Even though there are film festivals for every season, the fall season holds at least two of the five top film festivals in the U.S. One of these fall film festivals is amongst the oldest in the U.S. Another one has the distinction of saving a film from going straight to DVD that was showcased. That film eventually won Best Picture at the Oscars.
A film festival is simply an annual organized presentation of films shown in either different venues for screening or at one or two movie theaters in a particular major city or resort area, for example Cannes in France. Most of the films showcased have been made fairly recently. Some film festivals have a specific focus on either on a genre such as film noir, present full-length features and documentaries, etc. or a particular subject matter, e.g. gay and lesbian film festivals. Here are the top five U.S. film festivals in the fall for you to get to know and check out.
1.) Chicago International Film Festival – October 8-21, 2009: Founded in 1964 it is a competitive event with categories for feature films, documentaries, and short films, much like the Cannes Film Festival. The Chicago International Film Festival is the oldest competitive international film festival in North America. I have the distinction of being in a film that was shown at this film festival back in 1988. It was quite a heady experience. No, I did not walk the red carpet or attend their Opening Night festivities. Before the film festival started I happened to read in a Chicago free publication, when I lived there, the schedule of films that were to appear. I was completely floored when I saw the name of a film that I had worked on briefly in LA two years prior. My friends and I went to the designated movie theater where it was to be screened. It was as simple and unglamorous as that.
However, this film festival has the distinction of being the first in the U.S. chosen to coordinate the FIPRESCI (Federation Internationale de la Presse Cinematographe) jury. They are a distinguished group of international film critics who present their award to the best feature film made by either a first or second time director. Some of these films will be shown in the Loop at the Music Box and The Chicago Theater as well as others in various Chicago neighborhoods. You can purchase various festival passes that allow you to see more than one film at a discount. 45th Chicago International Film Festival
2.) Telluride Film Festival – September 4-7, 2009: Even though this film festival has already commenced and is now history it is worth noting. Started in 1974, Telluride, as it is often referred, is considered among the top 10 international festivals and listed as one of the top 5 U.S. film festivals that also include Sundance, Austin Film Festival, AFI Fest and Tribeca. It was also at Telluride in 1988 that showed a film I did two years before titled “The Perfect Match” The Perfect Match (1988) IMDb.com, which starred the actor who played Jimmy Olson from the first four “Superman” films. “The Perfect Match” was subsequently shown at the Montreal Film Festival, which is held after Telluride, and before the Chicago International Film Festival.
One of Telluride’s uniqueness is they do not announce their line of films in advance, only the day before it begins. You buy the passes on good faith. Also, this extraordinary film festival is well-known for some significant film premieres. One in particular is the film “Slumdog Millionaire”. Word of mouth spread quickly regarding this film at Telluride, thus saving it from being eventually released straight to a DVD format. The festival has nine theater venues showing the films, seven types of programs during the four days, and six special events beginning with opening night. http://www.telluridefilmfestival.org/
3.) Austin Film Festival – October 22-29, 2009: One of the newer film festivals, which started in 1994, is one of a kind due to its furthering on the art, craft and business of writers and filmmakers for their contributions to film, television and new media. It is best known around the world for it being the annual October Austin Film Festival & Conference. It is also listed as one of the top five film festivals in the U.S. alongside Telluride. There are a number of events and services for emerging and professional writers and filmmakers. Be sure to go to their website for an announcement of their film programs and schedule for 2009. Every year they feature competition films, shorts, opening and closing night films, plus much more. All AFF events are open to the public with many being free of charge in many venues throughout Austin.
4.) Starz Denver Film Festival – November 12-22, 2009: Managed by the Denver Film Society and sponsored by Starz, they feature a very diverse range of commercial and independent films at the Starz Filmcenter. Its first film festival was held in 1978. The full festival schedule will be announced October 26, 2009 with tickets going on sale October 30th for the general public at $12. 2009 Starz Denver Film Festival
5.) AFI Fest – October 30 – November 7, 2009: is the first film festival in the United States to carry FIAPF accreditation. The FIAPF (Fédération Internationale des Associations de Producteurs de Films or in English: International Federation of Film Producers Associations) is an organization supervising international film festivals, including some of the world’s most important ones. The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences recognizes this festival for Oscar consideration in its Short Films category. This will mark the 23rd edition of the AFI Fest, which is established by the famed American Film Institute (AFI) in Los Angeles. They feature emerging filmmakers, international films, and red carpet gala premieres. Passes are not yet available, so please check their website for updates. AFIFEST 2009
Who knows if Telluride will have another blockbuster film on their hands that goes on to win another Oscar? You’ll find many of the films at these festivals end up having very little exposure or success afterwards. There are some that will never be seen again, such as the film I was in “The Perfect Match”. Some go on to great success. You never know what you will find with any of the films at these five fall film festivals.