Fall Film Festival preview

The can't-miss events on every filmmaker, distributor,
buyer and cinephile's fall calendar

**Share your favorite memory from past film festivals in the comment section below.



Toronto International Film Festival
Sept. 4-13

Directors: Cameron Bailey and Piers Handling

Want to win an Oscar? Toronto has emerged as the preferred launching point for Academy favorites. "September always kicks off the season for awards-worthy films, and we're right there at the beginning of it," Bailey says. "Last year, four of the five best picture Oscar nominees made their North American premiere with us."

Started more than 30 years ago and known originally as the "festival of festivals" because it screened titles that first bowed in Cannes and other elite fests, Toronto now hosts an "unofficial market," with screenings for sales agents. Asian, European and Latin American producers regard Toronto as the distribution gateway for North America. And in 2009, Toronto will have its own headquarters, Bell Lightbox, complete with five theaters filled with year-round programming and activities.

Ordinary Torontonians give the fest added credibility. "Toronto is famous for its audiences -- informed, enthusiastic and curious about movies from all over the world," Bailey says. "They're the ones who discovered (last year's) 'Juno,' (2002's) 'Whale Rider' and (2005's) 'Tsotsi.' "  

 -- Etan Vlessing

New York Film Festival
Sept. 26-Oct. 12

Program director: Richard Pena

"For 44 years, we've been accused of being demanding, inflexible and insanely selective," intoned a narrator over NYFF's official trailer at a screening a couple of years ago. "Remarkably like our audience."

Sure, it has a reputation for snobbishness, but that attitude has served the festival and its small roster of films well. "Many festivals feel it's easier to show everything and let the public decide," Pena says. "But as a programmer, I feel it's our duty to only select the very best."
As a result, films chosen for NYFF are marked with an unofficial stamp of quality, which can help position them for awards campaigns just as the season heats up. "The Queen," the 2006 opening night selection, was one of five of the last 10 NYFF films in that coveted North American premiere slot to garner Oscar noms in top categories.

Just don't expect NYFF to ever become a market. Organizers have left the much younger Tribeca Film Festival to draw buyers to the fertile New York landscape.
 -- Gregg Goldstein


Deauville American Film Festival

Sept. 5-14

As American as freedom fries, Deauville casts its spotlight on U.S. cinema.

San Sebastian International Film Festival
Sept. 18-27

One of only 12 competitive film festivals accredited by the International Federation of Film Producers Associations (FIAPF), San Sebastian is Spain's el mas importante cinematic shindig.

Vancouver International Film Fest
Sept. 25-Oct. 10

With attendance levels exceeding 150,000, VIFF has established a reputation as a showplace for international cinema, with a focus on Canadian, Asian and documentary films.


IFP’s Independent Film Week
(Sept. 14-19, independentfilmweek.com)
Malta International Film Festival (Sept. 15-23, maltafilmfestival.com)
Austin’s Fantastic Fest (Sept. 18-25, fantasticfest.com)
Aspen Filmfest (Sept. 24-28, aspenfilm.org)
Charlotte Film Festival (Sept. 25-28, charlottefilmfestival.org)
San Diego Film Festival (Sept. 25-28, sdff.org)
Rio de Janeiro International Film Festival (Sept. 25-Oct. 9, festivaldorio.com.br)

Click next page for October



International Film Festival
Oct. 2-10

Directors: Kim Dong-ho and Lee Yong-kwan

Launched in the fall of 1996, South Korea's first international film festival has played an instrumental role in transforming the region's once-dormant film sector into the artistically vibrant, commercially viable force it is today.

Were it not for PIFF's unflagging support of local filmmakers, the international art house crowd might have never discovered edgy auteurs like Park Chan-wook (2003's "Oldboy") and Bong Joon-ho (2006's "The Host"). Set against the stunning backdrop of Haeundae Beach, PIFF -- which added a concurrent film market to the proceedings in 2006 -- offers everything you'd expect from a world-class festival: diverse, provocative programming, impeccable organization, thriving nightlife and plenty of delicious food (don't miss the fish-head soup).

-- Kevin Cassidy


Oct. 2-12

Unspooling each year in Catalonia's counterculture capital, this top-notch genre fest specializes in fantasy films.

Mill Valley Film Festival
Oct. 2-12

The only prominent fall film festival in the Bay Area may not host a competition, but it's known for screening high-quality independent and world cinema.

