World festival roundup: Highlights of the upcoming fall and winter season promise a wide range of cinematic treats around the world. Festivals listed in chronological order.
Aug. 27-Sept. 7
World Film Festival
Fest will open with the world premiere of “Muhammad,” the 171-minute epic from Iranian director Majid Majidi, shot by Italian cinematographer Vittorio Storaro. MWFF has received a record number of short films — over 1,200 (an increase of 42% over 2014) from some 64 countries, “evidence of the vitality of today’s young filmmakers,” notes MWFF president Serge Losique. Fest is adding a Chinese Cinema section with more than 10 new features.
Venice Film Festival
Venice, which is now at its 72nd edition, is the grand dame of European film festivals. And it maintains that cachet with a solid lineup and one of the most photographed red carpets on the circuit. In recent years the Lido has also upped its status as an early awards season driver while remaining a prime launching pad for potent auteur cinema, including discoveries. This year’s world premiers include Baltasar Kormakur’s “Everest,” the opener, Johnny Depp-starrer “Black Mass,” Cary Fukunaga’s “Beasts of No Nation,” and Tom McCarthy’s “Spotlight.”
The fest, above, nestled in the mountains of Colorado, has always been an intimate, casual, carefully curated event that isn’t just a competition but also a celebration of the best in film. Even though the festival doesn’t announce its lineup until the day before it begins unspooling, the event’s reputation — it has hosted several Oscar winners and nominees over the years — means that cinema lovers are more than happy to see what surprises await them. For its 42nd incarnation, Telluride has selected author Rachel Kushner (“The Flamethrowers”) as guest director, and she will serve as a key collaborator in programming decisions.
TIFF, the largest of all the North American fests, will open with Jean-Marc Vallee’s “Demolition.” World premieres at the 40th edition of TIFF will include Ridley Scott’s “The Martian,” Roland Emmerich’s “Stonewall,” Stephen Frears’ “The Program” and Michael Moore’s “Where to Invade Next.” As usual, TIFF has programmed a mix of awards contenders, star-powered indies and arthouse fare in its Gala and Special Presentations, including “The Danish Girl,” directed by Tom Hooper; Scott Cooper’s “Black Mass,” starring Johnny Depp; and Atom Egoyan’s “Remember.” Netflix doc “Keith Richards: Under the Influence” will also world premiere in TIFF’s inaugural Primetime program, which showcases the best of international TV. Other Primetime world bows include Jason Reitman’s “Casual” and NBC’s “Heroes Reborn” and Argentina’s thriller “Cromo.”
San Sebastian Intl. Film Festival
Now in its 63rd year, this Basque institution’s bridge to Latin American filmmakers means it’s a must for industry insiders looking for new talent — 16 projects in development from 17 countries will be presented at the IV Europe-Latin America Co-production Forum running during the fest. The world premiere of Alejandro Amenabar’s “Regression,” opens the festival, with Rufus Norris’ “London Road” closing.
Despite its glamorous name and location, the HFF has struggled to find its identity since its founding in 1997, but last year saw major changes. The fest was acquired by Jon Fitzgerald (he co-founded Slamdance in 1995) and his company CineCause. HFF19 will continue with its socially conscious approach to programming, and is offering three unique programs daily: Curated Conversations, the Hollywood Network and HFF Honors.
Sept. 23-Oct. 4
Established in London in 1992 to be the voice of Brit independent filmmaking, the fest presents films and Web series from around the world (it will screen more than 250 features and shorts this year), and the winner of its Web Fest Competition will take home a cash prize. Raindance has branched out into filmmaking classes, workshops and seminars, and offers filmmaking degrees. It also has a production arm, Raindance Raw Talent, and now has satellite offices all over the world. Oscar-nominated screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga will conduct a masterclass in conjunction with the fest.
Sept. 24-Oct. 4
The 11th Zurich fest will showcase several gala premieres, including “Mistress America” from Noah Baumbach, “The Program” from Stephen Frears, “Kill Your Friends” from Owen Harris, plus the dramas “High-Rise” from Ben Wheatley and “Mon Roi” from Maiwenn. Zurich will also honor guest country Iran in its New World View section, screening a dozen new features, shorts and docs by emerging Iranian filmmakers. The industry- and finance-focused Zurich Summit runs concurrently with the festival Sept. 26-27.
Sept. 25-Oct. 11
Now in its 53rd year, this Gotham mainstay has four high-profile films anchoring its 2015 slate, starting with the world premiere of Robert Zemeckis’ “The Walk.” Also making its world premiere on closing night will be “Miles Ahead,” Don Cheadle’s directorial debut about musician Miles Davis, which the actor also co-wrote and stars in as the jazz legend. Steven Spielberg’s “Bridge of Spies” will also make its world premiere in the Gotham fest lineup. “Steve Jobs,” directed by Danny Boyle, has been selected as the fest’s Centerpiece. New York’s main slate of 26 features will also include such buzzy films as Todd Haynes’ Cannes hit “Carol,” Michael Moore’s “Where to Invade Next,” Yorgos Lanthimos’ “The Lobster” and John Crowley’s “Brooklyn.”
