As a film lover, I’m really keen on getting myself to a film festival or three this year. Where are the best film festivals to go around the world?
More and more film festivals are popping up these days so the choice for movie enthusiasts is ever growing. Let’s take a look at some of the best options:
The best-known and one of the longest running film festivals in Europe is Cannes, held every March in the south of France. Why is it so famous? Because it attracts the biggest names in the global film-making industry who gather in the glitzy seaside town for parties, lavish frock-wearing and networking. They attend the event to secure film financing, sell films, showcase lesser-known works, and fight over the plum prize, the Palme d’Or, which was last year won by ‘Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives’, from the equally unpronounceable Thai director, Apichatpong Weerasekathul.
This year the festival will run from May 11-22, and the opening film is Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris, while the judging this year is led by the legend, Robert de Niro.
If you’re thinking of going, you’re already far too late to bag a decent place to stay close to the action. I’d suggest looking in the neighbouring Riviera towns of Antibes or Juan le Pins, or better still, in Nice, a half-hour train ride away. In Nice I can recommend Le Grimaldi, a hotel you could call quaint, or possibly even out-dated, but definitely characterful. The cheapest rooms are sold out on many of the festival days but you may be able to cut a bargain with the reservations manager if your French is up to scratch. Expect to pay at least E120 per night.
De Niro is also sure to be a fixture at the Tribeca Film Festival, which he helped to launch, and held its first event in spring 2002. The festival, in the eponymous New York district off Broadway, was founded to revive the fortunes of Lower Manhattan in the wake of the 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. The festival celebrates film, music and culture, and has spurned a permanent Tribeca Cinema on Varick Street and a Tribeca Film distribution company. The remit is to support both established and emerging directors. This year it takes place between April 20 and May 1 and includes talks, screenings, awards, exhibitions and a whole programme for families.
The big brother to Tribeca is the New York Film Festival on September 30 to October 16 this year. Expect screenings, panel discussions, including a chance to question directors, and inclusion of experimental and Avant Garde movies.
There’s plenty of choice of places to stay because Manhattan is your oyster – I recommend the SoHotel, which costs from £95 a night. It’s a historic hotel dating back to the late 1700s in the trendy Lower East Side district, which is full of cafes and quirky shops. Also try the 141-room Thompson LES. It has a buzzing bar and restaurant, Above Allen, with stunning rooftop views, a Chinese restaurant called Shang, and best of all, an outdoor pool. Rooms have floor-to-ceiling windows, toiletries by C.O. Bigelow (a fashionable NY brand), flat-screen televisions and iPod docks, and cost from £230 a night.
Venice loves a festival, and none is more glamorous than its annual Film Festival. This year, the 68th, is on August 31 to September 10 at Venice Lido. The Festival pips Venice to be the world’s oldest festival, dating to 1932, and showcases new releases but also homages to prominent industry figures and iconic cinema. The full programme will be announced in July, and will include screenings throughout the city in historic venues such as Palazzo del Cinema and the Sala Perla at the Palazzo del Casinò.
The hotels on the Lido, an island sandbar opposite the main island of the city, tend to be very expensive and get booked up well ahead, but there are plenty of options in the city and you can reach the Lido by ferry or the smaller water bus (vaporetto).
As for hotels elsewhere in the city, a couple of good options are San Cassiano, a former artist’s home with a plum position on the Grand Canal. Rooms cost from £60 a night, and can be a little “fussy” in the decor stakes, but anything understated just wouldn’t be Venetian. Also check out Hotel Al Ponte Mocenigo close to the Rialto bridge, with its own grand marble bridge entrance and just ten bedrooms. It’s another glitz-fest of gold and chandeliers, but the location is unbeatable and rooms cost from £100.
The Toronto International Film Festival is another celeb-fest of premieres and galas. Every September the Canadian city’s most famous occupation, ice hockey, is eclipsed by the arrival of the world’s movie elite. It’s September 8 to 18 this year and includes a short film and student film showcase as well as workshops, talks, tours and Q&A sessions with actors and directors. There’s also Talent Lab, an intensive four-day workshop for promising filmmakers who are looking for expert mentoring.
The Drake Hotel, a self-titled “hotbed for culture” is surely the best place to stay for the festival – just book ahead to ensure you get a room. The hotel has 19 characterful bedrooms, plus a popular sushi bar, live music venue, cafe, urban vegetable garden, general store and roof top terrace. Rooms cost from £125 a night, but will sell out fast.