The ultimate road movie

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Fifty years ago, the most determined globetrotting cinephile or cineaste would have struggled to find a dozen festivals around the world to put in the diary. There were London, Edinburgh, Cannes, Venice, Berlin, Karlovy Vary in Czechoslovakia and perhaps San Sebastián in Spain.

With nothing of the sort happening in the US, and Australia scarcely having a film industry, let alone a festival to promote it, the rest of the world would have been represented by Mar del Plata in Argentina, the moving feast that was and remains the International Film Festival of India, and little else.

Today it would be possible, if not necessarily pleasurable, for an ambitious American film-maker to spend a year moving from festival to festival without leaving his or her home country, with an occasional brief break between events for the opportunity to knock off the odd film to tout around the festivals.

Those wanting to cram their 2007 diary with international film festivals would, after a brief stop-off in Los Angeles for the 64th Golden Globes, have to start their year of travels next week, on January 18 in Park City, Utah, and spend 10 days at the Robert Redford-sponsored Sundance Film Festival. Launched to support independent cinema, it has moved from the margins to the mainstream to the extent that it has, however unwittingly, spawned or inspired the Slamdance Film Festival, dedicated to guerrilla film-making, which runs at the same time as Sundance, as well as the Moondance in Los Angeles in June and the Raindance in London in September.

Animation and special effects folk will be skipping Sundance altogether and heading for Bologna for the Future Film Festival before ending the month in Rotterdam, from where it’s a relatively gentle jaunt over to Germany for the 57th Berlin International Film Festival in early February.

To escape the miseries of late winter in northern Europe it’s worth checking out, if only for the name, The Other Venice Film Festival in Venice, California, in March – Roger Corman received the Local Maverick award last year – and then going on in early April to the Hong Kong International Film Festival, dedicated to promoting Asian cinema. From there, a slow boat could deliver you back to southern Europe in time for the two weeks of living hell that is Cannes in mid-May.

After that, you could feature in your own road movie, heading off eastwards first to Dubrovnik, on to Cluj in Romania for the Transylvania International Film Festival, then almost straight up north for the Midnight Sun Film Festival in Sodankyl in northern
Finland, an annual event that was launched 20 years ago by those wacky film-making brothers Aki and Mika Kaurismaki.

If that’s put you in the mood for extreme cinematic experiences, June also offers the prospect of the third Wairoa Maori Film Festival, which boasts of being the “first film festival in New Zealand to be solely dedicated to Maori film and Maori film-makers”, while in July in LA there’s the Dances with Films Festival, with the still less appetising boast of being “the only festival mandating that films have no ‘known’ actors, directors, writers, producers” – and presumably very few “people” attending it.

From late summer things get conventional and heavyweight, with Edinburgh in late August leading on to Venice and then Toronto in September, and then to Sitges for Catalonia’s premier fantasy film festival before the London Film Festival starts in late October.

If you have any wanderlust left, November could see a sprint from Leeds via Stockholm and Thessalonica to Manaus in Brazil for the wildlife, adventure and ethnological treats of the Amazonas Film Festival before you round off the year in fine, exotic style in southern India at the Kerala International Film Festival in mid-December.

This correspondent can vouch that the latter can offer a unique cinema experience, with a screening at the 1998 festival of an otherwise deeply tedious Israeli film rendered unforgettable by an infestation of rats that drove out a large proportion – but, impressively, not all – of the audience.

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