Documentary film festivals are best bets for nonfiction film devotees. They not only screen a well curated programs of fascinating documentaries from around the world, they present filmmakers for Q & As and have panel discussions that cover many issues related to documentary filmmaking.
Here's a list of leading documentary film festivals, arranged chronologically. Be sure to put them on your calendar so that you can take full advantage of their wonderful offerings.
Helsinki DocPoint Festival is noted for its eclectic programming of international socially relevant documentaries about a wide range of subjects and issues. In 2011, DocPoint developed a huge following in the US because of its significant programming outreach in New York City to mark the festival's tenth anniversary. The festival also has strong pitch sessions and filmmaker workshops.
Salem Film Fest stands out as a vibrant gem of manageability and moderation for filmmakers and audiences. Screening documentaries-only, the film festival is held in March of each year in the historic town of Salem, Massachusetts, and presents a superb slate of thirty-some nonfiction features and shorts during its week-long duration.
Compared to some other documentary film festivals, the True/False Film Festival is an intimate gathering of documentary filmmakers and dedicated moviegoers who support the documentary genre. Held annually in Columbia, Missouri, and known for exceptional programming of nonfiction films, the festival has a loyal following and community. It attracts audiences and filmmakers from around the word, many of whom attend annually.
4. Full Frame Documentary Film Festival - April 12-15, 2012
Set in the historic town of Durham, North Carolina, the Full Frame Festival is staged in venues within a four-block radius, so there it's easy to get from one event to another, and there is a lot of opportunity for interaction and community-building between filmmakers, film industry professionals and the general public. An ongoing project of the Center for Documentary Studies, the Full Frame Festival is a central resource for young and established documentary filmmakers. See my overview
Held in Toronto annually, Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival is North America's largest documentaries festival, conference and market. Each year, the Festival presents a selection of more than 150 cutting-edge documentaries from Canada and around the globe. Through its industry programs, Hot Docs offers documentary filmmakers a full range of professional development, market and networking opportunities. Read my overview
Sheffield Doc/Fest is an important international documentaries film festival that takes place annually in Sheffield, England. The five day schedule includes public screenings of more than 100 films from around the globe, as well as industry-oriented sessions, including pitching opportunities with documentary film funders and investors, controversial discussion panels about aesthetics, new technologies and social responsibility, and in-depth filmmaker masterclasses, as well as a marketplace at which filmmakers show their work to documentary programmers. Sheffield Doc/Fest is noted for its advanced investigation of transmedia applications for documentaries, and vital debate about ethics and documentary filmmaking. Read my overview
Also known as AFI/Discovery Channel Documentary Silverdocs, the festival is Silverdocs is dedicated to fostering the power of documentary films to enhance our understanding of the world. Based in the National Capital Region, where important global and national issues are the daily business, Silverdocs is marked by its relevance, broad intellectual range, and wide public appeal. The festival presents a 5-day International Documentary Conference, the largest professional conference of its kind in the U.S., exploring the documentary filmmaking industry with a huge gathering of filmmakers and media experts from around the globe. Read my overview
Taking place in Maine's scenic coastal towns of Camden and Rockport, the festival's program is known for presenting projects that show dedication to craft, are socially relevant and find unique artistic approaches to telling good stories. Films are selected each year because of their ability to stimulate discussion about documentary film as an art form, as catalyst for social change and as expressions of independent voices. Read my overview
IDFA, the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam, is arguably the world's largest and most influential documentaries film festival. It was founded in 1983, and is unique for its international film program featuring a wide variety of documentary genres with political and socially conscious themes. The festival presents many European and world premieres each year, and is a major annual gathering place for filmmakers, producers, distributors and students to meet and network. Red my overview