The towers of Tokyo, the deserts of Egypt and the glittering coast of France have all been inked in the history of film for viewers’ imaginations. Now, with film festivals planted all over the world, film takes audiences there for real.
Over the years , cities from Savannah, Georgia to Marfa, Texas, became cultural destinations due to the pull of film festivals. Industry professionals and film lovers alike flock to these hubs to watch, sell and write about the top films of the season. These festivals provide spaces for pedagogy and spark the coming year’s Oscar buzz, in addition to being top vacation spots.
Browse our picks above of the top places to visit for film festivals, from the desert to to the glittering coast of France.
Freelance writer Lauren Loudermilk writes about film, television and travel. She has written for Paste and Atlanta Magazine.
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Park City, Sundance Film Festival, Jan 21-31, 2016| The snowy slopes of Park City, Utah harbor America's best film festival. Occurring at the start of the year, Sundance sets the tone for coming festivals and showcases the most anticipated in American cinema for the year. With screenings, panels, workshops and initiatives, Sundance remains a boon for any film professional, and a cultural destination for any civilian cinephile.
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Berlin, Berlin International Film Festival, Feb 11-21, 2016| Das bärchen welcome you to Berlinale in Germany's historic city. Berlin is a must for the cosmopolitan, showing about 400 films a year, mostly from international entrants. Berlinale hosts programs for a variety of genres from both fledgling and seasoned filmmakers. This year's festival says hallo to Oscar-winner Meryl Streep for its Berlinale Talents program. Streep plans to hold a workshop for 300 emerging global film professionals, along with serving as the president of the jury for the festival.
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Sarasota, Sarasota Film Festival, April, 1-10, 2016| Tucked into the balmy Gulf Coast of Florida, Sarasota sees over 180 films each year at SFF. The festival hosts international and domestic films for both narrative and documentary features. Paste's own Michael Dunaway has served as director of programming for the past two years.
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Cannes, Festival de Cannes, May 11-22, 2016| The glassy waters, sweet air and idyll of the South of France draw many, most notably during the Festival de Cannes. Cannes is a destination for any filmmaker or cinephile, and has grown to become the most anticipated of film festivals. The whole world looks to Cannes and Cannes looks back with the most prestigious premieres and awards of the festival season.
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Marfa, Marfa Film Festival, July 13-17, 2016| Escape to the desert with this fest in Marfa, Texas. Marfa, previously known for minimalist art and film, hosts this modest festival every July. MFF shows films one at a time, allowing audiences to enjoy the entire program as well as mingle with industry professionals. It's perfect for the more folksy festival goer who prefers sunset viewings to red carpets.
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Sarajevo, Sarajevo Film Festival, Aug 12-20, 2016| Representing talent from all over southeast Europe, the Sarajevo Film Festival is steeped in political significance. Although, you might expect this from a festival that includes a Human Rights Day program. SFF began in 1995 at the end of the Siege of Sarajevo as a way to preserve the city's cultural cachet. It's "In Focus" feature showcases top films from the regions, and at last year's showed Austrian horror favorite Goodnight Mommy, among others.
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Venice, Venice Film Festival, Aug 31-Sept 10, 2016| The city may be sinking, but the Venice International Film Festival knows how to swim. Venice represents in many people's minds what a film festival should look like: celebrities, parties and premieres. Venice often gets many of the year's best films before other domestic festivals, but, more than anything, it promises to be an electrifying vacation.
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Toronto, Toronto International Film Festival, Sept 8-18, 2016| Visit our neighbors to the North with the Toronto International Film Festival. TIFF is a top festival for North America, rivaling Cannes and Venice from overseas, situated in the urban mecca of Toronto. TIFF runs in the fall, making it a top place for premieres before the start of awards season. Many of the films shown at TIFF are first picks for Oscar buzz.
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Savannah, Savannah Film Festival, Oct 22-29, 2016| Offering Spanish moss and Southern hospitality, the Savannah Film Festival brings in some of the most talented actors and filmmakers of the day. The Savannah College of Art and Design hosts the eight-day festival which sees more than 40,000 attendees for screenings, workshops, panels and lectures. Savannah screens many of the year's top films and honors exceptional celebrity guests. Honorees in 2015 included Meg Ryan, Olivia Wilde, Saoirse Ronan and Alfie Allen.
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Amsterdam, International Doctumentary Festival Amsterdam, Nov 16-27, 2016| With Amsterdam's kaleidoscopic tulip fields and storybook sights, this qualifies as the prettiest film festival you could attend. On top of that, IDFA offers 11 days of films, panels and events with about 2,500 international professionals. Attendees will want to check out its "Docs for Sale" program, a top place for buying and selling documentary films. The Forum, which they describe as a "breeding ground for new documentary projects," is also a must.
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