(The following introduction opens the full article in the Fall 2013 issue.)
What makes a film festival the Coolest? Is it a combination of quality cinema, great parties, and free swag? Or is it an alluring mix of hip, alternative venues and shoestring-budget, hyper-indie films you might not get to see anywhere else? What about the opportunity to gawk at celebrities, connect with fellow moviemakers, and take advantage of free travel perks? These are just some of the many factors we pondered before we could even begin to quantify the coolest film festivals on the planet this year. On top of all that, the MovieMaker team couldn’t possibly attend all the festivals in the Los Angeles area, much less the world—the territory this list’s title so ambitiously encompasses. So we decided to solicit a little help from our friends.
It dawned on us that the best way to create this list was to ask our readers to offer up their experience and opinions. After all, we know the collective MovieMaker readership has the goods on almost every festival out there. So instead of choosing 25 festivals ourselves as we’ve done in the past, we asked our readers to nominate and vote for what they see as the coolest. We also broke our list down into categories to reflect the increasing diversity on today’s festival circuit. While still naming 25 coolest “General” Festivals—all-encompassing fests that don’t discern their selections by genre—we also named the five coolest fests in 10 new genre-specific categories. Running the gamut from “Horror/Sci-Fi” to “Documentary” and “Shorts” and the smorgasbord that became the “Other” category (including animation fests, sports fests, 3D fests, you name it), just about every conceivable kind of festival is represented. Over four months, we received more than 15,000 votes and enlisted the help of Hone, a visual survey platform that simplified our crowd-sourcing efforts (check them out at gohone.com). It’s important to note that the following 76 festivals are presented without any particular hierarchy or order—if you made it in, you made it in!
See the first category winners (Documentary and Horror/Sci-Fi Festivals) here, the second (Short Film and Comedy Festivals) here, the third (Environmental/Social Cause and Women’s Film Festivals) here, and the fourth (LGBT and Ethnic/National Film Festivals) here.
Top Five Coolest Experimental/Underground Film Festivals (Full list of nominees here)
Cambridge, MA / Late March 2014
Held in Cambridge, Massachusetts every March, the Boston Underground Film Festival promises to be insane and deliciously hazardous to your health!
Chicago, IL / April 2-6, 2014
“I like the word ‘underground,’ as in CUFF. The word ‘independent’ carries a stigma of whininess. ‘Underground’ means a good time.” – John Waters
Chicago, IL / Early September 2014
Onion City screens a platter of different experimental films, all with the common thread of artistic excellence.
Las Vegas, NV / October 9-13, 2013
The tagline for PollyGrind is “Hustle! Fight! Grind!” which is also the title of the fest’s official song.
Sydney, Australia / Early September 2014
SUFF is devoted to renewing local interest in independent and experimental film. Go underground, Aussies!
Top 10 (+1) Coolest Outside the Box (previously known as Other) Film Festivals (Full list of nominees here)
Los Angeles, CA / Late September 2014
Last year’s closing night gala honored Academy Award-winner Roger Corman.
North Hollywood, CA / November 8-11, 2013
Actor Richard Schiff (The West Wing) was a special guest during the 2010 festival.
Key Largo, FL / May 1-4, 2014
Come ride the original boat used in The African Queen, and catch a screening of the film, too.
Mort Bay Park, Australia / Early September 2014
If it isn’t cool enough that each movie GDIFF screens features a dog, all of the profits are donated to Australian and International dog charities.
New York, NY / March 7-30, 2014
NYICFF also runs film camps for children, offering classes such as Stop-Motion 101 and Multimedia storytelling.
Los Angeles, CA / Late September 2014
Last year, the jury included Joseph Garner, the director of Craigslist Joe and associate producer for The Hangover II and III.
Ottawa, Canada / Mid-September 2014
This year, OIAFF received a total of 1926 entries from 76 different countries.
Philadelphia, PA / Late September 2014
The number of participants in the 21-day filmmaking competition has quintupled during its first five years, making it the largest filmmaking competition in Philadelphia.
San Francisco, CA / Mid-July 2014
When founders Melissa Chittick and Stephen Salmons inaugurated the SFSFF in 1992, more than 1,800 people came to the first festival—which featured only one film.
Hollywood, CA / Late April 2014
The 2013 fest hosted Mel Brooks and Jane Fonda as special guests.
Sydney, Australia /
The 2013 festival had screenings ranging from new releases like Hyde Park on Hudson, to free classics, such as Singin’ in the Rain.
Sincerest thanks from the MovieMaker team to everyone who participated in the compilation of this list. To the runners up that didn’t make the final five in each category, we send our condolences, and thank you for your voting. There’s always next year. Glad to see your favorite film festival on this year’s list? Think you have a cooler festival than these up your sleeve? Tweet at @moviemakermag, tag us on Facebook (MovieMaker Magazine) or leave a comment! MM
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