20 Coolest Film Festivals: 2010


After all the postcard printing, press pandering and promo piece plastering you do in preparation for a festival screening, sometimes you just want to have a little fun. So take a seat for 20 of the world’s coolest film fests.

ActionFest
• Asheville, NC; www.actionfest.com
The action genre isn’t one that gets a whole lot of critical notice, but it’s undoubtedly one of the world’s most popular movie categories—those knock ’em/sock ’em films easily translating to just about any language. As the world’s only all-action film festival (which next happens April 7-10, 2011), the folks at ActionFest (“The Film Festival With a Body Count”) demonstrate their love of all things adrenaline with a program packed with car crashes, ultra-explosions, martial arts moves and the occasional visit from Chuck Norris.

Arthur Lyons’ Film Noir Fest
• Palm Springs, CA; www.arthurlyonsfilmnoir.ning.com
This decade-old event, founded by the late mystery writer Arthur Lyons, is a vintage fest, screening film noir classics and a few more obscure, off-the-beaten path entries each spring. More a moviegoing event, the 2010 fest featured post-screening Q&As from some of the program’s biggest stars, including Ernest Borgnine (in support of 1960’s Pay or Die!) and June Lockhart (there to talk up 1947’s Bury Me Dead).

Babelgum Online Film Festival
• Online; www.babelgum.com
What could be better than having your film screen at a festival in the one city where all your friends and family live? How about having your film screen at an online film festival, so that anyone with a cell phone or even a dial-up Internet connection can see what sort of chops you’ve got as a director? Babelgum’s got that; it also offered 2010 festival winners the chance to have their films viewed by an all-star panel of judges (including writer-directors Richard Linklater and Sally Potter) and screen during the Tribeca Film Festival. And did we mention the several cash prizes of up to $6,000 apiece?

CineKink
• New York, NY; Los Angeles, CA; Portland, OR; www.cinekink.com
Proving that film doesn’t need to be pornographic to be titillating, CineKink endeavors to promote films that depict sexuality (and, yes, kinkiness) in positive ways with a program that includes everything from documentaries to dramas. “Our festival brings together smart, open-minded folks—filmmakers and audiences alike—and creates a space for expanding our conversation about sex and sexuality,” says CineKink co-founder/director Lisa Vandever. “Or, as one of our attendees so memorably put it… ‘CineKink got me laid.’” (No money-back guarantees on that one.)

deadCENTER film festival
• Oklahoma City, OK; www.deadcenterfilm.org
Putting on a festival in the “dead center” of the country each June? Cool. Having Spike Jonze as one of your honored guests? Very cool. In 10 years, the deadCENTER Film Festival has grown from a weekend diversion to a week-long cinema event, screening more than 100 indie films and remaining true to its mission of energizing the local film industry. “When we do things, we do them big,” says COO Kim Haywood.

Faux Film Festival
• Portland, OR; www.fauxfilm.com
Faux Film Festival curator Mike Shkolnik has a pretty good idea of what makes his event cool: “We poke fun at stuff!” But this isn’t your typical comedy fest. Picture cramming Spinal Tap, Best in Show and the trailers in the middle of Grindhouse into one weekend and you’ve got a better idea of what this is all about: Spoofs and satires! “Faux” commercials, trailers and movie and television spoofs are all on the menu for this raucous weekend, which next happens April 1-3, 2011.

Festivus Film Festival
• Denver, CO; www.festivusfilmfestival.com
You guessed it, “Seinfed” fans: Festivus is the film festival for the rest of us. And by that, we mean the folks who’ve resigned themselves to the fact that Mr. Studio Big Cheese probably isn’t going to halt your post-screening Q&A to offer you a $10 million paycheck (the fest does take place about the same time as Sundance, after all). “We exist simply to give the filmmakers the time of their lives,” says Festivus head honcho Johnathan McFarlane. “Because that’s the least they deserve from a festival after all the hard work they put into their films.”

Florida Film Festival
• Maitland, FL; www.floridafilmfestival.com
This 10-day, April fest premieres the best in cutting-edge cinema at its very own (and very quaint) Enzian Theater, while tipping its hat to Southern hospitality with a warm, welcoming attitude. “Florida is the place where we fuel the spirit with support and the stomach with some good Southern food and drink,” says Florida Film Festival president Henry Maldonado. “The Florida Film Festival is where you come for the friendships much more than the deals. We are the film festival with a heart.”

FREAK SHOW Horror Film Festival
• Orlando, FL; www.freakshowfilmfest.com
Horror fans get their FREAK SHOW on in October at this three-day fest created by FEAR FILM Motion Picture Studios owner Robert J. Massetti. More than 40 moviemakers were in attendance in 2010, including horror master John Carpenter; fest winners went home with the FREAKY award, specially designed by FX artist Barry Anderson (Jeepers Creepers). But according to Massetti, “It’s not only the great films, but the people behind the great films that make each year such a pleasure… By the end of the festival we have 40 new best friends!”

Friars Club Film Festival
• New York, NY; www.friarsclub.com
The Friars Club is ground zero for top-tier comedy entertainment, so it’s no surprise that its fall film festival is an all-star affair. Created to further the Club’s mission of fostering the next generation of funnymen and women, the four-day event offers laugh-out-loud moviemakers a well-known launching pad for their comedic works. As stated in the fest’s materials: “Whether it’s crass, slapstick, sarcastic, a romantic comedy, a dark comedy, a spoof—you name it, if it’s funny, it’s eligible.”

