Bucket List Worthy
In just about every respect, film festivals are the events of the season. Star-studded and internationally renowned, they are your ticket into “what’s in” on the festival circuit — not to mention what people will be talking about for months to come. Oh, and who can forget the parties? If you can manage to snag a ticket, only lavish, booze-filled bliss awaits…
Then again, not every film festival is created equal, and there’s no point in spending your time chasing after subpar entertainment. Though that won’t be a problem here.
Europe is — and will forever be — the mecca for film and festivals alike. In fact, the first major film festival was held in Venice around 1932, and followed shortly by the emergence of Cannes in 1946. Needless to say, Europeans have a long, storied history of celebrating cinema, while throwing attendees the event of a lifetime.
So, how do you pick the right one? If you’re a sci-fi nerd, general cinephile, or simply looking for a legendary time, narrowing down what’s perfect for you can sometimes prove to be difficult. That’s why, after months of research and interviews, Flight Network has compiled the ultimate list of 27 European film festivals worthy of your time and admiration.
Each and every festival on this list is sure to be a hit in 2017, and we have a feeling you’ll want to take a gap-year just to cover all of the necessary ground.
Us too. Now, grab some popcorn and cozy up to this list of Europe’s most exciting, high-profile, and unforgettable film festivals of 2017.
Grimstad might be better known for its white-painted wooden houses and seaside setting, but this Norwegian small town is also home to a global festival on the forefront of short film. Serving as a debut arena for up-and-coming filmmakers around the country, the Norwegian Short Film Festival (NSFF) has quickly proven to be one of the most pivotal places to showcase free and independent cinema.
After you’ve traversed a few fjords and traveled over to Grimstad, be sure to check out the range of events that accompany the Norwegian Short Film Festival. From full-scale exhibitions and concerts, to outdoor cinema venues and debates, you’ll want to arrange your schedule around a series of top-notch events, especially if you’re considering a festival pass.
For 1090 NOK (around $135), the festival pass will give you total access to a plethora of movie categories, such as music videos, international documentaries, Norwegian short films, and other special programs. In other words, come ready to get your culture on. For more information, pop over to the NSFF festival page.
Take a moment to imagine what it would be like to find yourself in the middle of a beautiful Black Sea town, boozing it up in the former residence of a Romanian Queen. That’s right, folks. While it may appear more like a dream, the “In The Palace” International Short Film Festival is precisely that: your chance to experience film — and fun — from within the confines of royal quarters.
Queen Marie Victoria of Edinburgh once lived in the stunning palace that now serves as the stomping grounds for this annual festival, which will be held in the small town of Balchik, Bulgaria from June 24 to July 1. Aside from its regal origins, “In The Palace” is further known for being one of the largest and most prestigious European film festivals, in part due to its range in genres.
When you go, expect to find fierce competition in four categories: fiction, documentary, animation and experimental. All of the films must clock under 27 minutes in length, which should give you more than enough time to go enjoy the picturesque coastal town that awaits. For more information regarding ticket pricing, check out “In The Palace” today.
Sporting an average of 55,000 attendees per year, the Pula Film Festival is a sought-after event for more reasons than one. For starters, it’s located in an ancient Roman amphitheater, giving visitors the opportunity to screen high-quality cinema from within the most majestic arena of sorts. Then, there’s the matter of its location: a seaside gem on the tip of Croatia’s Istrian Peninsula, Pula is a standout city in the region, and one you’ll never overlook again.
The Pula Film Festival currently holds the title of housing the largest number of visitors per screening in the world. It’s also the oldest Croatian film festival, and one that has become world renowned for its talent, programming, and breathtaking cinema screenings under the stars.
Aside from the films, there are also youth workshops, movie exhibitions, and special programs available for film experts. Our recommendation: spend a calm day by the sea, and catch a spectacular film by night. Tickets range between 3.5 and 20 euros, depending upon the length of the pass. More info is available here.
