With the Venice International Film Festival set to get underway this week comes the start of every cinephile’s favorite time of year: fall festival season. Film festivals like Venice and Toronto are where some of the best movies of the year premiere, teeing them up for buzzy awards campaigns and theatrical releases.
This year, though, things are in flux amidst the SAG and WGA strikes. While several of the films premiering this festival season have been granted interim agreements that allow for actors to perform their publicity duties, few have confirmed that they’ll even show up. With all of this confusion and uncertainty, we’re breaking down the biggest fall film festivals below.
Venice International Film Festival
Inarguably the glitziest of the fall festival slate, Venice takes its cues from Cannes rather than, say, Sundance. The red carpets are rolled out annually on the island of Lido, where filmmakers, actors and models congregate to show off fashion as well as film.
As for the hardware, Venice awards the prestigious Golden Lion to the best film screened in competition at the festival, as well as the Volpi Cup for best actor and actress. Last year’s Golden Lion winner was All the Beauty and the Bloodshed, the second documentary to ever achieve such a distinction, with other previous winners including Nomadland, Joker, The Shape of
This year marks the 80th Venice International Film Festival, and plenty of exciting, artsy films make up the competition: Michael Mann’s star-studded Ferrari, David Fincher’s eerie thriller The Killer, Ava DuVernay’s drama Origin, Sofia Coppola’s Priscilla biopic, and Bradley Cooper’s Leonard Bernstein flick, Maestro. Of course, the festival also serves as a tip-off for what international movies may make waves in the U.S., from Pablo Larraín’s vampire satire El Conde to Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s follow up to Drive My Car.
Telluride Film Festival
Telluride is independent to its core. Taking place over Labor Day Weekend, this Colorado-set festival is always shrouded in secrecy right up until the very end, with its list of premieres remaining largely unknown (save for some educated guessing and cross-referencing of other festival premieres) until the festival starts. That kind of built-in surprise makes it one of the more exciting and unpredictable outlets of the season.
Telluride doesn’t offer the same kinds of trophies as other festivals, instead rewarding individual artists for their contributions to the world of film. It’s on the whole more casual, with far less fanfare; you’re far more likely to see A-list actors in jeans than couture.
While this year’s slate hasn’t been released publicly, there will likely be some overlap with other festivals, and Telluride may even take a coveted premiere or two from the others. Previous premieres include Women Talking, Belfast, King Richard, Ford v Ferrari and Uncut Gems. This year also marks Telluride’s 50th anniversary, so there are likely to be a few extra surprises in store.
Toronto International Film Festival
The most populist of the festivals, Toronto is massive in scale and audience attendance. TIFF has a dozen different categories of screenings, ranging from the mildly formal Gala and Special Presentations to the weirder Midnight Madness and Wavelengths selections.
The festival’s highest honor is the audience-voted People’s Choice Award, which all but guarantees a Best Picture nomination come Oscar season. The past few winners include Oscar recipients Belfast, Nomadland and Jojo Rabbit; Steven Spielberg’s The Fabelmans took home the honor last year.
This year’s line up has plenty of crowd-pleasing promise. The opener, The Boy and the Heron, marks legendary Studio Ghibli founder Hayao Miyazaki’s return to filmmaking after his previously announced retirement. Other entries include Taika Waititi’s soccer dramedy Next Goal Wins, Craig Gillespie’s GameStop stock story Dumb Money, Alexander Payne’s retro The Holdovers and Quiz Lady, a comedy starring Sandra Oh and Awkwafina.
New York Film Festival
Taking place at the tail end of September and into October, New York stands as the only fest that actually happens in the fall. Presented by Film at Lincoln Center, NYFF brings much of the previous festival fare to the east coast, making some of the season’s buzziest films accessible for patrons of FLC as well as the general public. Unlike the other festivals, there is no winning movie or artist; it’s a straight celebration of cinema.
NYFF often boasts plenty of U.S. and North American premieres, but, like Telluride, it doesn’t have the swanky worldwide premieres of Venice or Toronto. Recent films that debuted in New York include She Said, Till and Joel Coen’s The Tragedy of Macbeth. Some of this year’s premieres include Nathan Fielder and Benny Safdie’s miniseries, The Curse, and futuristic drama Foe, starring Saoirse Ronan and Paul Mescal.
The Revivals section also gives moviegoers the opportunity to watch a bevy of older films that may not be accessible via streaming or even physical media. All have been specially remastered and restored, a significant step in the ongoing fight for film preservation. Tickets for the festival go on sale in September, and any interested cinephiles should be quick with their purchases—many screenings sold out well ahead of time last year.
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