Film festivals from around the world

Traveling is all about experiencing new cultures. For the vast majority this probably involves visiting all the sites, immersing yourself in the local culture and trying to pick up some of the local lingo. Taking in a film festival is unlikely to be at the top of your lists, but there is no reason why it shouldn’t be.

A film festival is a great opportunity to go and see all the latest big productions and get a taste of the big time. You get to hang out on the red carpets, rub shoulders with the rich and the famous and see a film that is often not commercially released for months (or possibly even years).

So, why not try skipping the sometimes repetitive church-museum-palace itinerary and take a dive into the world of the seventh art? You never know, you might even bump into your favorite movie star in the process.

The first major festival on the circuit, the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, has already been and gone, along with the opportunity to catch a glimpse of the likes of Julianne Moore, Jessica Alba, Paris Hilton and Ben Affleck…but fear not film fans!  Sundance is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to film festivals and there are plenty more star-spotting opportunities to come throughout the year.

To help you try and match your travel dates to one of these fantastic occasions, guest blogger and resident movie buff, Rodrigo dos Santos gives us his guide to the best film festivals in 2010.

Berlin International Film Festival, Germany

12-21 February 2010

Matt Damon and Robert De Niro at the Berlin Film FestivalThe Berlin International Film Festival is one of the biggest and definitely one of the best around. It is the largest publicly attended film festival in the world, and this year celebrates its 60th birthday, so it is expected to attract an even larger crowd and a whole host of media attention.

This year the official jury will be headed by the German director Werner Herzog, and will include world premieres of Martin Scorsese’s much anticipated Shutter Island (starring Leonardo Di Caprio), Roman Polanski’s The Ghost Writer (starring Ewan McGregor and Pierce Brosnan), and Michael Winterbottom’s The Killer Inside Me.

Variety is one the main characteristics of the festival: previous winners of the Golden Bear (for best film) include films from South Africa, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Brazil and Peru.

Home of the European Film Academy, outstanding architecture and more than 150 museums, Berlin is a real paradise for culture lovers and film aficionados alike and should not be missed.

If you need somewhere to stay, HostelBookers has a number of top Berlin hostels available at affordable prices including St. Christopher’s Inn and the Generator Hostel Berlin. Both are great places to stay and have rooms available for as little as 10 and 8.40 euros respectively.

Cannes Film Festival, France

12-23 May 2010

Cannes is the undisputed heavyweight of the film festivals and no guide to film festivals would be complete without it. Set in the heart of the French Riviera, it’s the closest thing to Hollywood that you can get, with none of the other festivals possessing anywhere near the same glitz, glamour or style.

The normally tranquil town has a regular population of 70,000 but this turns into hundreds of thousands during the festival period as everyone tries to catch a glimpse of the likes of Brangelina and Penélope Cruz making their way down the red carpet.

It will be the 62nd edition of the festival this year which is frequently dogged by controversy because of its choices for the Palme D´Or (the biggest award). Recent winners that have provoked strong reactions are Michael Moore’s documentary Fahrenheit 9/11 and the award of best actor in 2004 to the then 14-year-old Yûja Yagira.

Finding accommodation in the area can be both difficult and expensive, and you will have to book well in advance to guarantee your place at the festival. However, the prospect of long, warm days of beautiful sunshine, walking in the Croisette – the waterfront avenue with palm trees – is certainly an appealing one.

With 18 properties to choose from and prices starting as low as 13 euros for a room, HostelBookers should have the right Cannes hostel for you.

Edinburgh International Festival, Scotland

16-27 June 2010

Edinburgh Film FestivalAlthough far less busy and prestigious than Cannes, the Edinburgh International Film Festival has a growing reputation, and is one of the world’s first international festivals.

Boasting Sean Connery and Tilda Swinton among its honorary patrons, the festival screens both UK and international movie premieres. Over the years, it has exhibited films which have gone on to become hugely successful. The Blair Witch Project, Pulp Fiction, Amélie and more recently Antichrist and The Hurt Locker all premiered at the festival.

Of course Edinburgh is not only about the cinema. Unlike the other film festivals, Edinburgh’s version is part of a series of separate events, which run from the end of July until early September each year. The festival includes high-profile theater productions and classical music performances, featuring international directors, conductors, theater companies and orchestras and the world famous Edinburgh fringe comedy circuit.

Edinburgh is a great place to stay at all times of year and we have a number of top Edinburgh hostels available if you’re looking for a place to stay, including the Castle Rock Hostel.

Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, Czech Republic

2-10 July 2010

130 km (80 miles) west of Prague, the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival has gained worldwide recognition in recent years and become one of the major film events on the continent.

The festival celebrates its 45th edition this year and has attracted some of Hollywood’s biggest A-list stars despite its relative obscurity. John Malkovich, Antonio Banderas and Isabelle Huppert have all been spotted at the festival in recent years.

Film fans will recognize the town as the location of the 007 blockbuster Casino Royale. Normally home to just 50,000 people, the cozy spa city comes alive during the festival period.

HostelBookers has great value Karlov Vary hostels available for you to stay during the festival period.

