Film festivals are the lifeblood of the film industry. Thousands of people descend on a city for a week to watch dozens of brand-new movies and seek out adoring fans. Some independent films are out there looking for distributors to put them in theaters or on streaming platforms. Others are there to compete for prizes, hoping that a glitzy win will launch the film into Oscar conversation or a packed box office. Even more are there just for publicity. After all, the industry’s most coveted eyes will all be in one place, so why not bring your film for them to see? Journalists roam the city, frantically writing reviews between screenings. Studio executives whisper into their phones, deciding which movies to buy and for how much. Filmmakers, actors and publicists attend after-parties and previews, selling their work to the masses. And then, of course, there are the festival-goers to watch as many films as possible in a few days.
While fall has a quartet of high-profile festivals primarily used to launch Oscar campaigns (Venice, Telluride, Toronto and New York), the four major spring festivals are each unique in what they bring to the world. the cinema. The oldest, Sundance, held in the snowy, wintry town of Park City, Utah, is the largest independent film festival in the United States. Founded by Robert Redford, it tends to spawn independent darlings and documentaries. Whiplash, Palm Springsand last year CODA all debuted at Sundance. Usually in March, South by Southwest (SXSW or “South By” if you’re cool) happens, and unlike most other film-specific festivals, it’s also a TV, music and media festival. interactive. There are usually Sundance repeats with new independents and a few big budget premieres. Films as different as A silent place, Loan player oneand Library all entered the world at the Austin-based festival. The Tribeca Festival (formerly Tribeca Film Festival, but the “film” has been discontinued as the event has expanded into other media spheres) usually takes place in April in New York City. Launched by Robert De Niro to revitalize lower Manhattan after 9/11, the festival is a celebration of independent film. This post-COVID year, it was moved to June and became a launch pad for summer indies in addition to its competition and acquisition titles. And last, but not least, there is the prestigious French competition of the Cannes Film Festival. This mostly international, author-focused event brings together the world’s best to compete for the coveted Palme d’Or, and while fewer hot US titles come out of this festival (as with the Berlinale), it’s certainly the pinnacle of world cinema and often launches contenders for the Oscar for best international film.
Since each of these festivals produces hundreds of films, many of which have no distributors when they premiere or have release dates much later, it can be difficult for non-professional moviegoers to know what to watch ( and where/when you can get your hands on it). To that end, I’ve compiled this handy list of the biggest and hottest titles from Sundance, South By, Cannes and Tribeca and where you can watch them. I’m here to make you look super knowledgeable at dinner parties, so check out the list, watch some of these great movies, and prepare to dazzle as the movie expert that you are!