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The 25 Coolest Film Festivals in the World, 2017

The 25 Coolest Film Festivals in the World, 2017

Festivals

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

DJ Michelle Leshem spins at Miami Film Festival’s “The Standard Affair” party, March 8, 2017. Courtesy of Miami Film Festival

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

Sittin’ on the dock of the lake: Midnight Sun Film Festival-goers soak in the June 2017 edition. Photograph by Antti Yrjönen

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 Film Festival board member Ben Stiller takes part in a 2017 panel. Courtesy of Nantucket Film Festival

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?

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6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Tom Luca

    July 26, 2017 at 6:39 pm

    Interesting, Thank You

  2. Avatar

    Elliot

    July 26, 2017 at 11:31 pm

    Too bad your panelists don’t spend more time in Europe

    Two omissions spring to mind:
    Brussels International Fantasy Film Festival where audiences sing through the movies and London Raindance where you could easily sit next to John Cleese, Danny Boyle or Iggy Pop

  3. Avatar

    liz

    July 27, 2017 at 12:51 am

    Those festivals DO sound interesting. However, any list of cool festivals really should include the Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal. Directors, producers and stars rave about it and the reception that they get there. The audience is SO enthusiastic! (And no, I do not work there, I am just a very big fan, since the very beginning, in 1996!)
    http://www.fantasiafestival.com/festival/2017/en

  4. Avatar

    Dottie

    August 2, 2017 at 9:47 am

    The places for a documentary focusing on the sea and the environmental issues of our day might be Telluride Mountainfilm Festival or Sheffield DocFest.

  5. Avatar

    Dottie M

    August 2, 2017 at 9:47 am

    The places for a documentary focusing on the sea and the environmental issues of our day might be Telluride Mountainfilm Festival or Sheffield DocFest.

  6. Avatar

    Jeni Kaybee

    September 1, 2017 at 12:06 am

    The cool thing about La Grande, Oregon’s festival are the core people who have been pivotal and passionate about presenting a wide variety of thought-provoking and creative groundbreaking independent film. On the side, they also present some incredible afterparties for those three days with adventurous music. It’s just incredible that all this happens within a two block core of downtown…accommodations for visitors (and visiting film makers and musicians) with places to stay, restaurants, bars, and unique hometown businesses. I look forward to this every year; it’s La Grande’s premiere cultural multi-media event…hands down! I have met some great quality folks at EOFF.

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