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Top Dozen Documentary Film Festivals: Up Next, Hot Docs and Full Frame

Features
by John Anderson and Beth Hanna
March 31, 2014 1:30 PM
2 Comments
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HotDocs

With both Hot Docs and Full Frame Documentary Film Festivals coming up this spring, we put together a compendium of the burgeoning list of doc fests around the world. Each has its own personality. See which one suits you.

(Full Frame's lineup, after the jump.)

Here's the annual calendar of twelve top doc-fests:

  • DocPoint: Held in snowy, friendly Helsinki, DocPoint, which just concluded in January, is Nordic-centric, but also attracts films from around the world. (Jan. 27-Feb. 1, 2015)   
  • True/False Film Festival: This one takes place in Columbia, Missouri. It just wrapped at the end of February, with films shown over a four day window. It's a well-curated, more intimate alternative to Sundance. 
  • Documentary Fortnight – The Museum of Modern Art just concluded its 12th annual two-week showcase of new trends in nonfiction. It's a museum series, so no instant community gets formed. Held in March each year.
  • Full Frame Documentary Film Festival: Set in Durham, North Carolina, this fest is a four-day marathon of over 100 docs, as well as discussions and panels. It's set within a four-block radius, so it's very easy to navigate (April 3-6).
  • Hot Docs: Even in a city rife with film festivals, this one’s a Toronto standout, marking the spring bloom of international nonfiction and a forum at which ideas get sold, and bought. It’s coming up quickly (April 24-May 4).
  • Visions de Reel – Among the more prestigious nonfiction festivals worldwide, this event, held in Nyon, Switzerland, originally concentrated on Swiss film, and the largely unavailable cinema of the Eastern Bloc. It is now open to fare from everywhere, while retaining a very Swiss personality. (April 25-May 3). 
  • Doc Aviv: The only festival in Israel devoted strictly to docs, it showcases Israeli film, but includes select global cinema (May 8-17).
  • AFI Docs: Formerly titled SilverDocs, this fest was created by AFI and the Discovery Channel, and is held every year in Silver Spring, Maryland and Washington DC. It's held for five days each June. The locals come out for it, much as they do for TIFF.
  • Sheffield DocFest—Now 20 years old and the UK’s biggest nonfiction festival (third in the world), Sheffield concentrates on both docs and digital media. Much beloved.  (June 7-12).
  • Camden International Film Festival: Based in Camden, Rockport and Rockland, Maine, this fest takes place over the last weekend of September. It was created in 2005. It's also home to the Points North Documentary Forum, which gives filmmakers access to professional development. Screens about 80 docs and shorts annually. A joy to attend.
  • DOC NYC: Running each November at NYC'S IFC Center, this doc fest helps Academy members narrow down the vast array of documentaries over the course of a given year before the Oscar shortlist and nominations are announced. Lots of doc comraderie.
  • IDFA: The grandpa of doc fests – or perhaps grandma, given director Ally Derks longtime reign over this Amsterdam blowout – hosts more films that any other documentary festival, and is the annual meeting place for much of the international doc community. Downside for Americans: It always straddles Thanksgiving (November 19-24).

2 Comments

  • Eija Niskanen | March 18, 2014 9:18 AMReply

    I am really surprised Yamagata Documentary Film Festival did not make the list.

  • TC Kirkham | March 14, 2014 4:30 PMReply

    Well, those are all great - but you left off Massachusetts' biggest all-Doc festival, the Salem Film Fest, this year's edition of which just ended yesterday. SFF has great titles every year, it's held in some of the coolest venues of the state, and they manage to get the filmmakers for about 70% of their program. This year's fest had top notch films as always including These Birds Walk, Rich Hill, A Fragile Trust, Everybody Street, and closing night film Watermark.

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