Gothic churches. Baroque spires. Medieval clocks. Any sane person can see the centuries-old beauty that is the city of Prague, which is where the fledging Prague Independent Film Festival (PIFF) calls home. Although only in its second year, the festival has already amassed a following that includes some of the most important filmmakers around the world, as well as an inventory of historic theaters from where cinephiles can sit back, and let the good films roll.
PIFF has most recently become a hugely influential place for Czech premiers, and its already been graced by the likings of stars like Rebecca Ferguson, Anthony Head, Sam Reid, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, and director Andrei Konchalovsky.
Film lovers and experts will also revel in the festival’s host of different genres, which have been designed to appeal to various ages and global audiences. It’s important to further note that all of the films are in English or come with English subtitles, leaving a bit of something for everyone. For more information on ticket pricing, check out the PIFF website.
This year, the Sarajevo Film Festival is rolling out a laundry list of innovations. From new movie venues and programming, to an updated festival format, its cinema overlords are making a point of bringing never-before-seen experiences to its attendees, which clock in at around 100,000 people per year. Slated to run from August 11-18, you won’t want to miss your chance to attend the largest film festival in Southeast Europe.
One of the biggest draws to the Sarajevo Film Festival is its open air cinema, which can host more than 3,500 people in a single showing. Yet again, another draw is undoubtedly its name — and the industry bigwigs that flock to Bosnia and Herzegovina as a result. That said, if you’re planning to attend the festival this August, keep an eye out for two-time Oscar® nominee Joshua Oppenheimer, a director slated to host a masterclass and Q&A session on-site.
For additional information on special programs and ticket pricing, visit Sarajevo Film Festival.
First things first: Night of Festivals South Asia is much more than your “typical festival.” In fact, it’s largely an LED-filled cultural mashup of sorts, given its devoted to marking the 70th Anniversary of Indian and Pakistan Independence. And yet, it’s not taking place in either of those nations, but rather, the historic city of Leicester in the United Kingdom. Why? You’ll just have to go to find out.
Expect films, live music, dancing, street art, and lots of samosa stands. There will even be a cycle-powered elephant, and Holi-approved “Festival of Colors” flash mobs, which means you may or might want to avoid wearing your favorite outfit. Wait, did we mention its also free to enter? That’s right. Zero dollars.
Translation: Night of Festivals South Asia is a must-do, and its films are a must-see celebration of South Asian culture. For additional scheduling information, visit here.
Silently situated along the idyllic Adriatic Coast, the small town of Primošten in Croatia still remains an undiscovered beachside paradise — one situated on a small island unto itself. But while you might assume that makes Primošten a sleepy town, largely devoid of innovation, its a characterization that couldn’t be further from the truth. Enter DORF, the Music Documentaries Film Festival, which will take place in the town from August 5-8 of this year, uniting a close community of musicians and filmmakers on a global stage.
DORF attendees will not only have exclusive access to countless music documentaries, but they will get the chance to brush elbows with international artists, filmmakers and executives that hail from over 80 cities in the world. The best part? The mingling will go down in arguably one of the most overlooked places on earth.
You might never have heard of Primošten until now, but take one look at this island oasis and you’ll never forget it. Insider tip: before catching a film, head to the local vineyards. They’re currently under consideration to become UNESCO World Heritage sites, and boast some of the region’s finest wines. Drink up, and keep tabs on the DORF website for up-to-date information.
Pierce Brosnan. Adrian Brody. Évelyne Brochu. These are just a few of the names associated with Film Festival Oostende, which has invited Hollywood’s finest to converge upon the lovely coastal city of Ostend every September since 2007. As for this year? The festival will run from September 8-16, so be sure to keep your eye out for stars discretely catching rays on the Belgian beaches nearby.
What makes Film Festival Oostende particularly special is the attention it pays to Flemish and Belgian films, while maintaining an international scope. This year’s festival will host two global competitions, “LOOK!” and “Taste of Europe.” The former focuses on the “aesthetic qualities of cinema,” and awards participants the chance of competing for a 10,000 euro prize. The latter is dedicated to European films that “never make it to Belgian cinemas,” boasting a 7,500 euro prize for the lucky winner.
