Film Fest International started back in 2005 with a single event - The Tenerife International Film Festival - and a single idea - to offer a platform to independent Filmmakers. Set up by Carl Tooney, Tenerife became the start of a journey that has taken in multiple countries and many thousands of films. Coming from the UK, it was an out-of-the-box move to start an International Film event in another country, but the marriage with Tenerife worked out so well that Carl decided to take the one-off event further afield. Over the years this has become our global group of Festivals.
After hosting in 2005 & 2006 in Tenerife, Carl decided to start a "home" event. In 2007 "The International Filmmaker Festival of World Cinema" was born. It was hosted in our home-town of Margate, in the South East of England. The name was chosen to represent global independent Filmmakers and it was purposely not given a City name. The thinking at the time to create a "travelling Festival". The event was hosted in 2007, 2008, 2009 & 2010 in and around East Kent, with the sister Festival also taking place in Tenerife.
One of the biggest issues we faced during this time was transport - International Filmmakers didn't know where Margate was so we arranged cars to pick up every single person from London airports. As a consequence of the logistical issues, in 2011 we made the permanent move to London. Ever since that event, the name has been officially referred to as "The International Filmmaker Festival of World Cinema London". The 2011 event was also the first time our sister event in Tenerife was merged and both festivals were held at the same time.
During 2011 we made plans to expand and over the course of the next decade we cemented ourselves in some major European cities. In 2012 & 2013 we founded the two events that are the biggest in our calendar in Madrid & Nice respectively. London took a break in 2013 to accommodate a calendar switch to the early part of 2014 - a slot the Festival still occupies. For Soccer fans out there, the 2014 event was hosted at the former home of West Ham United FC - Upton Park. We absolutely loved the event space and were very sad that the building was demolished.
In 2014 we solidified our events, hosting the 10th Tenerife IFF, 7th London Filmmaker Festival, 3rd Madrid IFF & 2nd Nice IFF - the latter hosted at the iconic Hotel Westminster, on the boulevard in Nice. We also solidified our offering to Filmmakers. For each Festival we would host in a different way - some events would use Cinemas to screen films, some events would have one location for Filmmakers to stay and another for the Awards event. In 2014 we decided that we would bring everything into one central location at each event. You'd sleep in the same building that you watch the films in, network with other Film professionals and attend our Awards evening, which closes each of our Festivals.
At the same time we launched Film The Magazine, alongside each of our events. We tested it with a Zine for London 2014 and launched it fully at London 2015. It's been a staple of our Film Festivals ever since.
Over the next few years we started new events and called time on some older ones. 2015 saw the introduction of Milan and the final Tenerife event (11 editions). In 2016 & 2017 we introduced events in Berlin & Amsterdam respectively - each event would last for 2 editions. At the same time in 2016 & 2017 we established the global trademark for the 2 events in our calendar which have become our flagships. Nice International Film Festival and Madrid International Film Festival have become our busiest events and the cornerstones of our annual calendar. Nice in particular is an extremely important event as it's held during the same week as the Cannes Film Festival. Filmmakers from around the world are in town to network and sell their work and we've found holding our event just down the road in Nice, kills 2 birds with 1 stone for the travelling Film professional.
In fact, Nice became so popular that in 2019 we hosted NFM for the first time. Nice Film Market was created out of the audience who attended our South of France event and their desire to do more business while in town. Little did we know that the following event in 2020 would become our first online event due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
In a similar way to NFM, we found that our Madrid event attracted a very large number of films from China & Japan. Due to this demand, in 2018 we hosted the first Madrid Asia International Film Festival. It was a way for Asian Filmmakers to enter the European Market. 2018 also saw the introduction of WICA - The World Independent Cinema Awards. The first event came alongside Amsterdam 2018 and it finally found a home as a standalone event during the Covid pandemic.
In late 2019 we opened for entries to our inaugural Antwerp Filmmaker Festival. Pencilled in for the end of 2020, it became just one in a long list of casualties of Covid-19. After hosting our 13th London Filmmaker Festival in February 2020 we were all halted in our tracks. Just one month later in the UK and the rest of the World, we were locked down. Even at that time we were optimistic that our next event, the 8th Nice IFF in May 2020, would still take place - how wrong we all were. We considered postponing everything for a year but we chose not to be beaten by the virus and instead we decided to host our events virtually until the World reopened it's doors.
Nice & Madrid 2020 preceded our first Antwerp event. It was a shame to have to take a first event online but the World dictated it sadly. After Antwerp, we also hosted the 6th Milan Filmmaker Festival in early 2021 online and following that, we hosted our first standalone WICA event online. The World Independent Cinema Awards are a way for us to showcase the best of the best, with nominees chosen from all of our events from the preceding 12 months.
During the lockdown of 2020 & 2021 we made the decision that we wanted to come back with a bang when the world returned to normal. We saw businesses in every sector fall victim to Covid and we saw funding for the Arts slashed around the World. Instead of contributing to the growing list of events which fell victim to the situation, we doubled down! In 2021 we opened for submissions to new events in Edinburgh, Paris & Barcelona. We also moved out of Europe for the first time with new events in LA & Vancouver opening their doors.
We also decided to move into the "roaring twenties" with a new look and feel to our events. Aside from Nice & Madrid, which are trademarked as "International Film Festival", all of our other events took on the moniker of "World Cinema". The first event under this new name to welcome people through its gates will be the 2021 edition of World Cinema Antwerp.
The World after Covid will be changed forever but we won't let it defeat us. Film Fest International has offered a platform to hundreds of Filmmakers since 2005 and we'll continue to do so for as long as we possibly can. We hope you can join us on our journey!