Now in its 14th year, SDFF showcases the best of American and international independent films, and will feature more than 100 screenings, held in San Diego’s downtown Gaslamp Quarter and in the neighboring seaside town of La Jolla. Festival honorees (past ones include Gus Van Sant, Judd Apatow) will be feted at Variety’s Night of the Stars Tribute. Thesp Susan Sarandon and filmmaker Thomas Morgan (“Waiting for Mamu”) of Reframed Pictures are set to partner with SDFF to form the Social Justice Initiative, a panel making its inaugural appearance this year.
Busan Film Festival/Asian Film Market (AFM)
Asia’s biggest festival turns 20, and will feature a Korean cinema retrospective titled Hidden Masterpieces of the 1960s, reintroducing eight lesser known films from the first golden age of Korean cinema. The Asian Project Market, the largest investment and co-production event in Asia, has selected 30 titles, including co-productions with the U.K., France, Germany, Qatar and Hong Kong. Marking the 10th anniversary of the AFM, it will also hold the first Entertainment Intellectual Property Market (E-IP Market). This first year will be limited to Korean original works, but starting in 2016 the E-IP Market’s scope will broaden to include Japanese mangas, Chinese Web novels, Southeast Asian films and more.
Rio de Janeiro Intl. Film Festival
For the past 15 years, Latin America’s largest fest has built a reputation for bringing high-profile international fare to Brazil, along with showcasing regional cinema. This year some 60 countries will be featured in the program. The juried fest last year awarded “Blue Blood,” directed by Lirio Ferreira, and doc “Point Blank” from Theresa Jessouroun its top prizes.
The fest in its 59th year is looking to cement its strategic position in the awards-season calendar, and capitalize on the city’s large population of BAFTA and AMPAS members. It will kick off with the European premiere of “Suffragette,” the drama about the early British voting rights movement, which will be attended by director Sarah Gavron, along with stars Meryl Streep, Carey Mulligan and Helena Bonham Carter. Geena Davis, with whom BFI is also collaborating on Gender in Media, will give the opening keynote at the global symposium. Fest will close with “Steve Jobs,” directed by Danny Boyle from an Aaron Sorkin script and starring Michael Fassbender and Kate Winslet. The stars and director will attend the closing-night gala that also marks the film’s European premiere.
American indies and world cinema unspool alongside awards contenders, this non-competitive film festival draws some 200 filmmakers from more than 50 countries. Last year, Mill Valley opened with “The Homesman,” a Western from writer-director Tommy Lee Jones, and closed with a tribute to Laura Dern. There’s also a focus on documentaries, children’s films, shorts and nine nights of live music at Mill Valley’s Sweetwater Music Hall.
Intl. Film Festival
New co-chairmen Alec Baldwin and Randy Mastro now head up the laid-back fest popular with well-heeled locals and stars. New this year is the program that focuses on animal rights, called Compassion, Justice & Animal Rights. That selection of films will not only focus on the theme but will also be up for the Zelda Penzel Giving Voice to the Voiceless Prize. Past winners of this honor, which has been part of HIFF’s awards ceremony for the past three years, include “Virunga,” “Emptying the Skies” and “One Nation Under Dog.”
The 48th fantasy fest promises to be a diverse one, with films ranging from the supernatural/haunted house horror of “We Are Still Here” from Ted Geoghegan to “Love,” the latest from Gaspar Noe; “Cooties,” a horror comedy starring Elijah Wood; and “Green Room” from Jeremy Saulnier, a crime thriller starring Patrick Stewart. The fest’s special focus is on Japanese titles, with Takashi Yamazaki’s “Parasyte” and Yoshihiro Nishimura’s “The Ninja War of Torakage” among the films on display. Fest will also feature Sitges Pitchbox, in which writers and filmmakers pitch projects to producers and distributors, and Nicolas Winding Refn will receive the Time Machine Award.
Celebrating its 42nd edition — and the 15th anniversary of its World Soundtrack Awards — Ghent is increasingly regarded as the world’s premier fest for film music. This year fest will focus on great British film music, ranging from the classics (William Walton) to contemporary cinema (John Barry), and George Fenton (Ken Loach’s frequent collaborator) will be honored with its lifetime achievement award.
For its 10th edition the fest has reverted to its original name and will present a slimmer lineup of some 35 films, in addition to master classes, retrospectives and various special events. Fest will also pay tribute to Pier Paolo Pasolini. The new Intl. Audiovisual Market will be held concurrently.
Sao Paulo Intl. Film Festival
One of the biggest and most important film festivals in Brazil is now 39 years old and has grown to include over 400 features and shorts from around the world. The 10 best films, voted on by the public in the first week, are assessed by the international jury in the second week, who then chooses the winner.
