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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

New Orleans Film Festival 

October 16-23, 2019 / New Orleans, Louisiana /

New Orleans is nothing if not a city for new discoveries, so it makes sense that NOFF prides itself on being a discovery fest, with 90 percent of its 230-plus screenings coming from submissions. “Flip to any page of the catalogue and you’re guaranteed to find something great to watch,” promises a panelist. The submissions are filtered for diversity, with a minimum 50 percent ratio of women (or non-conforming) moviemakers and a minimum 45 percent ratio of moviemakers of color for the final lineup. You’ll likely spend free moments in a food coma, dancing to live music pumping through a historic mansion, or taking in the view of the Mississippi. “You’ll fall more in love with the city while casually meeting brilliant filmmakers,” the panelist says. “Festivals can sometimes be an overwhelming experience, but NOFF makes it easy.”

(L to R) Kristen Yoonsoo Kim (Film Critic), Peter Farrelly (Director), Nick Vallelonga (Screenwriter), Brian Currie (Screenwriter), Mike Hatton (Actor), Paul Sloan (Actor) at the Opening Night Greenbook screening Q&A. Photograph by Aaron Sarles

Oak Cliff Film Festival 

June 2020 / Dallas, Texas /

“Oak Cliff has quickly become the most fun fest in Texas,” proclaims a panelist. “Sorry, SXSW.” An analog fest in the best sense of the word, OCFF was created to spotlight the burgeoning Dallas moviemaking community and to promote Oak Cliff’s rich history by utilizing Dallas venues such as the Texas Theatre (where Lee Harvey Oswald was apprehended after assassinating JFK). That theater is the principal location for the OCFF, and it projects in 16mm and 35mm. The OCFF’s proprietors have greeted almost all out-of-town moviemakers and jury members with airfare and free lodging. Says one panelist: “OCFF is filmmaker-run, champions top-notch work in a relaxed atmosphere, and feels connected to both its neighborhood and the nationwide film community, attracting an audience that skews younger and hipper than the aver- age general-interest fest.” This year’s edition included a rare screening of Yasujirō Ozu’s 1933 silent film Dragnet Girl with live musical accompaniment.

(L to R) Festival staffers Rebecca Case, Ashton Campbell,  Jason Reimer, Lisa Normand, Parker May, Barak Epstein at Oak Cliff 2019’s Opening Welcome. Photograph by Danny Fulgencio

Palm Springs International Film Festival 

January 2-13, 2020 / Palm Springs, California /

Described by a panelist as a “rubberneckers’ fantasia” where celebrities come to “practice their charmingly off-the-cuff, improvisational teary acceptance speeches,” this film festival is more than just a dry run for Oscar night. It offers a curated, mature programming slate: 12 days of narrative, documentary and short subjects from over 60 countries courtesy of (until earlier this year) Artistic Director and moviemaker Michael Lerman. Our panelist summarizes the task of the curation team: to deliver an engaging, inspiring program while also “throwing parties in air museums.”

Regard (Saguenay International Short Film Festival) 

March 13-17, 2019 / Saguenay, Québec, Canada /

This Oscar-qualifying event “has somehow been flying under the radar for over two decades,” says a panelist. “The fact that it’s located in a remote, former industry town and takes place in the middle of winter in Québec might explain why.” The festival, which recently celebrated its 23rd year, showcases over 200 works from the Québec area in the genres of documentary short, youth short, animated short, Canadian short, and more. The fest offers a cabaret nightly and networking breakfasts.

Sculptor Thomas Meloche carves the festival’s logo in an ice block with a chainsaw. Photograph by Gwano

Rooftop Films 

May 17-August 24, 2019 / Brooklyn, New York /

“Talk about a festival punching way above its weight!,” a panelist exclaims. Artistic Director Dan Nuxoll’s baby holds its Summer Series screenings outdoors in “exotic places like hotel rooftops and Brooklyn’s historic Green-Wood Cemetery,” a panelist adds. Rooftop eschews juries and awards in favor of setting aside $1 for every ticket sold and offering cash grants and equipment/service grants to alumni moviemakers. Of its off-beat programming, a panelist explains, “Not every film is for everyone, and that’s exactly why Rooftop is always on my radar. There are always a few films their team digs up that seem to have slipped by unnoticed at other festivals.” Shouting out its “enthusiastic participants and beer-y, mingle-y after-parties,” a panelist lauds the fest’s commitment to “the old-fashioned communal spirit of moviegoing—brought back, here, with a vengeance in this age of algorithmically-bespoke solo cellphone binge-views.”

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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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