Maryland Film Festival / Baltimore, Maryland / May 2018
The personal touch is strong with this one. Outside of your standard new indie hits, Maryland Film Festival celebrates the tastes of its community with special programming: board member John Waters presents a film of his choice each year (last year it was Noel Marshall’s Roar), as does the fest’s annual guest host (who has ranged from Henry Rollins to activist DeRay Mckesson). The festival has just moved back into the renovated Stavros Niarchos Foundation Parkway complex, home to the 1915 Parkway Theatre—an appropriate setting for “[one of] the most important festivals in the U.S. for American independent filmmakers,” one that’s “helped launch the careers of under-the-radar filmmakers like Stephen Cone, Josephine Decker and Anna Biller,” notes a panelist.
Miami Film Festival / Miami, FL / March 9-18, 2018
Home to beaches, Barry Jenkins and the Borscht filmmaking collective, Florida’s made a strong showing in recent editions of this list. This year, MFF is repping the Sunshine State. “Like the city it takes place in, MFF brings the best of the United States and Latin America together. The parties, food and atmosphere are unparalleled,” says a panelist, who adds that “the experience of seeing a film at the Olympia Theater—a silent-era movie palace that’s truly grand—will make you feel sad to stream for years to come.” Watch out, though, there’s a small caveat: “Your ability to take full advantage of the festival depends on the traffic.”
Midnight Sun Film Festival / Sodankylä, Finland / June 13-17, 2018
Time becomes immaterial in Sodankylä, just above the Arctic Circle, where during the first weeks of June the sun never sets. Accordingly, films screen round the clock at this more-than-a-little-surreal festival. You might stumble into a 4 a.m. screening in the circus-like Big Tent that serves as the main venue, or attend a concert presenting scores by Bernard Herrmann, Ennio Morricone and others in the town church. This “cinephile’s dream,” a panelist says, runs not just on solar power but also “lots and lots of booze”—though “in the unlikely event you grow tired of drinking or watching films, you can enjoy an authentic sauna, then hop into one of the area’s many lakes.”
Montclair Film Festival / Montclair, NJ / April 27 – May 6, 2018
“Stephen Colbert can be found at this festival often,” observes a panelist, “which is awesome!” The resident talk host held conversations with guests John Turturro and Bill Nye at MFF this year—and we suspect he enjoyed this edition’s panel discussion on “fake news,” too. Other board members at this starry little event include J.J. Abrams, Laura Linney, Patrick Wilson, Jon Stewart and more, but it maintains a small-town coziness. “The main theater where we screened, the BowTie Cinemas Clairidge Cinema, is home to many great independent films,” says our panelist. “The venues and overall festival are very intimate.”
Nantucket Film Festival / Nantucket, Massachusetts / June 20-25, 2018
Nantucket, as one panelist points out, is “one of the only festivals in the country to put an emphasis on screenwriters.” Indeed, the festival puts on a glitzy awards ceremony for screenwriting honorees, hosted by board member Ben Stiller, and partners with Screenwriters Colony to offer a month-long residency for a chosen few. Other fun programs include a Late Night Letters event (i.e. live readings of letters to and from famous people) and an All-Star Comedy Roundtable. Plus, Nantucket in the summer—sandy dunes, delicious food, no stoplights. Do we really need to convince you?