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The 25 Coolest Film Festivals in the World, 2019

The 25 Coolest Film Festivals in the World, 2019

MovieMaker Coolest Film Festival Festivals

Annual Lists


August 2-10, 2019 / Prizren, Kosovo /

For documentary connoisseurs, DokuFest, now in its 18th year, offers a uniquely enviable competition slate of nonfiction. The bounty of over 100 documentaries as well as shorts and experimental subjects resenting over 40 countries are meticulously curated into programs including: human rights docs, green docs, Balkan-focused docs, and docs of international interest. Other specialty curations include the festival’s “View From the World” strand and its “Truth” strand: these are multidisciplinary mood pieces coupled with outdoor exhibitions, artist talks, workshops and live music performances to create a full-sensory thematic experience. A panelist notes: “Few festivals get as much right as DokuFest does. Their programming team brings some of the best films of the year to a small town in Kosovo, where international filmmakers, industry, and locals gather to watch.” We haven’t even gotten into the late-night parties where Mykki Blanco and Princess Nokia have performed.

Gimli Film Festival 

July 2020 / Gimli, Manitoba /

Showcasing the works of Manitobans and Canadians (and beyond) for the last 18 years, this film festival offers features and documentaries and hosts competitions with cash prizes. Films are screened in four indoor venues in addition to “RBC Sunset Screenings.” “They show movies projected on a giant floppy screen on the beach,” explains a panelist. “It’s a bring your own chairs and beers situation. Local luminary Guy Maddin (My Winnipeg) traipses over from his nearby cottage to introduce movies and make you laugh, and weep. You’ll probably never get there yourself—they don’t have the money to fly you in—but they’ll send you T-shirts, water bottles, and stickers and e-mail you sweet thank you notes!” The 2019 fest will also present Cinema Outside the Box, an exploration of cinema beyond single-channel film that includes live multimedia performances, art installations, and VR projects.

Illustration by Wenjia Tang

Glasgow Short Film Festival 

March 18-22, 2020 / Glasgow, Scotland /

The Glasgow Short Film Festival is the largest competitive short festival in Scotland, and prides itself on a collaborative, global spirit. A “fun fest with lots of art film programming and different voices,” GSFF boasts an “incredibly kind and welcoming staff with interesting and international programming,” says a panelist. It also focuses on mentoring, offering learning and networking events, panels, workshops, one-on-one sessions, and jury prizes, all designed to bolster emerging talent. And not to be outdone, it also rivals the parties and live music performances of the best bash-throwers on the circuit.

Art collective Soda Jerk unwind after the opening screening of their film Terror Nullius at Glasgow Short Film Festival. Photograph by Ingrid Mur

Indie Grits Festival

March 2020 / Columbia, South Carolina /

What began as a startup festival for experimental film enthusiasts has grown, 13 years on, into a cinema signal beaming out to artistically curious, progressive, independent minds the world over. Indie Grits Festival is hosted by the Nickelodeon Theatre — South Carolina’s only non-profit arthouse. Festival alumni have shown at SXSW and Sundance, and IGF goes over-board to accommodate emerging talent, offering a moviemaker lodging/travel fund, a moviemaker lounge, panels, interview opportunities, awards and prizes. The top prize of $1,000 is known as the Top Grit; there’s the Big Grit, for $500, the People’s Grit for $250, and so on. (Though strangely, there is no True Grit.) Says one panelist: “I love the Nickelodeon Theater and Seth Gadsden and his team do a great job at not only regionally-specific programming, but also creating a community and delivering a good time in Columbia—who knew? All of that creates a specific brand and experience that make for a creativity-conducive festival.”

Moviemaker Charlotte Taylor leads the Kindie Grits Animation Workshop at Indie Grits 2019. Photograph by Sean Rayford

Indie Memphis Film Festival 

October 30-November 4, 2019 / Memphis, Tennessee /

Under Miriam Bale—“an Artistic Director with impeccable, diverse taste and a major industry force,” says a panelist—the IMFF has mushroomed into a must-attend happening, owing to its culturally-attuned events like the Black Creators Forum, a two-day symposium of workshops and talks by notable black moviemakers and critics, and for its in-person conversations with moviemakers like 2018 guests Amy Seimetz and Chris Elliott. Attendees are invited to gorge on indie features, documentaries and shorts (over 275 films were screened in 2018, to record attendance) and save energy for the weekend portion, centering on a block party in Midtown with world-class BBQ, fried chicken, and live music. (IMFF is one of a few film festivals to offer live music before every screening.) Adds one panelist: “Cool panels on timely matters, an all-around good vibe, and intelligent programming: This festival feels very thoughtful, well-conceived, and loved. Indie Memphis always takes risks, often takes chances on retrospectives, and gets crowds to the films.”

Sorry to Bother You writer-director Boots Riley delivers a keynote speech at Indie Memphis Film Festival 2018. Photograph by Andrea Morales

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  1. The Artis Center in Naples, Fl is really extraordinary. It’s the hub of performing arts, music, and film in Southwest Florida. It’s the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and Boston Symphony all in one – with art and entertainment for all ages. One of the things that impressed me most was the cultural campus for children, with programs for art and music in the form of summer camps, infusing art and music (and the importance of it) at a young age.

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