The 25 Coolest Film Festivals in the World, 2017

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Keith Richards said it best: “If you gotta think about being cool, you ain’t cool.”

The 25 rare birds on our 2017 Coolest Film Festivals in the World list come in all shapes and sizes, but one thing holds true about them all—they have a certain something that makes attendees not want to leave. Be it perfect programming or insane all-night ragers, these fests distill everything that’s fun about making and watching movies, bottle up that funk, and slow-pour it into a flaming celluloid shot glass for your pleasure.

As in previous years, we got a little help from our friends in assembling this tasting menu—eight friends, to be exact, whose roles in the industry run the gamut: writer-director, podcast host, programmer, publicist, producer. Their anecdote-filled nominations helped us piece the following together—and every year, the list acts as a reflection of what each panel truly values in an experience. 2017’s trends? One: Venues really matter, be they open-air piazzas or some of America’s most iconic picture palaces. And two: A little celebrity never hurts, with famous festival board members like Ben Stiller, Alec Baldwin and John Waters giving some of these events their stamps of approval.

So where do your priorities lie? Would you rather be dancing with a Serbian princess after taking in a Tarkovsky retrospective, screaming out film karaoke with a hundred of your new closest friends, or skinny-dipping in a freezing lake after 24 solid hours of avant-garde cinema?

Don’t worry, it’s OK to pick “all of the above.” – Greg Hamilton and Kelly Leow

2017 Panel of Cool

Janicza Bravo is the writer-director of Lemon (opening August 25, 2017, courtesy of Magnolia Pictures), the short “Gregory Go Boom,” and episodes of FX’s Atlanta, HBO’s Divorce and Netflix’s Love series. She was raised on an army base in Panama City and currently lives in L.A.

Michelle Carey is the artistic director of Melbourne International Film Festival in Australia. She is also a programmer for the long-running Melbourne Cinémathèque, and serves as film festivals editor at the online film journal Senses of Cinema.

Jeremy Chilnick is an Emmy-nominated writer and producer. He is co-founder, partner and COO at Morgan Spurlock’s production company, Warrior Poets. His most recent credits include the documentaries The Pistol Shrimps, Vlogumentary, Rats and The Eagle Huntress.

Justin Chon has worked as an actor for over 15 years. As a writer-director, his first feature film, Man Up, was distributed by Lakeshore Entertainment. His latest project, Gook, opens in select theaters on August 18, 2017, courtesy of Samuel Goldwyn Films.

Greg Hamilton is a MovieMaker contributor, film curator and member of the board of directors at the Hollywood Theatre in Portland, OR. He recently served as programming director for the Julien-Dubuque International Film Festival. He is the director of the upcoming documentary short “Thou Shall Not Tailgate.”

Adam Kersh is the co-founder of the PR and digital marketing firm Brigade, where he heads up the publicity division. He has executed marketing and publicity strategies for hundreds of films, series and clients, including Sean Baker’s Tangerine, the Duplass Brothers’ Togetherness, Andrew Haigh’s Weekend and others.

Violet Lucca is the digital producer of Film Comment magazine and host of The Film Comment Podcast. She regularly contributes writing to Sight & Sound, The Village Voice and Brooklyn Magazine. Her short film, “Victoria’s Secret,” screened at AFI Fest in 2007.

Jeff Orlowski is an Emmy-winning filmmaker and founder of Exposure Labs. His latest documentary, Chasing Coral, continues the momentum of his previous environmental doc feature Chasing Ice (2012). In 2016, Orlowski was named the inaugural Sundance Discovery Impact Fellow for environmental filmmaking.

The 25 festivals await! Continue reading.

Read previous Coolest Film Festivals in the World lists: 2016, 2015 and 2014.

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6 Comments

  1. Jeni Kaybee

    September 1, 2017 at 12:06 am

    The cool thing about La Grande, Oregon’s festival are the core people who have been pivotal and passionate about presenting a wide variety of thought-provoking and creative groundbreaking independent film. On the side, they also present some incredible afterparties for those three days with adventurous music. It’s just incredible that all this happens within a two block core of downtown…accommodations for visitors (and visiting film makers and musicians) with places to stay, restaurants, bars, and unique hometown businesses. I look forward to this every year; it’s La Grande’s premiere cultural multi-media event…hands down! I have met some great quality folks at EOFF.

  2. Dottie M

    August 2, 2017 at 9:47 am

    The places for a documentary focusing on the sea and the environmental issues of our day might be Telluride Mountainfilm Festival or Sheffield DocFest.

  3. Dottie

    August 2, 2017 at 9:47 am

    The places for a documentary focusing on the sea and the environmental issues of our day might be Telluride Mountainfilm Festival or Sheffield DocFest.

  4. liz

    July 27, 2017 at 12:51 am

    Those festivals DO sound interesting. However, any list of cool festivals really should include the Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal. Directors, producers and stars rave about it and the reception that they get there. The audience is SO enthusiastic! (And no, I do not work there, I am just a very big fan, since the very beginning, in 1996!)
    http://www.fantasiafestival.com/festival/2017/en

  5. Elliot

    July 26, 2017 at 11:31 pm

    Too bad your panelists don’t spend more time in Europe

    Two omissions spring to mind:
    Brussels International Fantasy Film Festival where audiences sing through the movies and London Raindance where you could easily sit next to John Cleese, Danny Boyle or Iggy Pop

  6. Tom Luca

    July 26, 2017 at 6:39 pm

    Interesting, Thank You

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