A List Festivals, a tightly curated list.

In your hot and clammy hands you need more tightly curated festival lists, relevant festival deadlines and a hell of a lot of time and patience. Here’s a A list film festivals we dedicated time to this week to add to your briefcase.

As a result of the numerous festivals operating each year in the global network of exhibition, the film festival environment become the more and more competitive. The limited window in which to screen a film before it is commercially released further intensifies the competition among events. However, there is hierarchy within the international film festival circuit and some festivals have higher status than others.

The division between A list and B list festivals has been brought about by the sanctioning organisation: Fédération Internationale des Associations de Producteurs de Films / International Federation of Film Producers Association (FIAP).

Founded in 1933, the FIAPF, among other regulatory functions in the audio-visual sector, it is regulator of International Film Festivals that namely recognizes category ‘1’ or ‘A’ festivals around the world, including some of the world’s most significant ones.

Cannes, Berlinale and Venice. Yes, the obvious institutions. Named by the FIAPF is a hallmark for film festivals. It is a sort-of film festival accolade. Only a few film festivals have been given this competitive status by the FIAPF. Lesser known however are  the FIAPF three festival categories:

  1. Competitive Specialized Feature Film Festivals,
  2. Non-Competitive Feature Film Festivals and
  3. Documentary And Short Film Festivals

These each provide a guide to the most significant film festivals breaking new grounds in the film festival planet. You might not find some big brand festivals like Sundance here, but this is due to their imminent focus on the independent film sector rather than on the competition between submitted films.

Here we go!


Berlin International Film Festival Berlin, Germany 1951
Big is the first word about the Berlinale. With around 300,000 sold tickets, more than 19,000 professional visitors from 115 countries, including 4,000 journalists, the festival is big, big, big. No wonder that this huge event is one of the recognized film festivals by FIAPF. Programs such as the famous Talent Campus makes the Berlinale a must have for industry, filmmakers and professionals.

Cairo International Film Festival Cairo, Egypt 1976
Cairo International Film Festival (CIFF) is not only the first international film festival in the Middle East, it is also the only one in Africa and the Middle East to be recognized by the competitive feature category from the FIAPF. The goal of the CIFF is to promote films and develop meetings between cinema professionals around the world film industry in the Arab world, Middle East and around the world and show the Egyptian public the most important international films.

Cannes Film Festival Cannes, France 1946
Since 1946, the annual Cannes International Film Festival previews new films of all genres including documentaries from around the world. The invitation-only festival is recognized by the FIAPF because of so many reasons, but unquestioning this festival on the French Riveria is one of the major and most prestigious film festivals around the world.

Festival del film Locarno Locarno, Switzerland 1946
Also foundend in 1946, the Festival del film Locarno has occupied a unique position in the landscape of the major film festivals. The open-air on a screen 26×14 meters is only one of the attractions in Locarno. The festival is well known as a place of discover, where new trends and new talents are found and launched alongside major successes. Claude Chabrol, Stanley Kubrick and Spike Lee they all have their beginnings here.

International Film Festival of India Goa, India 1952
The oldest and largest film festival in India is built around the idea that the world is a single large family. It used to travel around India, but since 2004 is based in Goa. The founding principles based on discovery, promotion and support of filmmaking of all genres. The Festival has an interesting co-production market and generous provisions for a limited number of international guests.

Karlovy Vary International Film Festival Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic 1946
The Karlovy Vary Interational Film Festival is the only festival of Category “A” in the Czech Republic. The annual festival aims to reduce the barriers between East and West Europe. It’s open to the public and is visited by thousands of young people every year.

Mar del Plata International Film Festival Mar del Plata, Argentina 1954
Mar del Plata International Film Festival is the oldest Latin American Film Festival and the only one with “A” status. The Festival established itself as a vital exhibition of the development and exchange of the film industry and audiovisual arts. The FIAPF honors this and the festival is today a must for filmmakers, actors, producers, distributors and film lovers in Latin America.

Montreal World Film Festival Montreal, Canada 1977
Founded in 1977, the Montreal World Film Festival is one of Canada’s oldest international film festivals and the only competitive film festival in North America accredited by the FIAPF. The festival focuses on various kinds of films from all over the world, but it has also great interest in Canadian films and other North American films.

