Venice, Telluride, Toronto, New York – Four Terrific Fall Film Festivals
by Alex Billington
August 29, 2022
Who’s ready for the fall film festival season to kick off?! If you work in the movie industry, or if follow the movie industry, or if you just love new movies, September 1st is the big day when the fall season begins. It’s an exciting time because four major film festivals take place back-to-back, and all of the excellent films that have been finishing up this year will be premiering across many of them. The Venice Film Festival (in its 79th year / aka “Venezia”) kicks things off every fall, launching just days before the Telluride Film Festival (in its 49th year / aka “Telluride”). Days after Telluride is over, and before Venice has even ended, the Toronto Film Festival (in its 47th year / aka “TIFF”) launches. At the end of the month, the iconic and glamorous New York Film Festival (in its 60th year / aka “NYFF”) begins with a big celebration at the beloved Lincoln Center on the Upper West Side. I have been to all four of these festivals many times over the years, and I’d say that each one is an outstanding film festival and any of these four are worth attending.
While I’m partial to Sundance (which takes place in January) and Cannes (which takes place in May), I also do love the fall festival season because of the anticipation and excitement that comes with it year after year. All of these films we’ve been waiting to see are finally premiering! And there’s so many of them! I want to see ALL of them! If only I had the time… TIFF always overloads their line-up with almost 200 new films, while Venice and Telluride and NYFF focus on choosing a more refined selection of the best of the best of each year’s latest cinematic offerings. Venice has established itself as the power player running neck-and-neck with Cannes as the premiere festival bringing the world’s greatest films to audiences. In the past few years, Cannes & Venice have premiered Best Picture winners (The Shape of Water, Parasite, Nomadland, etc) and at the same time proven that they can also feature international films from all corners of the world that deserve the same attention and acclaimed that Hollywood films get no matter where they show up first.
Vanity Fair’s David Canfield recently wrote a fun little article discussing how filmmakers often fly between Venice and Telluride (in the mountains of Colorado) and Toronto, and how exhausting these first few weeks of September can be. Guillermo del Toro discussed how he had to fly directly from his Venice premiere of The Shape of Water to Telluride and back to pick up his Golden Lion. “He had to catch an overnight flight to Telluride for Water’s American debut. Upon his arrival in the Rockies, he was greeted by a hailstorm, which pelted the roof of the Werner Herzog Theatre while the film screened. As the credits rolled, he received a message: ‘You better get back to Venice.’ He was winning something; he didn’t know what. He flew across the Atlantic once more…” Luckily, unless you’re involved with one of these films, most people aren’t flying across the Atlantic back and forth for each festival. Just choose one and stick with it! You can’t go wrong with any of these – Venice is glorious, a spectacular experience; Telluride is wholesome and charming, with no paparazzi or red carpets only mountains; TIFF is the big city extravaganza and feels like a giant party; New York feels like coming home, a joyful fest playing so many exceptional films it’s almost overwhelming.
For the first 10 years that I ran FirstShowing, I was attending Telluride and Toronto every single year (TIFF infamously refused to give me a press pass the first year I attended in late 2007 – I just bought all my tickets anyway). Then I moved to Berlin in 2016 and ever since then I’ve been attending the Venice Film Festival instead, as it’s unaffordable and exhausting to fly from Venice to Toronto. The timing of both festivals on the same opening weekend makes it impossible to attend both Telluride and Venice, though I admit I do dream of it from time to time (fly out to Colorado and back to keep watching more Venice films). I also lived in New York from 2012 to 2016 and was always at the NYFF, I loved every minute of it there. I’m happy to go to any of these festivals and I’m happy to highlight them, send writers to them, read coverage from them, and support them (even if they have all become a bit too corporate in the last few years – blech). Nowadays I’m proud to be a veteran offering help to first-timers attending any of these fests. In addition to suggestions on where to stay and how to navigate, I can suggest great restaurants, travel tips, and other survival advice.
So were we are in 2022, at the tail end of a brutal pandemic that has left millions dead, with the world of cinema struggling to regain its prominence. Once again, it’s that time of year, and the fall festival season has come a-knocking and it’s time to dive in. The show must go on. The films at these fests are ready to wow us, dazzle us, destroy us, enlighten us, excite us, and sometimes frustrate us (why did they program this film?!). I really do hope that waxing poetic about these festivals encourages and inspires movie lovers just like me to attend. I don’t want anyone to be envious or annoyed at my coverage; I love film festivals because they really do bring us together, they really are these beautiful places where we all get to join in celebrating the glory of cinema. So grab some popcorn, grab some champagne, grab your tickets, grab your friends, and watch some movies. Don’t forget to tell us which ones you loved, and which ones you didn’t. We’ll see you at the theater.