• Wed, Jan 22 - 4:18 pm ET

Your Guide To Understanding The 8 Major Film Festivals

Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire at Cannes GIF(via)

This is a confusing time of year for movies — I get that. Half of your brain is keeping track of the award shows for last year’s films, while the other half is trying to sort through the hype on all the new films being released in 2014. It’s no picnic.

It might actually be doable if there were only one or two film festivals during the year where buzzed-about movies could premiere, but of course, that isn’t the case. There has to be time to release all the good movies, all the mediocre movies, all the bad movies, and all the movies like jOBS, so there end up being like…a bajillion festivals a year. (I’m not kidding, that’s the scientific number.)

And some people are really good at keeping them all straight. But if your brain is small like mine, you might need some help figuring out which ones to spend your attention on. And that’s where I come in. I picked out the eight most major film festivals and gave you the basics about each one like what it is, where it is, what movies have come from it, and why people care about it.

Use with care, because you’re about to look real smart in front of all your friends.

1. FESTIVAL DE CANNES

Cannes Film Festival Logo

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When is it? 
May 14 – 25, 2014.

Where is it?
Cannes, France.

What has it given me?
I mean this is the Big Kahuna of film festivals with big names, sunshine and yacht parties, so you should definitely know about it. Last year, it was dominated by the film Blue Is The Warmest Colorwhich I think would have been a shoe-in for Best Foreign Film at this year’s Oscars, if it weren’t for an issue with the release date.

2. SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL

Sundance Logo

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When is it? 
Right now! Specifically January 16 – 26, 2014.

Where is it? 
Park City, Utah, a snowy paradise.

What has it given me?
Everything from adorable portraits of be-sweatered celebrities to Fruitvalewhich destroyed the competition (and my emotions) in 2013.

3. TORONTO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL

toronto film festival logo

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When is it? 
It’s not until later in the year, so still subject to change, but as of now, the festival is scheduled to run September 4 – 14, 2014.

Where is it? 
Toronto, in Ontario, Canada.

What has it given me?
TIFF is North America’s most popular festival, and has a reputation for being able to build up intense Oscar buzz, which it has done for films like Slumdog Millionaire, Precious, The King’s Speechand Silver Linings Playbook that have premiered there in the last ten years.

4. AUSTIN FILM FESTIVAL

Austin Film Festival logo

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When is it?
October 23 – 30, 2014.

Where is it?
Austin, Texas.

What has it given me?
AFF emphasizes the role of the writer in the process of creating a movie, and has awarded top prizes to screenwriters like Oliver Stone, Ron Howard, and Danny Boyle.

5. VENICE FILM FESTIVAL

Venice Film Festival Logo

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When is it? 
August 27 – September 6, 2014.

Where is it? 
The island of Lido in Venice, Italy.

What has it given me?
Founded in 1932, this is the oldest major festival, and the longest continually-running. The films that it honors are less-known to American audiences, but its awards are very prestigious, particularly its top prize, the Golden Lion.

6. BERLIN INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL

Berlin Festival Logo

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When is it? 
February 6 – 16, 2014.

Where is it? 
Berlin, Germany.

What has it given me?
Also called ‘Berlinale’, another of the top three most prestigious film festivals, alongside Cannes and Venice. The top prize is called the Golden Bear, and has previously been given to American films like Sense And Sensibility and Magnoliawith an honorary award going to Meryl Streep in 2012.

7. TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL

Tribeca Film Festival Logo

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When is it? 
April 16 – 27, 2014.

Where is it? 
In the TriBeCa neighborhood of New York City.

What has it given me?
Many many sightings of Robert DeNiro, as well as an emphasis on documentaries, narrative films, and shorts.

8. SEATTLE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL

Seattle International Film Festival 2014 logo

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When is it? 
May 15 – June 8, 2014.

Where is it? 
Seattle, Washington.

What has it given me?
SIFF is credited as the largest film festival in the United States, and places an emphasis on independent and foreign films, and moving toward documentaries as well.

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  • Guest

    SXSW March 7-16th Austin, TX

    • Alexis Rhiannon

      I thought about including that one, but in my research, it seemed like most people were more excited about the Austin Film Festival.