Published online at travel.msn.ca as part of a photo gallery to coincide with the Toronto International Film Festival.
To be able to throw a film festival party and attract some of the
world's biggest celebrities, host cities must also have star power of
their own. After all, a film festival not only draws the curtain on the
latest blockbuster movies to hit the screen, it also shines the
spotlight on the festival host. As the world's glitterati arrive for the
Toronto International Film Festival this month, we take a tour of some
other prestigious film festival towns that know how to throw a red
Cannes Film Festival
It is without question, the most glamorous, most glitziest of film festivals in the world, set against the backdrop of the French Riviera. It’s where beauty and art converge in a cacophony of flash bulbs, red carpets, sequins and stilettos. Where the world’s most famous celebrities and most celebrated filmmakers descend en masse in a formidable show of beauty, power and splendor, hoping to score the coveted Palme d’Or. Fittingly, the setting for this mammoth, million-dollar production is no less glamorous: by day, sandy beaches are peopled by bikini-clad locals soaking in the sun, and at night, the glittering lights of casinos and seaside resorts beckon. Yachts and small boats are parked in the city bay, and welcomes sailors from around the mediterranean. The only thing pedestrian about this city, is, well, the well-heeled French pedestrian.
Berlin International Film Festival
Known as the Berlinale, this German festival takes place in one of the most dynamic, cosmopolitain, free-spirited cities in Europe and is considered a favourite in the festival circuit. Despite being held in the dead of February, the Berlinale is one of the largest publicly attended film festivals and draws an international audience not only for the quality of its films, but for the city itself. Berlin is a haven for bohemian artist types, trendsetting, innovative designers and fashion and music moguls, and as such was designated the first German City of Design by UNESCO.
Pusan International FIlm Festival
Busan, South Korea
As the largest film festival in Asia, PIFF is a must-attend for filmmakers in the region and focuses on new and emerging talent. Korean films have enjoyed skyrocketing popularity among its Asian neighbours like China and Hong Kong — language barriers and subtitles be damned — and Korean celebrities have crossed over to other Asian countries with cult-like popularity. The city itself is a bustling, seaside port town, second to Seoul in size. It also boasts the world’s largest department store, the Shinsegae Centum City, having surpassed New York City’s Macy’s in 2009. Come summer, locals and city folk from Seoul flock to Busan for its sandy beaches and fresh seafood.
Edinburgh International Film Festival
Established in 1947, the EIFF is the world’s oldest “continually running” film festival and has premiered films that went on to achieve commercial successes like The Hurt Locker, The Blair Witch Project and Pulp Fiction. The setting for the film festival is as dramatic as some of its movie premieres: the Edinburgh Castle rises high above the city dominating the skyline, and medieval lanes lead visitors to charming boutiques and lively pubs and restaurants. “Edinburgh,” said writer Robert Louis Stevenson, “is what Paris ought to be.”
Sundance Film Festival
Park City, Utah
As the largest independent cinema festival in the U.S., Sundance showcases the best of new and emerging talent with a special focus on independent, American filmmakers. The face of Sundance is Utah native Robert Redford who, along with friends and colleagues established the festival in 1981 with the aim of giving new voices a platform. Over the years, however, Sundance has morphed into typically Hollywood affair with trails of paparazzi following big-name celebrities who don toques and Uggs like novelty items in the chilly mountains of Park City, a ski resort town. If you’re into celebrities of a more athletic kind, however, you can also visit the Utah Olympic Park which serves as a year-round competition and training ground for elite athletes. And The Canyons, one of three major ski resorts, offers heli-ski tours in which you’re flown to inaccessible ski spots to glide across miles of untracked Utah powder.
Toronto International Film Festival
Here’s a festival all Canadians can be proud of. TIFF draws impressive star power to Toronto annually and every September is overrun with stretch limos and red carpet events. The city’s existing cosmopolitan vibe is ratcheted up another notch as it hosts glitterati from around the world. But unlike Cannes, TIFF is known — and applauded — for being “the people’s festival,” not a snooty affair reserved only for celebrities and a haughty press corps. Billed as the world’s largest, publicly-attended film festival, the event attracts film-fluent viewers who have been able to foretell Oscar contenders like Precious and Slumdog Millionaire which garnered the People’s Choice Awards. Because events are scattered throughout the downtown core, festival goers also criss- cross the city and get a good taste of the city’s diversity.
Venice International Film Festival
This city of canals and gondolas bags the title of oldest film festival in the world, having hosted their first in 1932. It’s always been one of the more prestigious film festivals, but critics have recently placed it in a tight battle with Toronto when it comes to popularity. In the last few years since the recession, Hollywood producers have been choosing the cheaper and no less glitzy option of airing their movie in Toronto instead of Venice. Still, when it comes to scenery, Venice has a romance and history that sadly Toronto does not. This floating, city of canals and masks is an architectural wonder, made up of winding, labyrinthine alleyways that ultimately lead to its crowning gem, the Piazza San Marco, also known as “the drawing room of Europe.”
London Film Festival
The London Film Festival was created in 1956 to enter the cinematic fray occupied mainly at the time by Cannes, Venice and Edinburgh, and is now the UK’s largest public film event. Organized by the British Film Institute, the London Film Festival has the added advantage of boasting a venue that was made to host glitzy, red carpet affairs. Leicester Square is the city’s entertainment and cinema centre and every night turns into a bustling, busy hotspot for local moviegoers and tourists alike. The Odeon cineplex routinely hosts Hollywood premieres, welcoming gads of screaming fans and the hottest celebrities du jour, and can accommodate up to 1,680 people in its main theatre.