But don’t fret — the cost to get into Film Festival Oostende doesn’t reach those heights. You can fetch a single ticket for 9.50 euros, and a weekly ticket at 30 euros. That is, it won’t break your bank, and you’ll have the chance to celebrity stalk beaches in the meantime. More information is available here.
In recent years, the German town of Eckernförde has become a sought-after tourist destination thanks to its coastal charm, quaint marinas, and seemingly never-ending beaches that curl along the Baltic Sea. And now, there’s yet another reason to book a trip: the Green Screen International Wildlife Film Festival, which is devoted to all things that make up our spectacular natural world.
Slated to run from September 13-17, the Green Screen International Wildlife Film Festival is destined to be a quintessential meeting of the minds. From international filmmakers and producers, to activists, wildlife experts, and political representatives, the festival tends to attract a diverse audience drawn to nature, environmental sustainability, and global affairs.
Our takeaway: this is a dream place for nature buffs and historical film fanatics alike. If you fit the bill — or you’re interested in playing the part — you can pick up a ticket for 5 euros a screening, or a weekly pass for 35. More information is available here.
You’re in a ghost town, still afflicted by its sudden abandonment centuries ago. Then suddenly, it gets filled with words, images, people, and wonder. That’s the scene that unfolds from within Pentedattilo, a forgotten Italian village that comes alive every year to host an international film festival.
French directors, such as Xavier Dolan
Located in Calabria, the Pentedattilo Film Festival is a one-of-a-kind experience you can’t quite believe is real. After all, how many times have you been given the chance to watch a movie mountainside, surrounded only by ruins dating back to 640 BC?
“Kids Rule The World” should be the SCHLINGEL International Film Festival’s unofficial motto. Produced by film professionals and dedicated to children in Germany and across the world, SCHLINGEL has long presided as the go-to destination for children and families looking to dive deep into the film scene, and learn many aspects of production from an early age via their screenings and workshops. What’s more? It’s prime location in Chemnitz, the third-largest city in the Free State of Saxony, Germany, has made the festival a novelty in its own right.
SCHLINGEL is Germany’s largest platform for emerging international children’s and youth films, making it one of the liveliest festivals around. On average, it boasts over 150 global productions.
A variety of panels and workshops are also offered over the course of the festival. These are devoted to helping children and young people hone their production, analysis and film reception skills. So pack up those bags, toys, and film reels. If you stumble upon SCHLINGEL, you might just witness the next George Lucas, or shake hands with mini-Scorsese. Discover what else is in store here.
Calling all moviemakers and film professionals alike. The International Festival of TV and Movie Cameramen, or the “Golden Eye” festival, is dedicated to the cinematic geniuses that make films possible. Located in the cobblestoned capital of Tbilisi, Georgia, “Golden Eye” is unique in its celebration of both amateur and professional camera operators who hail from over 100 countries in the world.
After winding your way down the anarchic streets of Tbilisi, colored pink by the setting sun, you’ll come upon the annual wonders of Golden Eye. The festival offers everything from cinema master classes to presentations from the world’s leading camera equipment manufacturing companies, as well as a host of free screenings for audience members.
Think of this as the perfect excuse to finally book that long-awaited trip to Georgia — or the push to submit your film, currently gathering dust in storage. To learn more, visit the Golden Eye website today.
In a cultural mash-up of sorts, the FIFF exists to honor a vast selection of features and short films that are exclusively the product of French-speaking countries. But instead of taking place in the City of Lights, the festival has called the Belgian city of Namur home for over 32 years. Yes, that means medieval fortresses, charming riverscapes and Baroque-style bakeries have long served as the storybook backdrop for this storied festival.
FIFF bills itself as the quintessential “cinema francophone,” which is precisely what makes it standout on the festival scene today. Over the years, the FIFF has also been responsible for highlighting a number of legendary French directors, such as Xavier Dolan (“Les Amours Imaginaires”) and Nabil Ayouch (“Much Loved”).
So whether you’re a young, burgeoning Belgian or international professional, FIFF is the place to get noticed. As a primetime player in the dissemination and promotion of French-speaking films, this festival will only add to your je ne sais quoi. P.S. Tickets range from 8 to 30 euros. Learn more here.
