Documentary OnlyFilm Festivals

Documentaries have been part of film festivals as long as there have been film festivals. There have also long been festivals devoted to documentary.

Nyon, Switzerland was one of the first modern festivals to focus on the documentary. Originating in a trend for ciné-clubs, the Nyon Festival started in 1969, and by the end of the 1970s was well established. Other important festivals for documentary in the twentieth century were Rotterdam, Holland, and in the U.S. the Margaret Mead Film Festival, held at New York’s Metropolitan Museum. Although the focus of the last is the anthropological film it was serious showcase for many varieties of documentary long before other film festivals celebrated the form, and it remains an important venue.

The most significant nonfiction festival in Europe in the twenty-first century is the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam. It is a huge, comprehensive world festival that attracts public and professionals alike to two weeks of screenings in several theaters. It also includes an important film market and the original "Forum" pitching sessions. In Asia, Yamagata, held every other year in Japan, is perhaps the most prestigious. The leading documentary film festival in Latin America is called “All True,” Held in Brazil in Rio do Janeiro and Sao Paulo, it was begun, and continues to be run by Brazil’s leading writer about documentaries, Amir Labaki. Hot Docs in Toronto is the leader in Canada, in Mexico the traveling Ambulante, Encounters in South Africa, and in England, it is Sheffied Doc Fest. Visions du Real in Switzerland has a long and storied history In the US, documentary only film festivals of note include True/False in Missouri, Hot Springs in Arkansas, Big Sky Documentary in Montana, DOC NYC in New York, The United Nations Association Film Festival in California, and AFI Docs in Washington DC. There are literally hundreds of film festivals around the world that feature documentaries. The most charming name — and one that brings documentary history full circle — Flahertyiana in Perm, Russia.