BAMcinemaFest / New York City, NY / June 2018
“Killer programming. Curation at its finest. A New York premiere at a historical venue. What more could you ask for?” says a panelist, who concludes: “Every day of this festival is choice.” That venue is the 150-plus-year-old Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), which also hosts the Migrating Forms showcase we’ve featured on previous editions of this list. Beyond the circuit hits fresh off Park City and Austin, this year—the BAMcinemaFest’s ninth—hosted the world premiere of Jim McKay’s En el Séptimo Día, and the North American premiere of James Kienitz Wilkins’ Common Carrier—two films, like many others in the slim line-up, by Brooklyn-based creators. You know what they say: Watch local.
Cartagena Film Festival / Cartagena, Columbia / March 2018
FICCI (that’s Festival Internacional de Cine de Cartagena de Indias) is a hub for Ibero-American film, offering a work-in-progress lab, producers forum and salon under its Puerto FICCI banner. At 57, this is the oldest film festival in Latin America, but also one of the liveliest. Its annual Cine en los Barrios program brings films to non-traditional settings—hospitals, churches, jails—all across Bolívar. “In the beautiful hills of Cartagena’s Old City, seeing films and mixing with fellow cinephiles is a true pleasure,” says a panelist. “Cartegena is an antidote for the winter blues. The white sand beaches are the perfect break from the darkness of the theaters.”
Chicago International Film Festival / Chicago, IL / Oct. 12-26, 2017
“I had one of the best weekends of my life at Chicago International Film Festival a couple years ago,” says a panelist. “There is something reinvigorating and pure about a regional film festival, which can help reinstall your passion for cinema.” Like many great festivals, however, CIFF is part of a larger complex of programming that is much more than just one weekend: Other year-round events put on by parent organization Cinema/Chicago center on youth filmmakers, television, education, international cinema… all of which draw upon the windy city’s cultural riches.
Eastern Oregon Film Festival / La Grande, OR / Oct. 19-21, 2017
Celebrating its eighth year in the bosom of Eastern Oregon’s Blue Mountains, EOFF seems, on the surface, about as far away from “cool” as you can get—but maybe that’s the secret. With a 13,000-odd population, the tiny city of La Grande has quietly fostered a hand-crafted festival that delivers quality and a wide-open sensibility without much hubbub. From the cozy confines of the Granada 3 Theatre to the down-home events that highlight the festival’s slender selection, there is an undeniable love of good independent cinema with a healthy dose of hospitality and who-knows-what-might-happen intimacy.
Fantastic Fest / Austin, TX / Sept. 21-28, 2017
“It feels unfair to have two Austin-based organizations on here twice,” notes a panelist (see SXSW, below), “but if you are a diehard fan of genre, very few programs are as good as Fantastic Fest. It’s always weird in the best possible way.” Fantastic Fest is a film nerd’s dream gone sideways. When you aren’t taking in the best in genre movies, there are more crazy events than you can shake a stick at. Putt-Putt golf party? Check. Star Wars drinking competition? Check. A pre-screening meal serving up the unlikely delicacy of Nutria (i.e. giant swamp rat)? Sure. Whatever floats your boat.