Instead of Cannes
Because of its location in the epicenter of the industry, Los Angeles, much like Cannes, draws the biggest stars along with high-profile premieres of every size and shape, including recent examples such as The Devil Wears Prada and last year’s hot documentary, The Tillman Story. Yet the big-city setting makes rooms, airline seats and dinner reservations a little easier to come by, while screenings are in top venues like Nokia Theater and Disney Concert Hall. The 2010 festival aired more than 200 movies from over 40 nations.
June 16 to 26
Tribeca Film Festival, New York
Instead of Sundance
The actor Robert De Niro, veteran producer Jane Rosenthal and her husband, investor Craig Hatkoff, ensure that industry colleagues show up in force for the Tribeca Film Festival, which the trio established in 2001. Sundance may be the Cannes of independent films, but Tribeca is gaining ground as an indie specialist, with nearly 500 screenings last year, including 44 feature-length world premieres. In 2008, Best Narrative Feature went to Let the Right One In, remade last year into a bigger-budget English version, entitled Let Me In. While Sundance overwhelms Park City, Utah, to such an extent that locals often plan to flee town, New York can absorb the Tribeca event without missing a beat.
April 20 to May 1
Toronto International Film Festival
Instead of Venice
Considered to be among the world’s three most important festivals, Toronto is by far the most accessible and open of the A-list events. Like the Venice Film Festival, the world’s oldest film festival (established in 1932), Toronto gets a broad mix of large and small premieres and is a top debut choice for any major release. Toronto bills itself as the world’s largest public festival because tickets for every single event, including red-carpet premieres, are sold online. There are a wide variety of multifilm passes, and given the daunting slate, staffers will even put together custom packages based on favorite movies or genres. It is the only major festival with its own venue — the architecturally impressive TIFF Bell Lightbox, a five-theater state-of-the-art complex that debuted last year — though screenings are also held at large Broadway-style theaters around downtown. Toronto is compact and very manageable, even on foot, yet chock-full of lodging, dining and nightlife offerings, with more than 7,000 restaurants reflecting its vast melting-pot culture. Tickets don’t go on sale until the lineup is announced, which is usually midsummer.
Sept. 8 to 18
Miami International Film Festival
Instead of Edinburgh
The Euro-centric and long-established festival in Edinburgh has carved out a niche of premiering films that were made in the British Isles. More recently, Miami has done the same for Latin American and Iberian films and is now the world’s top venue for these, while also showcasing some high-profile mainstream films and taking advantage of its many local celebrity entertainers. When the screenings are over, Miami offers its world-famous nightlife and dining scene; plus, to encourage out-of-town visitors, the festival partners with several local hotels to offer discounts to festival attendees.
March 4 to 13
Instead of Locarno
Switzerland’s swank Locarno traditionally picks up the highest-quality small and indie films overlooked by Cannes and Venice, and so does Austin’s SXSW — often landing movies that either just missed the cut or weren’t finished in time for Sundance. It also puts an emphasis on panel discussions and guest speakers, and if you want to hear filmmakers talk about their work, this is the place. Austin features some of the most accessible VIP parties of any festival, plus umpteen unofficial public parties citywide. The film gala is part of a trio of overlapping SXSW events, bookended by music and interactive festivals, all of which feature an indie vibe and tie directly to Austin’s artistic reputation as the live-music capital of the U.S.
March 11 to 19