50 film festivals worth the entry fee film festival


A: Academy-qualifying

S: Screenwriting contest or competition

V: VR showcase or category

P: Pitch competition or facilitated sessions


American Film Festival

Wrocław, Poland / November 9–14, 2021 / P

One of the three Polish film festivals on our list, the American Film Festival in Wrocław distinguishes itself by specializing in American cinema. Between its two major competitive sections, AFF secured the 2020 Polish premieres of First Cow, David Byrne’s American Utopia, Never Rarely Sometimes Always, and Uncle Frank. The focus is on high-profile directors and those making “significant directorial debuts,” says programmer Mateusz Gutek. But for those in that weight class, the experience is electric, and includes subsidized airfare, lodging, and transportation — with no entry fee. Past panelists include Todd Solondz, Christine Vachon and Jonas Mekas, and events include U.S. in Progress, a two-day workshop connecting American film teams with European sales agents, distributors, and investors.

Evolution Mallorca International Film Festival

Palma, Spain / October 27–November 2, 2021 / S, P

Film Festivals Worth the Entry Fee Evolution Mallorca

Evolution Mallorca

This widely adored festival is held every year in Palma de Mallorca, the capital city of the Balearic Archipelago, an autonomous community of islands off the coast of Spain with their own distinct language, culture, and biodiversity. If it sounds gorgeous and sophisticated, it is. Evolution! Mallorca (as it’s sometimes styled) is in its 10th year and has garnered broad acclaim for its rich, international program, plentiful outdoor screenings, strong sense of discovery, and celebration of film as a cultural bridge. It impressively expanded in 2020, and new screening locations include an open-air cinema with room for 180 socially distanced guests. That addition, and a partnership with Spanish streaming platform FILMIN.es to host 70% of the program online, will return in 2021.

Filmfestival Kitzbühel

Kitzbühel, Tyrol, Austria / August 23–29, 2021 / P

FilmFest Kitzbuhel - DSCF7734 - Filmfestival Kitzbuhel GmbH WP

Filmfestival Kitzbühel

Festival director Michael Reisch and the organizing team take full advantage of Kitzbühel’s small size to create an intimate fest in a romantic mountain village. The very walkable fest includes a mountaintop, open-air theater reachable by a short hike, as well as drive-in screenings on the side of historic buildings. An in-house press agency schedules local interviews for all moviemakers before they arrive and works continuously to coordinate national requests. The fest also hosts daily brunches with industry and jury members, the three-week Drehbuchklausur writing workshop, and even an industry-exclusive Gondola Brunch.

Galway Film Fleadh

Galway, Ireland / July 6–11, 2021 / A, S, P

The fleadh (that’s Gaelic for festival) in this timeless city on Ireland’s west coast prides itself on being “intimate and informal,” says programme director William Fitzgerald. Even in 2020, in its online edition, it included a full film slate, live-streamed Q&As, a bustling marketplace, the Fleadh Forum (a state-of-the-industry series of panels and talks), a pitch competition, and more, via Shift72. GFF plans to return in hybrid form over the summer, so the lucky handful of invitees (there are 20 programmed films out of roughly 1,000 submissions) can enjoy all these benefits and the opportunity to delight in Galway’s endless charms.

Kraków Film Festival

Kraków , Poland / MAY 31–JUNE 6, 2021 / A, P

Krakowski Festiwal Filmowy (1) WP

Kraków Film Festival

Kraków is the seat of Poland’s cultural history and one of the oldest cities in Europe, with its medieval perimeter and Gothic cathedrals still intact. Each year the city fills with thousands of film fans for a massive weeklong bash focused on international premieres and industry connections fostered through the elaborate KFF Industry program. Last year, it held 230 screenings — including 50 world premieres — and 65 Q&As online, racking up over 60,000 views. KFF also set up hundreds of meetings with accredited industry guests and competing filmmakers. KFF’s industry program welcomes a significant number of representatives from other global film festivals, including Venice, Berlinale and Cannes.

Locarno Film Festival

Locarno, Switzerland /August 4–14, 2021 / A


Locarno Film Festival

The Locarno Film Festival is one of the oldest and most beloved festivals in Europe. Locarno normally makes the most of its surroundings — the town is nestled in the dramatic Swiss-Italian alps, and the banks of majestic Lake Maggiore host feature screenings. Locarno responded to COVID by downsizing and looking inward. It swapped out competitive sections in favor of a nostalgic program that revisited the fest’s more than 70-year history, and reallocated generous prize money toward productions halted by the pandemic. Newly appointed artistic director Giona A. Nazzaro says that Locarno is working towards an in-person edition “that will present itself as the launchpad to our 75th anniversary.”

Thessaloniki International Film Festival

Thessaloniki, Greece / November 2021 / P

Last year’s Thessaloniki International Film Festival began with a solemn ritual, a symbolic screening at the grand Olympion theater with no one in attendance, to express solidarity with struggling theaters and exhibitors. Each year the festival’s Agora sets up “matchmaking” style one-on-ones, supported by the press office’s comprehensive press kits. The Agora industry section also bestows its own set of awards. This year TIFF’s roughly 150 feature films will be screened in a hybrid version, both in the festival’s theaters and also online.

Torino Film Festival

Torino, Italy / November 26–December 4, 2021

The Torino Film Festival is Italy’s second-largest film festival after Venice, and its 2019 edition welcomed 61,000 passholders and 2,100 accredited press and industry guests. 2020’s hybrid festival shrank those numbers somewhat, but TFF still packed a powerful punch, welcoming representatives from every major Italian film distributor. Getting in with TFF means getting in with the National Cinema Museum, which has organized TFF since 2006, and each year also hosts the CinemAmbiente Environmental Film Festival, and the Lovers Film Festival, one of the oldest LGBTQ+ film festivals in Europe. Submissions opened on March 1, and you have until August 13 to shoot your shot.

Warsaw International Film Festival

Warsaw, Poland / October 8–17, 2021 / A


Warsaw International Film Festival. Photo by Tomasz Korczynski

Taking advantage of a drop in COVID-19 infection rates, the festival was able to hold a masked and socially distanced indoors festival last October. Nearly 400 screenings of 101 features and 51 shorts took place across nine screens (many of them in the opulent Kinoteka Palace of Culture and Science), and roughly 150,000 złoty in cash prizes (about $40,000) were awarded to the moviemakers in competition. The festival plans another in-person festival in October, where WIFF will unroll another edition of Warsaw Industry Days, a wildly popular block of programs designed to cultivate connections.

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