Travel and cinema are forever linked through desires to seek, explore and above all, to experience. Below you’ll find eleven film festivals that make the circuit shine (and one that clearly doesn’t).

Photo from Cannes: zoethustra

Amsterdam International Documentary Film Festival, Amsterdam, Holland, November

Looking for something other than fiction? The IDFA is the largest documentary film festival in the world. In 2008 the festival sold over 150,000 tickets and screened over 309 documentaries. In addition to this there are master classes, debates and two film markets for filmmakers. All this in one of the most beautiful cities on earth.

Berlin Internationale Filmfestspiele, Berlin, Germany, February

Photo: the author

Each year more than 19,000 film industry professionals from 120 countries around the world converge on Berlin as it hosts the largest audience of any festival in the world. 4,000 journalists are accredited and more than 20,000 tickets are sold. This festival is truly a first class event that every cineaste should attend at least once in their lives (just be prepared to get up early to buy tickets for screenings).

Cannes International Film Festival, Cannes France, May

This is the international film festival, full stop. A glitzy, grade A cinematic celebration. The only problem is that unless you’re a filmmaker or you happen to have some seriously good connections, you won’t see any films. Screenings are closed to the public, meaning that the best you can hope for is a glimpse of the stars as they walk the red carpet. Still, no film festival list is complete without a mention of Cannes.

International Film Festival of India, Goa, India, late November

Photo: the author

I had the displeasure of attending the 2007 IFFI and was astounded at the disrespect of the audiences and organizers toward the screenings and filmmakers. Constant disorganization mars this festival at every turn, as it strives to capture the exoticism of Cannes, yet fails to supply any of the professionalism or substance that makes a world class festival a world class festival.

My experience was of petty arguments in place of professional announcements, faulty equipment, mobile phone conversations during screenings and blatant disrespect toward invited filmmakers and dignitaries alike by members of the viewing public. This festival is a definite miss. Avoid.

Locarno International Film Festival, Locarno, Switzerland, August

Photo: Nicholas Babaian

Dealing exclusively in feature length films, the Locarno festival has established itself as an important event for auteur filmmaking. Locarno displays a wide range of films, giving the world a taste of new and influential international film work to come.

Mar del Plata International Film Festival, Mar del Plata, Argentina, November

Photo: Driusha

Latin America’s finest film festival, it was first held in 1954 but because of political and social unrest, the festival did not resume on an annual schedule until 1996. A competition and a stellar line up of Latin American films are always on the menu.

Melbourne International Film Festival, Melbourne, Australia, July-August

This is the longest running film festival in the southern hemisphere as well as the most important film festival in Australia. Over 400 films are screened and MIFF is regularly increasing the size and notoriety of its film market.

Pusan International Film Festival, Pusan, South Korea, October

Showcasing a wide array of Asian films and over 300 screenings from sixty-plus countries around the world, this is Asia’s largest film festival. You’ll want to devote some serious time here, particularly if you’re a fan of Asian cinema.

Sundance Film Festival, Park City, Utah, USA, January

Photo: mockstar

Sundance is widely regarded as the place to be for independent, up and coming cinema. Many films from America and around the world make their debut here and are quickly snapped up by big and small distributors alike. This little mountain town becomes a frenzy of activity during January, despite the snow and cold. Films are screened, parties are thrown and careers are made.

Slamdance Film Festival, Park City, Utah, USA, January

Photo: jeffrey95112

Slamdance is the Sundance festival’s younger, more experimental sister. A festival run by filmmakers for filmmakers, Slamdance highlights the efforts of first time writers and directors who manage to create on very modest budgets.

Toronto International Film Festival, Toronto, Canada, September

Though tickets to screenings are expensive and often hard to come by, throngs of people attend TIFF each September, making it the largest public film festival in the world. Last year the festival screened 312 films from 64 countries around the world. This year looks to be even bigger now that the Canadian government has dumped $3million into the festival’s coffers.

Venice International Film Festival, Venice, Italy, September

Photo: skunks

A luxurious locale for a film festival, VIFF provides historical retrospectives, films, art, parties and everything spectacular that you’d expect from a city as unique as Venice.