Why a tie at number 2? Because it depends on what kind of film you've made. Have you made a film with a dynamic (and possibly famous) lead character that begs for theatrical distribution? Head to Toronto. Is your film a natural for a 50 minute slot on European television? Go to Amsterdam. Below, the pros and cons of each.
First up, IDFA
Our take: The most important all-documentary festival in the world keeps its reputation primarily by continuing to bring together more buyers and industry players than any other event. Everyone goes to IDFA and almost everyone is accessible (although you might have to get in line), with a lack of exclusive parties and more focus on festival-wide cocktail hours and mixers. It remains the top place to introduce your film to European buyers and American TV. The competition still means something, particularly for international titles (which may be getting their Sundance invite in the midst of the festival)...
The downside: ...but if you're not in competition, you may get lost. A huge (huge!) slate of films means that you're competing for attention with films from around the world. A deep divide between those who love IDFA and those who think it's best days are behind them (see comments below) Among the latter there's a sense that IDFA may be resting on it's laurels, particularly as a host of European documentary festivals have sprung up in the weeks preceding Amsterdam. Many think the Forum needs to be re-imagined, a sign of changing thoughts on the whole pitching forum concept. The fest's crackdown on premiere status this year struck many as a sign of panic at the festival and not helpful to filmmakers.
Important recent premieres: ROUGH AUNTIES, LAST TRAIN HOME, ENEMIES OF THE PEOPLE, EPISODE 3 - "ENJOY POVERTY"
Selection of US films screened at 2009 Fest: THE MOST DANGEROUS MAN IN AMERICA: DANIEL ELLSBERG AND THE PENTAGON PAPERS, THE COVE, COLONY, WINNEBAGO MAN, THE HORSE BOY, SOUNDTRACK FOR A REVOLUTION
Our coverage of IDFA here.