Venice Film Festival, Italy

1-11 September 2010

George Clooney and Elisabetta Canalis at the Venice Film FestivalConsidered as one of the ‘big three’ alongside Cannes and Berlin, Venice is the oldest film festival in the world and takes place in a truly magnificent setting.

Screenings take place in the historic Palazzo del Cinema on the Lungomare Marconi and are part of a major biennial exhibition and festival for contemporary art.

This year the honorary Golden Lion (for lifetime achievement) will be awarded to the legendary Asian and Hollywood director John Woo. Speaking of Hollywood, Venice is another star-studded affair with A-list stars everywhere you look from Tom Cruise to Nicole Kidman. Many of them even have their own Copa Volpi Awards for best acting – including Brad Pitt, Ben Affleck, Cate Blanchett and Sean Penn.

It’s not just a who’s who from Hollywood that attends the festival either. The Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez was spotted last year- so who said politics was boring? The town may or may not be sinking, but you don’t want to miss all the fun, right?

The chances are you’ll need somewhere to lay your head after a day rubbing shoulders with likes of George Clooney and Brad Pitt, so book your Venice hostel with HostelBookers now!

Telluride Film Festival, USA

3-6 September 2010

Also in September, the Telluride Festival in southern Colorado is a great alternative to Venice and attracts more and more attention and interest every year, not least because of its unique character. Unlike most other film festivals, it does not announce its program line-up in advance, meaning that filmgoers must purchase their festival passes on faith alone.

The schedule is not released until the day before the festival begins. This is certainly a risk – especially if you’re coming from the other side of the world – however those that have taken the gamble have not been disappointed in past years.

Telluride attendees have been the first to see some true masterpieces in the past. Recent ‘discoveries’ that have gone on to be huge hits include Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Brokeback Mountain and Juno, to name just a few.

A former silver mining camp on the San Miguel River, the town is now widely recognized as a premier all-season resort, and regularly hosts mountain biking, hiking, river rafting and ski lifting competitions. Sitting in a box canyon, it has a population of just 2,300 people, including some VIP residents. So, if the impossible happens and you get bored during the festival, you can stop by at Tom Cruise or Oprah Winfrey´s places (yeah, they really do live there!) and have a look at how the rich and famous live.

Need somewhere nearby to stay for Telluride Film Festival? Check out our great value Colorado hostels on the HostelBookers website.

Toronto International Film Festival, Canada

9-18 September 2010

Annette Benning at the Toronto Film FestivalBesides being the biggest city and economic capital of Canada, Toronto is all about culture. It is a major scene for theatre and other performing arts, with more than fifty ballet and dance companies, six opera companies, two symphony orchestras and a host of theaters. It also features the world’s first permanent IMAX movie theater and the largest film studios of Europe, Pinewood.

Founded in 1976, its International festival is now one of the most prestigious in the globe, constantly compared to Cannes. It is where films found top distributors in all major territories, including the USA. The festival is considered as a launch pad for many studios to begin “Oscar buzz” for their films. The latest example: a little gem called Slumdog Millionaire, which ended up winning 8 Oscars.

Need somewhere to stay for the festival on a budget? HostelBookers has several great Toronto hostels available for you to stay at prices that won’t break the bank.

San Sebastián International Film Festival, Spain

17-25 September 2010

Back in Europe in the heart of the Basque territory, the San Sebastián International Film Festival is the most important festival in Spain, gaining more and more hype each year. The city itself a great tourism attraction, being a popular beach resort.

The festival proudly places its emphasis on showcasing and awarding Latin American films, with productions from Argentina, Peru, Uruguay and Brazil often among the winners. There is also space at the festival for cinema legends to be recognized for their work. The Donostia award honors stars with long and successful careers rather like the Lifetime Achievement Awards. Meryl Streep is among the previous winners of this prestigious award.

There are a number of great hostels in San Sebastián featured on HostelBookers where you can stay over the festival period.

Best of the Rest

London Film FestivalNot all film festivals are characterized by their competitive nature and focus more on being a display of what’s new from around the world.

Rio and São Paulo International Film Festivals are two such examples, and are a true treat for all film fans, offering an enormous choice of movies to watch. Usually taking place towards the end of September and beginning of November each year, the selection includes big hits (and winners) from previous festivals during the year.

Special events away from the regular screening rooms- in squares and on the beach- give these festivals something different from all the other festivals.

Another great alternative option is the London Film Festival. Last October, the festival showed over 200 feature films, from 46 countries, including 15 world premieres. Master classes and discussion panels with great realisateurs gave a special flavor to the biggest festival ever held there.

The best part about London is everything is open to the public, including all the gala screenings. This means that you can potentially watch a film side-by-side with your favorite actor and director at anytime! The London Film Festival is certainly one of the most democratic of its kind. A record 124,000 people attended in 2009! Time to start saving the pennies!

So there you have it- our guide to film festivals in a nutshell (no Austin Powers puns please!) It is by no means an exhaustive list as there are plenty of other film festivals out there around the world for you to get your teeth into. Happy watching!

Rodrigo dos Santos

For a list of great Rio, São Paulo and London hostels check out the HostelBookers website.

Thanks to Siebbi, Spiritguest, Nicogenin & Sheksays for the Flickr images

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