Ever since she was a child and watching movies on television from the '30s and '40s with her mother, Andra Takacs has been hooked on films. When she moved to Toronto and attended the Toronto Film Festival, she got interested in foreign films. In 1997, she discovered the Palm Springs International Film Festival. She's also a regular at Roger Ebert's Film Festival (Ebertfest) which is now hosted by the late critic's wife, Chaz Ebert.
Takacs estimates that she attends about six film festivals a year from start to finish. Many of them aren't mainstream ones like Cannes or Sundance. But they're beloved by film buffs like Takacs. "At a film festival, I can meet like-minded people from all around the world and have wonderful conversations about animation or horror films--just from waiting on line," she says. "Also, you get the chance to talk to the directors or actors in the film. You cannot do that when you go to your local cineplex."
For example, Takacs has always liked the Palm Springs International Film Festival which screens more 190 new feature films from 70 different countries. "It's a more leisurely festival," she says. "When I last visited, I even squeezed in a few early morning hikes." (During the festival in January, daytime temperatures average about 70 degrees.) The Palm Springs International Film Festival is also a treat for foreign film lovers. As Darryl Macdonald, the festival's Executive Director, explains, "the festival has largest lineup of official Foreign Language Oscar contenders available anywhere outside of the Academy Screening Room in Hollywood."
Also, a film festival is a great opportunity to talk shop with filmmakers. Matthew McConaughey, Sandra Bullock, Lupita Nyong'o, Tom Hanks, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, and others attended the Palm Springs Film Festival this year. Past visitors have included Leonardo DiCaprio, Meryl Streep, Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, and George Clooney. "A number of the filmmaker parties and receptions hosted here are also available to the filmgoing public," says Macdonald."The Festival is also incredibly accessible to the public as participating theaters are relatively close together and there is free parking all over Palm Springs."
Like with Palm Springs, many film festivals are held in stunning locales. The Maui Film Festival is held in a jewel box of a setting where every evening there's a tour of the night sky by its official festival astronomer Harriet Witt. "Its open air, under the stars, lit by the moon and powered, literally, by the sun," says Barry Rivers, founder and director of the festival which occurs in June. In fact, many of the films are shown al fresco at the Seaside Cinema at the Grand Wailea resort which sweeps dramatically over the ocean.
Or there's the Temecula Valley International Film & Music Festival (TVIFF) which celebrates its 18th anniversary this September. The festival champions the work of outstanding independent filmmakers and musicians from around the world. And it's all against the backdrop of the spectacular landscape of Temecula, which is nestled in 3,000 acres of picturesque wine country and is an agricultural wonder with vineyards, olive trees and lavender galore.
So if you're a serious film buff like Andra Takacs or want to be one, here are some film festivals that you might not know about. Launch this Parade story to check them out.