It’s little wonder the Land of Fire and Ice knows how to put on the ultimate spectacle. At the Reykjavík International Film Festival, movie screenings take place across some of Iceland’s top theaters, swimming pools, and even real-life caves. Sporting an average attendance of 25,000 people, RIFF has become a nationwide name, showcasing films from over 40 countries in otherworldly venues you’ll just have to see to believe.
Have a film you’ve been dying to show to the world? Or simply want to witness emerging filmmakers on the precipice of fame? Before you pop over to this Nordic island nation, it’s important to note that the RIFF puts a special emphasis on highlighting young and up-and-coming directors. In fact, one of the festival’s most prominent awards, aptly named “The Golden Puffin,” is only awarded to first- or second-time directors.
As for audience members, you’ll have the chance to bask in countless screenings, live concerts, photo exhibitions, and the landmark “swim-in” or “cave-in” cinemas. The former is held in one of those heated, indoor pools iconic to Icelandic culture. The latter is held in a cave just outside of Reykjavík. What more could an avid moviegoer ask for? For ticket pricing, check out the RIFF official website.
Perhaps best known for residing as the birthplace of the ancient Greek poet, Sappho, Lesvos Island has recently become a delightful destination for some female-centric fun. And at the core of this trend is the International Eressos Women’s Festival. Over the course of two weeks, the festival unfolds across the lovely, unspoiled Greek beach village of Skala Eressos, and is dedicated to providing lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, and questioning women with relaxed Greek holiday — films and other festivities included.
Although the International Eressos Women’s Festival features stellar film screenings in an open-air cinema, it is far more sought after for its creative mix of holiday activities. From women-only cultural walks and sunset cruises, to hot springs outings, drumming workshops, and Greek dance classes, the festival invites the women of the world to embrace their inner artist, explorer, and natural being.
So ladies, channel your inner Sappho, and head over to Skala Eressos. It’s the perfect way to celebrate September, and partake in what Greeks do best: have fun. To learn more, visit the official festival website.
The Innsbruck Nature Film Festival is quite possibly one of the most inspiring — and emotionally charged — events of 2017. Dedicated to showcasing the top nature and environment-related films, this festival tackles the vital topics of our time: climate change, sustainability, and survival. Most of all, the INFF brings together films that embody the beauty of Planet Earth, making the festival a socially-enriching experience for all.
Using the alpine Austrian city of Innsbruck as its annual stage, INFF makes a point of highlighting renowned directors who are devoted to capturing nature’s greatest wonders, and their long-term fragility. Competition categories range from documentaries, shorts, and young talents, uniting films with a sharp environmental and ecological focus.
In addition to the competition, INFF also offers a diverse program of events, including exhibitions, lectures and workshops. Tickets range from 9 to 30 euros, depending upon the pass type. Learn more information at the INFF website.
Some travelers head to Hamburg for the romantic, winding canals, and maritime bliss. Others come to see what lies inside ‘the gateway to the world,’ a token label once given to Germany’s second-largest city. Then there are those who flock to Filmfest Hamburg, a prestigious festival in its 25th year, which highlights national and international films across ten permanent and multiple annually-changing categories.
Aside from taking place in one of the most beautiful city’s in the world, Filmfest Hamburg has become a household name for its star-packed premieres, elevated arthouse cinema, and cutting-edge mainstream films.
What’s more? The festival’s namesakes include Academy Award winners such as Jodie Foster, Clint Eastwood, Christoph Waltz and Tilda Swinton, as well as directors such as Wim Wenders, Fatih Akin, Andreas Dresen and Tom Tykwer.
So navigate the Filmfest Hamburg scene with your eyes wide open. You never know who you might see, especially for less than 10 euros a screening. Additional ticket and programming information is available online.
Often called Austria’s most important international film event, the Vienna International Film Festival — or Viennale — focuses on the art of film. Today, it’s considered to be one of the oldest and most prominent festivals in the German-speaking world, with an attendance hovering around a staggering 94,000 people. But what makes the Viennale most original is its disregard for status. There are no awards to be won, and no film market, leaving the festival to be a celebration of filmmakers — one devoid of business or competition.
