film Market, one of the largest marketplaces for buying and selling independent and international films. 

What makes the Berlin International Film Festival special?

More so than other festivals, BFF is known for featuring films that have strong social and political themes. Because of this, the festival tends to premiere some of the year’s best documentaries and international offerings. For example, this year, the french documentary On The Adamant was awarded the Gold Bear, the festival’s most prestigious prize.

Cannes Film Festival 

Location: Cannes, France

Date: May 16-27

Next on our list is the glamorous Cannes Film Festival, which is hosted in the picturesque beachside town of Cannes. Every year this festival attracts over 40,000 accredited attendees and 200,000 visitors, ranging from renowned filmmakers to celebs to cinephiles. Cannes, in particular, delivers a diverse slate of film premieres ranging from major Hollywood blockbusters to low-budget international indies. 

What makes the Cannes Film Festival special?

The Cannes Film Festival is decidedly stylish. Famous for its red carpet events, lavish parties, and controversial premieres, Cannes is a festival that opts to celebrate cinema with expensive champagne and headline-worthy moments. But that’s not to say it’s all fun and games. Cannes also bestows the prestigious Palme d’Or award, which is regarded by many to be the highest prize in the independent and international film scene – surpassing an Oscar in esteem.

Sundance Film Festival

Location: Park City, Utah, USA

Date: June 22-30

Next up is the Sundance Film Festival, which is located in the charming mountain town of Park City, Utah. Small but mighty, Sundance draws a global audience of approximately 100,000 and has premiered some of the world’s most beloved indies, including Reservoir Dogs, Little Miss Sunshine, and Whiplash

What makes the Sundance Film Festival special?

In comparison to other festivals, Sundance delivers a more grounded and intimate festival atmosphere. It also focuses heavily on showcasing indie gems and tends to favour American productions. Overall, Sundance is far more casual than its European counterparts and aims to operate as an empowering platform for emerging filmmakers.

Venice International Film Festival

Location: Venice, Italy

Date: August 30 – September 9

Founded in 1932, the Venice International Film Festival is the longest-running film festival in history. Its reputation around the world is associated with prestige and artistic innovation. Every year Venice draws an audience of approximately 50,000 people, made up mostly of filmmakers and industry professionals. The Venice Film Festival is known for screening a diverse range of films; however, it does seem to favour boundary-pushing European offerings. 

What makes the Venice International Film Festival special?

The Venice Film Festival celebrates the rich history of European filmmaking and emphasizes the importance of film as a medium of artistic expression. Venice’s stunning canals and historic architecture serve as an appropriate backdrop for this romantic and rather high-brow event. In comparison to Sundance, Venice promotes itself as an elevated and exclusive film festival experience.

Toronto International Film Festival

Location: Toronto, Canada

Date: September 7-17

Last but certainly not least, we have the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). TIFF is a globally renowned film festival that is considered to be a premier launchpad for Oscar contenders. As a result, it’s typically packed to the brim with highly buzzed-about films, ranging from star-driven megahits to independent Canadian projects. It’s also one of the year’s biggest festivals typically drawing 300,000 plus attendees. 

What makes the Venice Film Festival special?

TIFF standouts from other festivals for two main reasons. First, it features highly diverse programming. Hands down, out of all the festivals on this list, TIFF screens the widest selection of films, which has given it the reputation of being the “people’s festival.” And second, it occupies key pre-Oscars positioning making it an important festival for those looking to generate Award season buzz. 

Bonus: Fantasia International Film festival

Location: Montreal, Canada

Date: July 20-August 9

When most people think of Canada and film festivals, TIFF is the first to come to mind. But for diehard fans of independent cinema, it’s Montreal’s Fantasia Fest that gets eagerly blocked off in their calendars. Founded in 1996, Fantasia Fest is a leading international genre film festival. It’s beloved by hardcore genre film fans and renowned around the globe for its eclectic programming. Every year, the three-week summer event draws approximately 100,000 visitors to Montreal.

What makes the Fantasia International Film Festival special?

According to the organization, Fantasia is an “event hell-bent on showcasing the most exciting, innovative and individualistic examples of contemporary international genre cinema.” The festival focuses on fantasy and horror films and has a total soft spot for eccentric and experimental indies. As a result, Fantasia is very much a filmmaker’s festival and it tends to appeal to audiences interested in boundary-pushing cinema. 

Film Festivals Are Thriving in 2023

 

All in all, each of the film festivals on this list plays a significant role in the world of cinema. What’s more, each has its own distinct appeal. Whether you’re drawn to the politically-charged atmosphere of BFF, the lavishness of Cannes, the indie focus of Sundance, the rich history of Venice, or the diverse programming found at TIFF, this list certainly has a festival for you.

So, now it’s time to pick your favourite, mark your calendar, and get ready to indulge in the magic of this year’s festivals. 

P.S. If you’re interested in breaking into the film and television industry – and attending your favourite festival in person perhaps? – then sign up for Toronto Film School’s industry-focused newsletter, Insider Advantage.

Packed with exclusive content and useful industry insights, Insider Advantage is essential reading for anyone looking to make their mark in the world of film and television.

Niko Pajkovic

Niko Pajkovic is a marketing copywriter at the Toronto Film School. He’s also an academically published author whose research focuses on algorithms, AI, and their intersection with film and television. Niko holds an MA in Professional Communication from Toronto Metropolitan University and a Hon. BA in Communication Studies from Wilfrid Laurier University. His freelance bylines include Film Threat, Independent Australia, Film Matters Magazine, and Film Cred.

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