Although they are an important feature on the landscape of European cinema, the film festivals and their precise role have rarely been explored. There has been a tendency to use Cannes as representative of all the others, since it indubitably has the highest profile, but can it truly reflect the activities of the myriad other events across the continent? Moreover, the abiding impression of the festival each spring on the Riviera is that it is an international event where the European dimension is simply geographical, rather than cultural. This article will compare and contrast Cannes with two of its A-list counterparts, namely the Berlinale and the Czech Republic's Karlovy Vary, in order to tease out the characteristics of the European film festival today, and as such represents an initial approach to a topic that demands far more analysis than there is scope for here. That said, by drawing on the discourse of post-colonialism, this article posits a theoretical model to helps us understand the importance of the European festival as a locus of cultural exchange between the realms of Hollywood and world cinema.