The 25 Coolest Film Festivals in the World, 2014

With “a standout venue in the State Theater, which the festival has restored to movie-palace grandeur,” panelists like Traverse City’s inclusive, inviting programming. Festival founder Michael Moore is “a ubiquitous presence, introducing films and moderating post-show discussions” on the shores of Lake Michigan. Speaking of which, lucky guests enjoy the Movies on a Boat experience, watching films (like this year’s Snowpiercer and The One I Love) on a sailboat that cruises around the bay.


Liming with locals at the Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival

Liming with locals at the Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival

  • Trinidad & Tobago Film Festival // Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago // September 2015 //

“A hip and trendy place” with a laid-back vibe, our panelist enjoyed “liming [i.e. hanging out] with industry and locals at the bars in Port of Spain after an afternoon and evening of screenings.” Sounds like paradise. The festival “supports the Caribbean filmmaking scene as a whole, as well as individual filmmakers, extending its coolness beyond borders.” Extracurriculars include a workshop on film appreciation, and an industry networking event billed as group speed dating.


  • True/False Film Festival // Columbia, MO // March 5-8, 2015 //

No ambivalence here—this doc fest is fun. Our panelists say: “Every film is an event—music to accompany films, food, an opening party that’s also a costume ball.” They also appreciate the “deep, philosophical conversation” and “warmth of the community,” which “help you to forget this fest is set in Columbia, Missouri in the dead of winter.” Between the colorful “March March Parade” and the “Boone Dawdle” (a bike ride and trip up the Missouri river, accompanied by live musicians), the coolest reason to visit may simply be “co-founder David Wilson’s incredible hair.”


Glitz and glamour at the Zurich Film Festival in 2014

Glitz and glamour at the Zurich Film Festival in 2014

  • Zürich Film Festival // Zürich, Switzerland // September—October, 2015 //

The rapidly ascending, ineffably classy Zürich Film Festival “attracts all the ‘cool kids’ in the industry,” according to a panelist. “You have the power of a big festival with the marquee films, stars, guests and events, yet it remains intimate in the cozy confines of Zürich in late September—one of the best settings you can find for a festival in Europe.” Programs include “New World View”, which presents new talent from a specific country each year, as well as an excellent Master Class series and a finance forum. MM

This article appears in MovieMaker‘s Fall issue, hitting newsstands both physical and digital on November 25, 2014. Illustration by Nick Shepherd.

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  1. mohit

    February 16, 2019 at 1:06 am

    Coolest Film Festivals in the World? and the reason is thet there were the only festivals were Judging Panel were probable.

  2. gauoravv

    February 16, 2019 at 1:05 am

    bollywood movies are great. i am big fan of bollywood.

  3. Pinkcity Royals

    July 31, 2018 at 2:33 am

    Life is a festival only to the wise. India is a land of different culture and people who belongs to different community but love to celebrate all festival together. To know about such festival plz visit:

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  6. Michael

    November 22, 2014 at 4:39 pm

    This is pretty lame list MovieMaker Mag! Last year you had it right when you had your READERS vote for the top 25 coolest festivals…. this year you have a small panel of judges… none of which have been to Dances With Films in Los Angeles (which, btw, was the ONLY film festival that was in the top 25 last year remotely close to Los Angeles)…. be that as it may…. having a tiny group of judges is completely stupid because: 1] They have not been to all the festivals in the world (duh)… and 2] They undoubtedly have bias. A list is a list is a list… and they are all subjective… but seriously?… no, really… seriously?

  7. Kate McClintic

    November 22, 2014 at 11:10 am

    Maybe not the “coolest” this year though it has been previously, certainly one of the loveliest, most gracious, most convenient, and most enjoyable film fests in the world is the Beaufort, SC, International Film Fest in Beaufort, SC (between Savannah, GA and Charleston, SC). Beside great films, there are wonderful restaurants, a variety of places to stay, shops, and historic sites–all within walking distance. Also great hiking, biking, kayaking (on three of the cleanest rivers in the US) and a golf course within spitting distance in all directions to suit all budgets. If you haven’t seen the South, this is the way to see it!

  8. James

    November 18, 2014 at 11:15 pm

    I have been going to the Hong Kong International Film Festival for the past 13 years. It is many things, but cooler than festivals absent from your list like Sitges, PiFan, Yubari and FrightFest? I think not.

  9. Eric Freeman

    November 18, 2014 at 1:06 pm

    Great list, however, filmmakers don’t care if a film festival is “cool”. They want to sell their movie so they can make another movie. How about making a list of festivals where a filmmaker can actually have a chance at selling their film? You know, a truly independent festival that isn’t just a joke like Sundance.

  10. Robert Cano

    November 18, 2014 at 12:16 pm

    Filmmakers and guests consistently tell us year after year that The Long Beach Q Film Festival is the most intimate and enjoyable film fest that they have attended.

  11. Hilary McCarthy

    November 18, 2014 at 12:12 pm

    not forgetting the weird and wonderful Corona Fastnet Film Fest in Schull, West Cork in May!

  12. Maggie jury

    November 18, 2014 at 3:23 am

    Great piece to see and if anyone would like to come over to the Galway Film fleadh, it’s usually on in July along with a few other festivals we have here.

    We’d love to have you for the month 🙂

  13. son

    November 18, 2014 at 2:58 am

    Coolest Film Festivals in the World? and the reason is thet there were the only festivals were Judging Panel were probable.

  14. Szymon

    November 18, 2014 at 2:05 am

    Nowe Horyzonty in Wrocław (Poland) is a really great festival.

  15. Gerhardus

    November 17, 2014 at 4:04 pm


  16. Kristian Berg

    November 17, 2014 at 12:34 pm

    Yeah, well, um – Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival – Taos Shortz Film Fest – Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival – Woodstock Film Festival. My two cents.

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