The 28th edition will open with Robert Zemeckis’ 3D “The Walk,” starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and based on the story behind Philippe Petit’s high-wire derring-do. Closing the fest is “Terminal,” a drama starring Koichi Sato, Tsubasa Honda and Machiko Ono from director Tetsuo Shinohara. Retrospectives include screenings of films by Orson Welles and Ken Takakura, initiatives include the Japan Foundation Asia Center. Bryan Singer will act as the jury president.
The Savannah College of Art and Design launched the festival 18 years ago, and it now attracts some 50,000 cinephiles to the coastal city in Georgia. One of the few festivals launched and run by a university, the Savannah festival programs a competition selection and as well as shorts, panels and other cinematic arts programming. Each year the festival fetes an industry creative — previous honorees include Alexander Payne, Jeremy Irons, Stan Lee, Ian McKellen and Michael Douglas.
Established in 1970, it is the most important — and now only — film festival in Ukraine. Molodist 45 will present, despite difficulties, more than 250 films from all over the world, ranging from mainstream to experimental. The competition program includes sections for student films, debut shorts, Molodist for Kids and debut feature films.
Leipzig Intl. Film Festival
Dok Leipzig’s new artistic director, Leena Pasanen, has shaken things up by abolishing the division between documentary and animated films, and has promised that the fest’s program of 350 films and events will be more closely linked under the theme “Borders and Identities.”
The 17th edition bills itself as “an inclusive movie feast,” and will showcase the latest indie cinema and arthouse fare alongside more mainstream offerings from Hollywood and Bollywood.
Mar del Plata Intl. Film Festival
Argentina’s prestigious event — and Latin America’s only FIAPF-rated A-rated fest — celebrates its 30th edition and an earlier date this year to avoid any clash with the country’s elections. Last year, over 130,000 fans bought tickets; fest will once again host Argentina’s ECA meet, which debates the future of the country’s film/TV biz a time when the country is producing some of the region’s most ambitious films.
Oct. 31-Nov. 8
Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival
Celebrating its 40th anniversary, the fest spotlights all things wild and mountainous — from films and books to photography. More than 80 films screen during the nine-day fest, with an international jury awarding over $50,000 in prizes. New this year is the Banff Mountain Book Competition.
The American Film Institute’s 29th festival celebrates the best from established helmers and emerging talent in the epicenter of filmmaking, Hollywood. Fest also features red carpet galas, special screenings and tributes. Last year’s edition, which screened 121 films, was packed with awards-season contenders from the U.S. and abroad, including the world premieres of “American Sniper” and “Selma.”
Golden Horse Film Festival
The largest in Taiwan, it is an important showcase for regional films, and also promises some 200 films from around the world. Concurrent with the festival is the Golden Horse Awards, a benchmark for local and Chinese cinema, plus a project promotion market.
Thessaloniki Intl. Film Festival
The 56th fest is dedicated to independent cinema, and promises films from all over the world, cinematic surprises, distinguished guests, tributes, master classes, round-table discussions and parallel events on the scenic Greek coast.
The Swedish city will celebrate the festival’s 26th edition with a mix of domestic gems and international indies. Stockholm also awards its Bronze Horse prize and honors a filmmaker with its Lifetime Achievement Award, with past recipients including Quentin Tarantino, David Lynch and Dennis Hopper.
Napa Valley Film Festival
Former USA Today critic Claudia Puig is the new program director of this rapidly growing celebration of film (submissions jumped 50% this year), food and wine in the Northern California towns of Napa, Yountville, St. Helena and Calistoga. Some of the 125-plus films include “Outliving Emily,” starring Alexis Bledel, and “Tumbledown,” starring Rebecca Hall and Jason Sudeikis.
Cabos San Lucas Intl. Film Festival
The famed resort town in Mexico’s Baja peninsula has been making a name for itself, fostering meetings among bizzers from Mexico, Canada and the U.S. Industryites have been responding as a growing number of producers, agents and others make sure to hit the fest — and its beaches.
Kolkata Intl. Film Festival
The 21st edition promises a diverse roster of local and foreign films, with categories including an international competitive section for women directors, the Netpac Award for Asian films, the New Horizon section for upcoming filmmakers and an Indian Select section. Fest will also showcase various tributes and a retrospective.
Founded in 1982, fest is now the second-largest in Italy after Venice. Guest director of the 33rd edition is Brit director and pioneering musicvideo director Julien Temple. Fest retrospective, curated by Emanuela Martini, will spotlight sci-fi films from the 1930s to the 2000s.
Film Festival Amsterdam
It started out small in 1988 and has now grown into the biggest doc fest in the world, screening more than 200 films and attracting 120,000 visitors. This year, Errol Morris, who will also be honored with a retrospective, will curate his doc Top Ten list and conduct a master class.
Programming the best of Arab cinema as well as films from Asia, Africa and Hollywood, DIFF, draws stars from around the world. The Dubai Film Market is the business hub of the fest and runs concurrently, attracting over 1,700 delegates from over 90 countries. dubaifilmfest.com