Moscow International Film Festival Moscow, Russia 1935
The Moscow International Film Festival was founded in 1935 and is the second oldest in the world. It was not continued until 1959, and became an annual event since 1995. The grande prize is a statue of St. George slaying the dragon, a tribute to Moscow coat of arms. The festival still mirrors the country’s vast social and political changes.

San Sebastian International Film Festival San Sebastian, Spain 1953
Since its creation in 1953 the San Sebastian International Film Festival has established itself as one of the most important cinema festivals in the world. It has hosted important events largely affecting history of cinema; one of them the international premier of Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘Vertigo’.

Shanghai International Film Festival Shanghai, China 1993
China’s only A-category film festival by the FIAPF is one of the largest and the youngest in Asia. It was certified by the FIAPF since its beginning in 1993. SIFF devotes itself to building an international platform. The festival has a special section to show student films and allow them to communicate with masters of the medium.

Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival Tallinn, Estonia 1997
The Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival aims to present Estonian audiences a comprehensive selection of world cinema in all its diversity with the emphasis on European films, providing a friendly atmosphere for interaction between the audience, Estonian filmmakers and their colleagues from abroad. Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival consists of the main program, four sub-festivals, as well as film and co-production markets.

Tokyo International Film Festival Tokyo, Japan 1985
The Tokyo International Film Festival is the only Japanese film festival accredited by the FIAPF. The festival has played an integral role in Japan’s film industry and cultural scene since its establishment in 1985.

Venice International Film Festival Venice, Italy 1932
It is the oldest film festival in the world. The Golden Lion is well known throughout the world as a symbol of worth, prized from the Venice International Film Festival. The festival is also not a simply stand alone event, it has been a part of the Venice Biennale for over a century (since 1895), now considered one of the most prestigious cultural institutions in the world.

Warsaw Film Festival Warsaw, Poland 1985
Added to FIAPF in 2009, the Warsaw Film Festival is the newest addition to the list of competitive film festivals. Within a short period, the festival has grown from an ambitious student event to an international film festival with a program of influential premiers. The festival is also host to the International Federation of Film Critics awards for enterprising filmmaking in Central and Eastern Europe.


Antalya Golden Orange International Film Festival Antalya, Turkey 1963
– Films produced in Europe, Central Asia and Middle East countries
The Antalya Golden Orange Film Festival is one of the deepest-rooted festivals in Europe and Asia, and one of the oldest and the longest running film festivals in Turkey. Since 2009, the event has been organized solely by the Antalya Foundation for Culture and Arts and has included an international section within the main body of the festival.

Brussels International Fantastic Film Festival Brussels, Belgium 1983
– Fantasy and science fiction films
It’s all about horror, thriller and science fiction at the Brussels International Fantastic Film Festival. This annual event has prizes in both feature length and short films. 60,000 visitors each year come here to collectively be creeped and hide behind their seats.

Busan International Film Festival Busan, South Korea 1996
– First feature Asian films
As the first international film festival in Korea, the Busan International Film Festival was launched in 1996. It’s focus is to introduce new films and first-time directors, especially those from Asian countries.

Cartagena International Film Festival Cartagena, Colombia 1960
– Ibero and Latin-American films
Created in 1960, the Cartagena International Film Festival (FICCI) is the oldest cinema event in Latin America. The central focus is on films from Ibero-America. Through its Colombia al 100% section, FICCI supports the current boom in Colombian cinema.

Cinema Jove International Film Festival Valencia, Spain 1985
– New directors’ films
For more than a decade, the Cinema Jove International Film Festival has been recognized by the FIAPF as a specialized film festival, always in search of new influential filmmakers. Cinema Jove has been branded a worldwide meeting point for young filmmakers facilitating international distribution options and shining a spotlight on the most innovative film talents.

Courmayeur Noir In Festival Rome, Italy 1991
– Police and mystery films
The Festival is recognized by FIAPF as Competitive Specialized Feature Film Festival for the Police and Mystery Films section. Courmayeur Noir in Festival is best known for showcasing 12 films premiering in competition, the Mystery Award for Best Film and the Napapijri Prize for the Best Performance.

Eurasia International Film Festival Almaty, Kazakhstan 1998
– Films produced in Europe, Central-Asia, Asia
The Eurasia International Film Festival is the biggest international film festival in Kazakhstan and features films from Europe and Central Asia. With competitions like the “The dynamic Kazakh cinema”, the festival supports the development of the co-production and promotion of new films in the European and Asian countries.

