The 25 Coolest Film Festivals in the World, 2018

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What is it you’re after—the art of cool, or the cool of art?

The fact is, all of the most imaginative, surprising, and downright wild destinations tend to blur the fine line between the two. If the art of cool is measured by a fest’s ability to work with whatever iconic venues, raucous bars, and endearing local oddities its environment affords, then the cool of art is what’s waiting to be found within those stomping grounds—envelope-pushing programming, events that have never before been tried, let alone seen, and guests not afraid to make good trouble as they set trends.

Chances are, if you’re on staff at one of the 25 places that slid into this 2018 Coolest Film Festivals list, you earned yourself a spot not just by being cool, but by building a space for effortlessly cool creatives to live, grow, exhibit, and of course, party into the wee hours. Taking cues from the eclectic endorsements of six trusted industry panelists—whose day jobs range from writer-director to programmer to publicist to critic to somewhere in between—we settled on some playgrounds for every big boy and girl moviemaker planning to transform their standard festival run into an epically proportioned, legendarily memorable world tour.

In 2018, a recurring theme among our picks is that the only thing more important than who you might meet at a fest is where, and how, you’ll meet your inevitable partners-in-crime. (A Croatian countryside hayride or a cruise ship decked with drunken antics, or a screening with seating in an historic cemetery, or a hot tub, for instance, would all make the opening line of your next tall travel tale pretty hard for your uninitiated friends to top.)

Finally, rad times require radder films. To wit, many of our picks’ programming wields a social consciousness to be reckoned with, and these fests’ often culturally and politically subversive bent are what not only challenge norms from the outside, but bring new voices of all backgrounds inside the clubs of their creation as well. And really, what’s cooler than that?  — Max Weinstein

2018 Panel of Cool

2018 Panel of Cool

Kevin Arbouet is a writer-director named one of MovieMaker’s 25 Screenwriters to Watch in 2017. He’s currently writing a movie musical for the Oscar-winning producer James Skotchdopole and a thriller for Shannon McIntosh. His film Benji the Dove, which he directed and adapted from a best-selling novel, opens in theaters this fall. 

Nathaniel Baruch is the Senior Director of Publicity for Brigade Marketing. He has spearheaded campaigns with Brigade co-owner Adam Kersh for six years, working on such projects as Feras Fayyad’s Oscar-nominated Last Men in Aleppo, Sara Driver’s Boom For Real, Alejandro Jodorowsky’s Endless Poetry, Ana Lily Amirpour’s The Bad Batch, and Keith Maitland’s Oscar-shortlisted Tower among others. Previously he started his career at Palm Pictures and worked as Manager of Publicity at IFC Films.  

Jordan Cronk is a film critic and programmer based in Los Angeles. He founded the Acropolis Cinema screening series in January 2016, and is Co-Director of the Locarno in Los Angeles Film Festival. He’s a regular contributor to Film Comment and Sight & Sound, and writes a monthly column on L.A. repertory cinema for The Hollywood Reporter.

Dennis Dembia is the Executive Vice President of Rogers & Cowan’s corporate entertainment content division, handling worldwide marketing for the company’s renowned roster of film and television clients. He manages strategic campaign PR initiatives for leading production companies, financiers, distributors, studios, and government-backed initiatives and works with major international film festivals around the globe.

Gillian Horvat is a Los Angeles-based moviemaker, writer, and film programmer who won the Jury Award for Midnight Short at SXSW in 2015. Her films have been showcased on Short of the Week and as Vimeo Staff Picks. Lately, she’s been producing short documentaries for boutique distributors Olive Films and Arrow Films.

Madeleine Olnek is so uncool she’s cool! She’s a Guggenheim fellow who has shown four films at Sundance, including her features, Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same and The Foxy Merkins. Her newest feature Wild Nights With Emily stars Molly Shannon as Emily Dickinson, premiered at SXSW in 2018, and is currently on the festival circuit.

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2 Comments

  1. ron

    July 10, 2018 at 5:10 pm

    How about calling it “Our reviewers 25 favorite festivals” — for these are festivals that your jury has presumably been to and likes — and that’s fine. To call it the world’s 25 coolest is a wee bit presumptuous, no?

  2. Duncan Putney

    July 9, 2018 at 2:52 pm

    Have you heard about the Flickers – Children’s Hospitals International Film Festival (CHIFF)? This new and growing festival provides a free program of new and amazing short films to the patients of children’s hospitals in the US and Canada (and soon Europe) and its the kids who vote on the award winners at each two week hospital event. CHIFF is part of the Rhode Island International Film Festival. CHIFF was recently endorsed by the US Surgeon General who said that great films are great medicine. How cool is that? You can find CHIFF on Facebook and Twitter using @FlickersCHIFF.

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