If you’re contemplating a quick trip over to the Mozart-approved, stunning city of Vienna, you’ll want to know everything the Viennale has in store. For starters, you’ll have the chance to choose from a selection of roughly 300 films, which are shown in imperial theaters across the city’s historic center. You’ll also get the opportunity to soak up everything from gala screenings and parties, to special events and audience discussions.
The Viennale prides itself on being a festival devoted to “information, surprises,” and “discoveries,” so audience members best come ready for anything. To learn more, go here.
Put simply, Nordic Film Days Lübeck is the only festival in Germany that is exclusively dedicated to films directed by its Nortic and Baltic brethren. For 59 years, it’s stayed tucked away in the 12th-century wonderscape that is Lübeck, a northern German city best known for its medieval roots, and now, its modernizing film festival.
Talk about killing two birds with one stone. Not only do Nordic Film Days festival visitors get to delight in over 200 films over the course of five days, but they get to do so in a city that’s currently under consideration to be crowned a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Unlike many festivals, Nordic Film Days Lübeck also offers a sophisticated “Nordic Noir” series and the chance to watch 3D films in a fulldome 360° cinema. In terms of special events, visitors can further journey through an open-air event in an old prison yard, or travel through time to watch a silent movie in the St. Katharine’s Museum Church. Oh, and did we mention there will be on-site virtual reality stations? Step into the future here.
If you’re craving innovation, look no further than the Mezipatra Queer Film Festival, a revolutionary LGBTQ+-themed festival dedicated to feature films, shorts, and documentaries in the Czech Republic. Taking place in Prague (November 2-9), and the nation’s second-largest city, Brno (November 9-16), you’ll be pleased to discover you have two chances to attend one of the most daring and progressively minded events in Europe.
Scintillating lectures. Special screenings. Art shows. Theater performances. Parties. The list goes on. That’s because at the Mezipatra Queer Film Festival, diversity and discovery are key components to celebrating a host of filmmakers hailing from Europe and beyond.
Already in its 17th year, Mezipatra has established itself as the go-to source for top-ranking films that cover important themes related to the lesbian, bisexual, trans and queer communities. It’s thought to be one of the most groundbreaking testaments to queer cinema internationally, and one you won’t want to miss out on your chance to be part of such a movement. Ticketing and scheduling information is available here.
Contrary to its lackluster reputation, Belarus is steadily becoming a modernist gem on the European scene. How? Massive props should be directed toward its capital, Minsk, which is now brimming with fashionable cafes, nightclubs, and progressive events dedicated to bringing the Stalinist-era city out of the shadows.
That’s where the Minsk International Film Festival “Listapad” comes in. Dedicated to showcasing top films from former socialistic countries, MIFF Listapad is quickly climbing the ranks of the global festival circuit, and reportedly catching up to the giants of Cannes, Berlin, and Toronto.
What’s better than experiencing a film festival in a city that’s in the midst of rapid change? You’ll be watching history as it unfolds — both in the cinema, and outside — piecing together Soviet vestiges and societies that have been forgotten for far too long.
As a Listapad viewer, you can expect to choose from over 200 screenings across four main categories: feature films, documentaries, children and youth film, as well as the national competition. Come ready with questions for directors like Claire Denis and Andrey Zvyagintsev, and get ready for a stereotype-defying experience that will only further help to cement Belarus’s premier status on an international stage. Learn more here.
Tucked away in a cosy southeastern city of Norway, the Fredrikstad Animation Festival holds the title of being the largest animation festival in the Nordic region. And today, it’s frequented by a range of top animation professionals and students, in large part due to its complete embrace of everything that makes Pixar, Disney, and Aardman what they are today.
You’ll want to visit the Fredrikstad Animation Festival with full entertainment in mind. Whether you plan to attend one of the open master classes, or simply sit back and enjoy the latest Nordic, Baltic and internationally-acclaimed animated films, Fredrikstad offers a little something for every animation nerd.