Ghent International Film Festival
Oct. 7-18

At the world's most important festival honoring film music, attendees will get their groove on in Ghent for the 35th year running.

Middle East International Film Festival
Oct. 10-19

The Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi hosts this lavish event, which offers more than $1 million in prize money.

Hamptons International Film Festival
Oct. 15-19

With a commitment to American independent cinema and a lovely location in East Hampton, this festival does double duty as a networking opportunity and a relaxing getaway.

London Film Festival
Oct. 15-30

Each year, the U.K.'s largest public film event screens 180 features and 130 shorts representing the best of contemporary world cinema.

Austin Film Festival
Oct. 16-23

Aspiring and professional writers and filmmakers get their day in the sun at this 14-year-old festival held in Texas' dynamic arts capital.

Tokyo International Film Festival
Oct. 18-26

With a new chairman in the form of Japanese entertainment executive Tatsumi "Tom" Yoda, Japan's only FIAPF-accredited international festival is going green in 2008 with a theme of ecology.

Hollywood Film Festival
Oct. 22-27

Held steps away from the studios' gates, the Hollywood Film Festival serves as a high-visibility platform for filmmakers.

Oct. 22-31

Despite Rome's newly elected right-wing mayor, Gianni Alemanno, campaigning for "less cinema and more security," this three-year-old festival is staying relevant with a 200,000 euro top prize and a day dedicated to Tibetan cinema.


Raindance Film Festival (Oct. 1-12, raindance.co.uk)
Woodstock Film Festival (Oct. 1-5, woodstockfilmfestival.com)
Bollywood Film Festival (Oct. 6-12, bollywood.cz)
Cork Film Festival
(Oct. 12-19, corkfilmfest.org)
Fort Lauderdale
International Film Festival (Oct. 12-Nov. 9, fliff.com)
Chicago International Film Festival (Oct. 16-29, chicagofilmfestival.org)
Terror Film Festival (Oct. 21-25, terrorfilmfestival.net)

Click next page for November


Los Angeles

AFI Fest
Oct. 30-Nov. 9

Christian Gaines

Yes, it technically begins in late October this year, but Los Angeles' oldest film festival annually dominates the first week of November. The fest grew out of the ashes of Filmex, the annual event that ran from 1971-85, when it was taken over by the American Film Institute. The 11-day AFI Fest has become one of three festivals that fall under the auspices of AFI, which has used it to showcase both American and international filmmakers. The international slant continues now that AFI Fest has been working in tandem with the American Film Market. Last year, some 23 movies that screened during the festival locked up domestic or international distribution, or sold remake rights at AFM.    

-- Stephen Galloway


Turin Film Festival
Nov. 21-29

Forget the Olympics; film enthusiasts flock to the Italian city for the annual festival, which will roll out the red carpet this year for honoree Roman Polanski.


Cinamina: The International Animated Film Festival (Nov. 10-16, cinanima.pt)
Thessaloniki International Film Festival (Nov. 14-23, tiff.filmfestival.gr)
Cairo Intl. Film Festival (Nov. 18-28, cairofilmfest.com)
International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (Nov. 20-30, idfa.nl/en)
Stockholm International Film Festival (Nov. 20-30, stockholmfilmfestival.se)
International Festival of Documentary and Short Film of Bilbao (Nov. 21-29, zinebi.com)

Click next page for December



Dubai International Film Fest
Dec. 11-18

Managing director: Shivani Pandya
Artistic director: Masoud Amralla Al Ali

Launched in 2004 to narrow the culture gaps between the Arab, Asian and Western worlds, the Dubai fest has drawn a remarkable cadre of international talent while also fostering smaller films.

Government sponsored (it was co-founded and run by Canadian Neil Stephenson until last year, when Abdulhamid Juma took over as chairman and Stephenson responded with a $5 million lawsuit), the weeklong event has hosted stars such as George Clooney ("Michael Clayton" opened the 2007 festival). The festival also carefully nurtures Arab filmmakers, with more than half of the program's 100-plus films coming from the region. The fest is not yet a marketplace, but its audience of 45,000 rivals that of Sundance. And with $325,000 in cash prizes, DIFF carries both popular and financial weight.    

    -- Rebecca Ascher-Walsh


International Film Festival
Dec. 4-11
Festgoers celebrate international film along the beaches of the Caribbean.


Courmayeur Noir in Festival (Dec. 4-10, noirfest.com)
Cambofest: Film and Video Festival of Cambodia  (Dec. 26-28, cambofest.com)