Festival International du Film Francophone de Namur Namur, Belgium 1986
– French-language films
For all the French speaking communities of the world, this is a must-see film festival. The Festival International du Film Francophone de Namur (FIFF) is dedicated to French speaking films, reflecting francophone diversity, from Europe, Canada and Africa.

Filmfestival Kitzbühel Kitzbühel, Austria 2013
– Young directors’ films
Founded in 2013 the Filmfestival Kitzbühel is one of the new kids on the block. The festival’s focus is on young film. Upcoming filmmakers get a chance to present their first film projects.

Gijón International Film Festival Gijón, Spain 1963
– Films for young people
Gijón International Film Festival was created in 1963. The Festival awards several prizes at its different competitive sections and therefore relies on an International Jury, made up of at least five film professionals from different countries, a young Jury, made up of 50 teens between 17-26 years, and from 2005 a FIPRESCI Jury. During the Festival many other events take place, such as courses, round tables meetings with the directors as well as concerts and live music parties.

International Film Festival of Kerala Kerala, India 1996
– Films from Asia, from Africa and from Latin America
The festival is well known among international film circles for its competitive and non-competitive sections. The competition section is limited to 14 selected films produced in Asia, Africa or Latin America.

Istanbul International Film Festival Istanbul, Turkey 1982
– Films on art: literature, theatre, music, dance, cinema and plastic arts
The Istanbul International Film Festival is the first and oldest international film festival in Turkey, organized by the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts. Since 1989, the festival is accredited by the FIAPF. The festival aims to encourage the development of cinema in Turkey and to promote films of quality in the Turkish cinema market.

Jeonju International Film Festival Jeonju, South Korea 2000
– Films of new directors
The Jeonju International Film Festival (JIFF) is one of the most important film festivals in Asia and a window to independent and experimental films around the world. Since its beginning in 2000, a huge number of new filmmakers have been introduced to the worlds stage through JIFF. Special screenings and masterclasses are just one of many festival activities.

Kolkata International Film Festival Kolkata, India 1995
Women directors’ films
Since 2014, the Kolkata International Film Festival has been a competitive festival. The Royal Bengal Trophy was awarded to the best Film and the best Director and the competition focuses on films directed by woman. The Indian festival wants to bring good world cinema to Kolkata and take it to the common man.

Minsk International Film Festival Listapad Minsk, Belarus 1994
– Films produced in Baltic and Central-Asian countries, Central and Eastern Europe and Russia
Since June 2011 the Minsk International Film Festival – Listapad has an accreditation of the FIAPF. It is the largest film forum in Belarus and the main competition consists of films participants and prize winners of different international film festivals of the CIS, Baltic, Central and Eastern Europe. The Forum is mostly Russian-speaking but it continues to show development toward reaching the greater international community.

MOLODIST – Kyiv International Film Festival Kyiv, Ukraine 1970
– Young directors’ films
A specialized festival aimed to support films of young directors makes Molodist a special consideration to FIAPF. With audiences of over 127,000 per year, Molodist currently enjoys the title of the biggest film festival in Ukraine.

Mumbai Film Festival Mumbai, India 1990
– First feature
The International Competition for the First Feature Films of Directors at the Mumbai Film Festival is for the best of debut feature films of directors from around the world. This section aims at discovering and honoring new talents in the field of direction and providing them a platform for networking with the entertainment industry.

Sarajevo Film Festival Sarajevo, Bosnia 1995
– Feature and Documentary films from Central and South-Eastern Europe
The main focus from the Sarajevo Film Festival is the region of Southeast Europe and its filmmakers, who compete in feature, short and documentary film sections. The festival aims to present important and innovative films of high artistic value made throughout the world.

SITGES International Fantastic Film Festival of Catalonia Sitges- Barcelona, Spain 1968
– Fantasy films
The SITGES International Fantastic Film Festival of Catalonia is known as one of the most important fantastic film festivals in the world focussing on horror, fantasy and sci-fi films.

Sofia International Film Festival Sofia, Bulgaria 1997
– First and second feature films
Since 2007 the Sofia International Film Festival has, as the leading film festival in Bulgaria, an accreditation from the FIAPF as competitive festival specialized in first and second films.

Stockholm International Film FestivalStockholm, Sweden 1990
– Films on new cinematographic orientations
Stockholm is the first of the Scandinavian festivals to be authorized by FIAPF. The aim for Stockholm International Film Festival is to broaden the selection of films in Sweden with creative new films of high quality and offer the visitor an orientation within modern film to stimulate continuing debate.