There are a number of different festival passes available, and they range between 8 and 75 euros. Ticketing information is available here. All other festival-related questions are answered on the official website.
What attracts over 16,000 visitors, and is roughy 62 years in the making? That would be none other than the Cork Film Festival, Ireland’s largest- and longest-running event of its kind. Attendees should come prepared with open minds, open hearts, and an open hand for double-fisting Guinness pints — after all, it’s an Irish festival better known for its movies, music and mayhem.
Of course, Cork’s cognomen as “the rebel city” would translate over to its beloved film festival. Its selection of over 250 films, coupled with its live music concerts and special events, make it a mildly debaucherous haven of food, film, and fun.
As for the competition itself, opportunities for global recognition are high. The festival currently offers 12 different awards — two of which classify as “Academy Award® Qualifying” — and winners are announced at a free event. So why not partake in some corned beef, cabbage, and top-quality cinema? More information can be found here.
Slowly but surely, Estonia is finally gaining proper recognition as a top holiday destination, especially when it comes to Tallinn, its capital city. Representing an exhilarating mix of past and present, Tallinn is a medieval love story at the very same time it remains a modern masterpiece. And perhaps nowhere is this more visible than the Black Nights Film Festival, a two-week long tribute to film, food, history, nightlife, and everything in between.
Over the last two decades, the Black Nights Film Festival has established itself as a leading cinema star around the world. And looking ahead to this year, that reputation remains safely intact. Complete with two international competitions, and three sub-festivals, Black Nights is slated to host around 80,000 people or more in 2017, making it the popular place to be come November.
That reminds us: don’t forget to bring a coat. Late November in Estonia means you should expect a true winter wonderland, and frigid temperatures to follow suit. To learn more, visit the Black Nights Film Festival website.
Hey there, Fellini. Have we got a treat for you: the Rome Independent Film Festival (RIFF) is not to be overlooked. As Italy’s first independent and international film festival, over the years, it’s become the top place for worldwide filmmakers looking to inject a little “La Dolce Vita” into their lives.
RIFF has long bore witness to the directions and passions of the independent film industry. And with each year that passes, the festival is also becoming a prominent place for young filmmakers who are looking to understand the intricate process of production and distribution.
This is the festival to attend if you’re in search of Italian films with an unrelenting vision, global directors that never give up, and local students who are drawn to the beauty of cinematic arts. Additional details are available on the RIFF official website.
The city of Riga is resplendent — a cosmopolitan Baltic capital known for its cobblestones, culture, and emerging innovation. That’s why it should come as no surprise that the Riga International Film Festival “2ANNAS” originated here. As one of the top independent film and audio-visual art festivals around, 2ANNAS takes a provocative look at the ways in which to experiment with film.
In more ways than one, 2ANNAS is a visionary festival that introduces viewers to the power of audio-visual communication, and how it will continue to modernize over the coming years. Already in its 22nd year, the festival has attained a status of being “high quality film explorer,” largely through popularizing European and world cinema for a Latvian audience and beyond.
Think of 2ANNAS as a place to watch “Baltic film art from a global perspective.” You can catch what else is in store at the festival here.
Tree-lined blocks and stunning riverscapes have come to characterize Kaunas, Lithuania, which largely remains a hidden jewel of Europe even today. But perhaps it won’t reside in the shadows for too long: over the years, the Kaunas International Film Festival has begun to gain recognition for its emphasis on both music and film, uniting the two mediums for a Baltic audience and beyond.
If you’re considering a trip to Kaunas, chances are you’ve already come across the essence of this international festival: art-house and artists’ films, which usually incorporate strong artistic and social statements.
What does that mean for you? Prepare to be surprised. Named the European Capital of Culture for 2022, it’s clear the festival is gearing up on the premise of groundbreaking films and nights to remember. Additional information is available here.
From the beaches of Croatia to the cavernous theaters of Iceland, and the storybook castles of Bulgaria, 2017 is full of film festivals — and incredible venues — for everyone. We hope our list of the ultimate European film festivals has helped you better plan out your upcoming year, and every travel activity in between.
Don’t forget to share this list with your fellow movie buffs and/or travel friends!