Hawaii Ocean Film Festival
• Kauai, HI; www.hawaiioceanfilmfestival.org
Ever since Matt Hooper arrived on Amity Island talking about shark bite radius, marine life and movies have made a very cool couple. The Hawaii Ocean Film Festival celebrates the classic combo with a summer movie focused on the connection between humans and the sea, all with a goal toward inspiring the audience to get involved in protecting their oceans. It may sound do-gooder-esque, but the large number of marine action films (surfing, sailing, voyaging, etc.) from around the world create “a mix of adrenaline and authentic stories, presented outdoors, under the stars and on a 40-foot-screen,” says festival director Meli Sandler.

Indie Grits
• Columbia, SC; www.indiegrits.com
For better or worse, everyone remembers his or her first time… first time screening at a film festival, that is. For up-and-coming moviemakers in particular, the festival circuit can be an intimidating place. So the kind folks at Indie Grits make it a point to ensure that a moviemaker’s maiden festival voyage is a (pleasantly) memorable one. “We embrace films and filmmakers from the fringes of the indie and experimental world,” says Indie Grits executive director Andy Smith. “This festival is for those who appreciate DIY filmmaking for what it is rather than those who think of it as a stepping stone to bigger filmmaking.”

Irish Film Festival Boston
• Boston, MA; www.irishfilmfestival.com
There might be no better city to experience Ireland in America than Boston, Massachusetts. And no better time than the month of March (you know, with St. Patrick’s Day and all). Founded in 1999, the Irish Film Festival Boston (IFFB) is the largest event of its kind outside of the Emerald Isle. Its slate of films offers the best in contemporary and classic Irish cinema, with the fest laying claim to premieres of such films as In America, Intermission, Bloody Sunday and the Oscar-winning Once.

Ivy Film Festival
• Providence, RI; www.ivyfilmfestival.com
Oliver Stone, Martin Scorsese and Ben Kingsley are just a few of the legends who’ve been known to spend a spring day at the Ivy Film Festival, the largest fest run by students for students. Based at Brown University, the fest gives student moviemakers from around the world the opportunity to screen their works for some seriously connected film pros; Fox co-chairman Tom Rothman, producer Michael Costigan (Brokeback Mountain), writer-director Michael Corrente (Outside Providence) and screenwriter David Arata (Children of Men) are just a few of the vets who’ve shared their time and experiences with past festival attendees.

NYC Food Film Festival
• New York, NY; www.nycfoodfilmfestival.com
Popcorn and Sno-Caps are so passé. Oysters and beef tendon balls are the new movie snack. At least for NYC Food Film Festival attendees (and the recently launched Chicago version). “NYC Food Film Festival guests get to taste what they see on the screen,” says festival director George Motz. In an attempt to create a multi-sensory experience, the fest serves up a plateful of cinema with a side of the culinary treats seen on the screen.

Politics on Film
• Washington, DC; www.politicsonfilm.com
From Mr. Smith Goes to Washington to Wag the Dog and All the President’s Men to Fahrenheit 9/11, the game of politics can be easier to digest on celluloid. And what better place for a political film festival than smack dab in our nation’s capital? Movies don’t have to feature a series of political talking heads, either; all genres—from satire to suspense—are accepted to this May event. The only requirement at this bipartisan fest is that it deals with some sort of political subject matter.

San Francisco Silent Film Festival
• San Francisco, CA; www.silentfilm.org
Almost 70 years after the invention of talking pictures, Melissa Chittick and Stephen Salmons founded the San Francisco Silent Film Festival. What might seem like a cinematic regression has become an annual event that attracts more than 10,000 spectators a year to the world-famous Castro Theatre in July.

Williamsburg International Film Festival
• Brooklyn, NY; www.williamsburgfilmfestival.com
The Williamsburg International Film Festival, which happens in September, takes the idea of a film festival as a totally artistic endeavor to the next level, hosting not just a film competition, but a music festival, StorySlam event and a photo exhibit featuring the work of some of the world’s premier jazz and rock ‘n’ roll photographers.

Toronto Urban Film Festival
• Toronto, Ontario, Canada; www.torontourbanfilmfestival.com
More akin to a public art installation than a traditional film festival, the Toronto Urban Film Festival (TUFF) takes “undergound” moviemaking to a literal level. This 10-day, totally public, September event actually screens urban-themed films to more than one million commuters via the ONESTOP TTC subway platform screens in Toronto. By the numbers: Films screen every 10 minutes on 270 screens in 50 subways stations across the city.

Traverse City Film Festival
• Traverse City, MI; www.traversecityfilmfest.org
Traverse City Film Festival founder Michael Moore may stir controversy with his own filmography, but his five-year-old summer film festival is committed to one simple idea: “Just Great Movies.” Last year, more than 80,000 people got into the spirit for a program that included more than 100 films. Unlike some festivals that are out to make a quick buck, Traverse City is a nonprofit, charitable organization that even presents a lineup of classic movies on a giant, inflatable outdoor screen that is totally free to the public. MM