Sydney Film Festival Sydney, Australia 1954
– New directions in film
This 12 day festival draws international and local attention and since 2008, hosts the popular official competition The Sydney Film Prize. Recognized by the Federation Internationale des Associations de Producteurs de Films this is a cash prize of $AUD60,000 established to reward new directions in film.

Torino Film Festival Torino, Italy 1982
– New directors’ films
The main competitive section of the Torino Film Festival is reserved to directors making their first, second or third film. The festival concentrates on young cinema and focuses primarily on seeking and discovering innovative talents.

Transilvania International Film Festival Cluj- Napoca, Sibiu, Romania 2002
– First and second feature films
Founded in 2002, Transilvania International Film Festival is the first international feature film festival in Romania. The FIAPF approved the accreditation of the TIFF in 2011 saying “By accrediting the festival, FIAPF also wants to recognize the amazing work done by the Transilvania International Film Festival in setting up an important meeting point in a few years for all those interested in the Romanian films.”


Toronto International Film Festival Toronto, Canada 1976
The Toronto International Film Festival is the leading public film festival in the world, screening more than 300 films from 60+ countries every September. The programmers have earned a reputation for excellence with a diverse array of films shown, accompanied by Hollywood galas, complete with red carpet glamour, the best in international cinema, the latest homegrown comedies… and everything in between.

Viennale – Vienna International Film Festival Vienna, Austria 1960
The Viennale is Austria’s most important international film event, as well as one of the oldest and best known festivals in the German speaking world. It is a festival branded internationally with a distinctive urban flair. A high percentage of the more than 95,000 visitors to the festival from Austria and abroad is made up of a distinctively young audience aged 18- 30 years.


Krakow Film Festival Krakow, Poland 1961
Krakow Film Festivalis one of the oldest film events dedicated to documentary, animated and short fiction films in Europe. The fact that the Krakow Film Festival has been officially recognized by FIAPF, confirms its reputation and high esteem in it’s field. Consequently, the films awarded at Krakow are automatically eligible for the European Film Awards and the Oscars in the short films categories.

International Film Festival Message To Man St. Petersburg, Russia 1989
“Message to Man” was founded in 1989 to emphasize the important role of non-feature films in cultural life of the USSR and allow national documentary filmmakers become more familiar with the world of international cinema. The goals of the festival have since then broadened and as a result, short fiction and animated films were added to the competition program.The festival is the only international documentary, short and animated film festival in Russia and in the countries of former Soviet Union that is officially registered by the FIAPF.

Oberhausen International Short Film Festival Oberhausen, Germany 1954
The International Short Film Festival Oberhausen is one of the few short film festivals in the world accredited by the FIAPF since 1960. The festival has been part of this highly charged field for over 50 years now, as a catalyst and a platform for contemporary developments, a forum for what are often heated discussions, a discoverer of new trends and talent.

Tampere Film Festival Tampere, Finland 1992
Tampere Film Festival is the oldest and largest short film competition in Northern Europe. The Grand Prix winner and the Main Prize winner of the National Competition short category will qualify for consideration for an Oscar.
Alongside extremely high quality screenings, it aims to provide an international meeting place for film professionals and enthusiasts.

Zinebi – Bilbao International Festival of Documentary and Short Film Bilbao, Spain 1959
The Zinebi – Bilbao International Festival of Documentary and Short Film began as the International Documentary Film Competition built to foster love, friendliness, and mutual understanding between Spanish and Latin American peoples by disseminating the knowledge of their customs and traditions. It is now recognized internationally by FIAPF.


Last update: 21st April 2016.

Find more festival lists:
:: The ANIMATION Film Festival List
:: The LGBT Film Festival List

Read more of Jana’s articles

Jana Dietze

Jana Dietze is the Head of Communications at FFL. Her editorial background includes positions as Editor of N24 News channel and Editor of Fulmidas Media Agency. Her film experience is grounded in studying Film Science, Georg-August University, Göttingen. Reach her at jana(at)filmfestivallife.com

One thought on “A List Festivals, a tightly curated list.

  1. Krakow Film Festival is one of my favourite cultural events. First time I went to it was when I was studying at Prolog: http://polishcourses.com/. People from this language school are still my friends and we quite often meet at the cinema to watch fantastic films. There are more and more ambitious Polish films and I’m happy I can understand most without the need to look at the subtitles.

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