Upcoming: June 1-7
This will be the debut of the LGBTQIA+ virtual film festival, which dubs itself “the queerest fest on the net.” The late deadline for entries is Saturday, May 16 (that’s tomorrow, if you’re reading this on the day we published) and there’s also a Queering the Quarantine contest that will lead into it. Festival titles will include Michael Barnett’s Changing the Game and Leon Le’s Song Lang. Audiences will also be able to take part in interactive online Q&As and discussions about the state of queer art, film, and media. It’s a great way to go into Pride Month.
Oxford has done something truly innovative: In lieu of an online festival that runs for a set period of time, it is presenting new films every single week — and the non-profit film festival is splitting the proceeds with filmmakers. Oxford is one of the best-regarded festivals around, and executive director Melanie Addington has taken on a crucial role in helping festival organizers find the best way forward given the many unexpected challenges of 2020. She wrote this piece for MovieMaker last month urging festivals to remember to focus on filmmakers first, and urged them to adjust their eligibility policies to make it easier for films to screen online. She also took part in our podcast about online festival dos and don’ts. Best of all, the Oxford Film Festival website has been a vibrant and lively home not only for films, but for conversations around them. Oxford is among many festivals taking a raise-all-boats approach to getting through this.
Happened: April 29 to May 5
As Addington notes in the podcast referenced immediately above, one additional benefit of online film festivals is that they offer increased access to film for viewers with disabilities that prevent them from leaving home. The Reel Abilities festival has always championed people with disabilities, and held three separate events out of Mexico City, Boston and New York to champion their stories. You can still watch inspiring performances and talks here. Reel Abilities’ Real Education program, meanwhile, offers year-round resources to teach students about “inclusion, empathy, universal design, mental health and stereotypes, as well as attitudinal and employment barriers,” according to its website.
Happened: March 17-22
The San Luis Obispo International Film Festival innovated by existing — and as far as we can tell, appears to have been the first film festival to move online. When it was very suddenly forced to cancel because of COVID-19, festival director Wendy Eidson quickly reached out to filmmakers to ask if they’d still like to show their films online. The festival also took security measures to protect films against piracy. The festival’s ingenuity provided proof of concept for other festivals that a virtual fest was possible. Eidson joined EarthxFilm’s Michael Cain and Oxford’s Melanie Addington on our podcast about online film festival dos and don’ts, sharing some of the lessons she learned with her groundbreaking presentation. And here’s our full story about how SLO pulled it off — providing a sense of normalcy and calm at a very uncertain time, before any of us knew what the future held.
Happened: April 27-May 10
This is another festival that smarty and smoothly pivoted online — and helped produce a hilarious all-kids zombie movie in the process. The World’s Largest Zombie Movie features kids in quarantine from 17 countries acting out a full-scale zombie invasion. Tell me again how you can’t be creative during a pandemic? It’s free, but you’re encouraged to donate. You can also still watch online Q&As and panels with filmmakers, thought it’s a little confusing to see Zoom panelists wearing sweaters at an event hosted from sunny Sarasota. The fest offers all-access passes for $30, or $3.99 for individual films or short programs. The schedule was packed, as we wrote about here. “Now more than ever we feel the demand for entertainment and we are excited to work with local organizations to not only bring delightful and engaging films but ones that highlight the Sarasota and Florida community as a hub for the arts and as a global destination,” said Mark Famiglio, co-founder and president of the Sarasota Film Festival. “We thank all the filmmakers for sharing their work with us and hope our dedicated and loyal audiences find comfort and intrigue in these unique stories and voices.”
Happened: March 27-April 6
SXSW paired up with the gargantuan Amazon to offer a free selection of films that couldn’t play at SXSW after its abrupt cancellation. It wasn’t quite a “film festival” — it was promoted as a “film festival collection,” hence the asterisk. But we didn’t want you think we just ignored it. Unfortunately several of the films that were bound for SXSW still haven’t gotten distribution deals, including several excellent docs we list here, among them The Donut King and M for Magic. We hope you’ll be able to see them soon, and can’t wait for SXSW’s return.
Tribeca hasn’t gone online, but Robert De Niro’s festival is innovating all over the place, first with its Tribeca Talks: at Home series and with its planned IMAX collaboration on a drive-in film series this summer. But that’s not all it’s doing — see our next and final item.
Upcoming: May 29-June 7
This looks like a we-saved-the-best-for-last situation: We Are One is shaping up to be the biggest online film festival of all, and even better, it’s a giant fundraiser for COVID-19 relief. It’s a collaboration between 20 festivals from around the world: the Annecy International Animation Film Festival, Berlin International Film Festival, BFI London Film Festival, Cannes Film Festival, Guadalajara International Film Festival, International Film Festival & Awards Macao (IFFAM), Jerusalem Film Festival, Mumbai Film Festival, Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, Locarno Film Festival, Marrakech International Film Festival, New York Film Festival, Rotterdam International Film Festival (IFFR), San Sebastian International Film Festival, Sarajevo Film Festival, Sundance Film Festival, Sydney Film Festival, Tokyo International Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival, Tribeca Film Festival and Venice Film Festival. Love film? Love humanity? Love defeating pandemics? This one would seem to have something for everyone.
Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock