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A film festival is an organised, extended presentation of films in one or more movie theaters or screening venues, usually in a single locality. The films may be of recent date and, depending upon the focus of the individual festival, can include international releases as well as films produced by the organisers' domestic film industry. Sometimes there is a focus on a specific film-maker or genre (e.g., film noir) or subject matter (e.g., gay and lesbian film festivals) A number of film festivals specialise in short films, each with its defined maximum length. Film festivals are typically annual events.


The world's first major film festival was held in Venice in 1938; the other major film festivals of the world (Berlin, Edinburgh, Cannesmarker, Moscow, and Karlovy Vary) date back to the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s.

The Edinburgh International Film Festival in the UKmarker was established in 1947 and is the longest continually running film festival in the world.

The first North American film festival was the Columbus International Film & Video Festival, also known as The Chris Awards, held in 1953. According to the Film Arts Foundation in San Francisco, "The Chris Awards (is) one of the most prestigious documentary, educational, business and informational competitions in the U.S; (it is) the oldest of its kind in North America and celebrating its 54th year."

It was followed four years later by the San Francisco International Film Festival held in March 1957 whose emphasis was on feature-length dramatic films. The festival played a major role in introducing foreign films to American audiences. Among the films shown in its founding year were Akira Kurosawa's Throne of Blood and Satyajit Ray's Pather Panchali.

Today there are thousands of film festivals around the world, ranging from high profile festivals such as Sundance Film Festival (Park City, UT) to horror festivals such as Terror Film Festival (Philadelphia, PA).

The Cannes Film Festivalmarker (Francemarker) is widely recognized as the world's most influential and prestigious film festival.

Digital feature film distribution began in 2005, along with the arrival of the world's first online film festival, the GreenCine Online Film Festival, sponsored by DivX *.

Entry fee

Most film festivals require filmmakers to pay an entry fee to have their works considered for screening. This is especially commonplace among larger film festivals, such as the Cannes Film Festivalmarker, Toronto International Film Festivalmarker, Sundance Film Festival, South by Southwest and even smaller "boutique" festivals such as the Miami International Film Festival and the British Urban Film Festival in London.

However, not all film festivals require an entry fee. Rotterdam Film Festival, for example, does not charge an entry fee to submit work. There are also many smaller film festivals in the United States, such as the Stony Brook Film Festival in Long Island, New York, or the Sicilian Film Festival in Miami, Florida, which do not charge entry fees; however, acceptance of films is usually more limited, and such film festivals do not necessarily attract big names in their audiences like Sundance and Telluride do. In some cases, such as the Portland Film Festival, there is an entry fee, but it is waived for filmmakers within a certain region, such as the Northwestern United Statesmarker.

Significant or notable festivals

  • Experimental films: Ann Arbor Film Festival was started in 1963. It is the oldest continually operated experimental film festival in North America and has become one of the premiere film festivals for independent and, primarily, experimental filmmakers to showcase their work.

  • North American significance: The San Francisco International Film Festival, started in 1957, is the oldest continuously running film festival in the Americas. It highlights current trends in international film and video production with an emphasis on work that has not yet secured U.S. distribution. Torontomarker is internationally renowned for its film festival, The Toronto International Film Festivalmarker. Begun in 1976, is now the major North American film festival and the most widely attended worldwide, while Toronto's Hot Docs is the leading North American documentary film festival. The largest festival, in terms of the number of features shown, is the Seattle International Film Festival, screening 270 features, and approximately 150 short films. Meanwhile, the New York Film Festival only shows a few films in each year, but it still has big impact in the United States.

  • Asian Significance: The Kara Film Festival is an international festival held in Karachi, Pakistan that attracts entries from all over the world. It began in 2001, and is held every year. In 2006, there were "a grand total of over 170 films being screened this year, including over 40 features, over 30 documentaries and over 95 shorts. They are from 37 countries as diverse as Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Iran, Spain, Germany, France, Italy, USA, Canada, Lithuania, United Kingdom, Switzerland, Portugal, Jamaica, Brazil, Ireland, Romania, Sweden, Guatemala, Sudan, Chad, UAE, Sri Lanka, Peru, China, Poland, Estonia, Austria, Australia, Turkey, Greece, Finland and the Czech Republic. They include a number of World Premieres and Asian premieres, while most are at least Pakistan premieres. Many of them have won prizes at other well known festivals including Cannes, Berlin, Venice, London, Sundance and Mumbai as well as international critics' FIPRESCI jury awards. The Pusan International Film Festival held in Busanmarker (also Pusan), South Koreamarker is the largest and one of the most significant film festivals in Asia.

  • Environmental Significance: 2009 marks the inaugural year of the Environmental Film Festival at Yale Universitymarker, featuring feature-length documentaries and short films intended to raise awareness and encourage discussion about the world's most pressing environmental issues.

  • International Digital Film Festival /2007 / Bucharest / International / Kinofest is the first digital film festival in Romania. Kinofest has the explicit goal of promoting young film-makers, artists and their work - film, music and visual art-wise; and also, to cultivate the interest in and promote the arts and media culture among the general public through independent film, video and new media making /

See also


  • Turan, Kenneth, Sundance to Sarajevo: Film Festivals and the World They Made, Los Angeles, University of California Press, 2002, hardback, ISBN 0-520-21867-1.
  • Watson, Nigel, "The Sense and Sensationalism of Film Festivals", Talking Pictures website
  • GreenCine Online Film Festival Winners [1324]

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