Plan a getaway to one of these amazing destinations and attend some of the best film festivals in 2023. Watch movies under the stars, relax on a small island on the East Coast, or travel to New York, Wisconsin, or California. Our list includes must-see film festivals in Wisconsin, Virginia, Missouri, New Jersey, Michigan, Florida and many more.
1. Beloit International Film Festival, Wisconsin
In 2023 the Beloit International Film Festival will celebrate 18 years of cinematic entertainment. What started off in 2006 as a brief weekend of film screenings has grown and grown. In 2022 the festival spanned 10 days and visitors were treated to 125 films shown at a dozen different venues around the town. Many film makers attend the ten day celebration of film and the atmosphere is vibrant and celebratory, even though the festival is held in February when the weather could be iffy. In addition to the screenings, the festival hosts workshops, social events and much more. If you plan to attend the next BIFF you need to book your Beloit accommodation well in advance.
435 3rd Street, Beloit, WI 53511, 608 466 9693
2. Nantucket Film Festival
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The Nantucket Film Festival is a writers’ festival whose mission is “to promote the cultural awareness and appreciation of the art of screenwriting in the world of cinema.” Every year for six days, the festival places the spotlight on screenwriters in contemporary cinema, showing the vital contribution of screenwriting to filmmaking.
Established in 1996 by Jill and Jonathan Burkhart, the festival has grown immensely in popularity, with movie enthusiasts from all over the world coming to see preview screenings of the most talked-about or controversial films and enjoy a range of signature programs such as the Screenwriters Tribute, which honors the achievements of prominent screenwriters.
The Nantucket Film Festival screens more than 100 films, both domestic and international, every year, including features, shorts, documentaries, and narratives from every genre, placing special emphasis on storytelling.
Good to know: Best Time to Visit Nantucket
3. San Luis Obispo International Film Festival
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The San Luis Obispo International Film Festival is a six-day annual event that showcases classic and contemporary films in a number of venues such as the city’s classic Art Deco Fremont Theatre and the independent Palm Theatre. The festival celebrates variety in the movies it shows, which include everything from topics documentaries on current topics to old and much loved cinema classics. Some of the screened independent films cannot be seen anywhere else outside the festival.
What all these films have in common is that they prove movies matter, whether they entertain, inspire, or educate. In parallel to the movie screenings, the festival has a range of Red Carpet Events that welcome Hollywood big names, wine tastings paired with special movies and special question and answer sessions with movie makers after screenings of their works take place.
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4. True/False Film Festival
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The annual True/False Film Festival, which has been held in the lively college town of Columbia, Missouri for the last 13 years, stopped being just a local event years ago. While the festival does not limit itself to any particular topic, nor does it advocates for or against any of the film’s subject matter, it does attempt to challenge viewers to think carefully and critically about the film content and to question their own assumptions.
During the four-day event, the festival screens about 60 of the best documentary films from all over the world at several locations around the town, and the event attracts a large number of movie industry insiders. The festival offers two awards: The True Vision Award, given to a filmmaker, and the True Life Fund, given to the subjects of a documentary film as a real, tangible form of assistance.
5. Montclair Film Festival
© Montclair Film Festival
The Montclear Film Festival is a Montclear, New Jersey community-based film event that quickly gained an excellent reputation with the film industry insiders and public alike. It was declared a favorite film festival and the winner of the Discover Jersey Arts 2012 People’s Choice Awards.
While international in nature, the festival’s focus is on establishing a cultural focal point in the town of Montclair and the region. After it was established, the festival quickly became an internationally acclaimed event during which organizers screen a wide range of films in seven venues. The festival has a diverse and rich public and offers educational programs between the festivals, with events such as Free Summer Series Under the Stars, Kidz Shortz Filmmaking Competition, and Free African American Heritage Month screenings.
6. Florida Film Festival
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The Florida Film Festival is the celebration of the best American independent films and foreign cinema productions. For the last 30 years, this 10-day Oscar-qualifying festival presents about 170 films in an American Independent Film Competition for feature productions, documentaries, shorts, and animation, as well as an International Spotlight Films that shows films already in distribution.
The viewers can also see select Florida student movies and Midnight Movies. Important elements of the event are special tributes, guests and screenings, panels and seminars. But, what everyone really comes to see is which of the American Independent films will qualify for Grand Jury Awards, Special Jury Awards, and Audience Awards at the Oscars.
7. New York International Children's Film Festival
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Founded in 1997, the New York International Children’s Film Festival is based on the belief that movies with disturbing and controversial topics are not beyond kids’ interest and understanding. The festival supports the production and dissemination of films for children from ages 3 to 18 that are intelligent, thoughtful, and provocative.
These films go beyond simply entertaining and encourage active and critical viewing, stimulate discussion about the topics movies depict, and generally develop kids’ appreciation for the arts.
Out of about 2,500 submissions from all over the world, the festival shows about 100 feature and short films during the one week of screenings, which take place in various venues all over NYC. Children as well as adults vote for the best films, which qualify for the Academy Award.
8. Traverse City Film Festival
© Traverse City Film Festival
The Traverse City Film Festival was co-founded in 2005 by the Oscar-winning filmmaker Michael Moore with the lofty goal of helping “save one of America's few indigenous art forms—the cinema.” The festival, held in Traverse City, Michigan, screens independent, documentary, and foreign films that are capable of enlightening and entertaining at the same time, benefiting the art of movie making instead of focusing on the bottom line.
One of the popular attractions of the festival is the showing of free classic movies on an enormous outdoor inflatable screen, and the festival’s panel discussions with the movie makers – actors, directors, writers and others – are always well-attended. During the festival, daily classes on filmmaking are offered for film students and film enthusiasts.
9. Boulder International Film Festival
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The Boulder International Film Festival is considered to be one of the most innovative and influential film festivals in the US. Founded in 2004 by Boulder filmmakers and sisters Kathy and Robin Beeck to celebrate "the bold spirit of independent filmmaking,” the festival is a filmmakers’ festival that focuses on great storytelling regardless of the budget spent on making a movie.
The festival screens movies created by some of the most renowned and established moviemakers, but also those of new, emerging talents. It aims to bring together moviemakers, the movie industry, the press, and movie buffs to enjoy four days of great movies, from unknown new feature films, animations, documentaries, and short films to those that have received Oscar nominations and have experienced great box-office success.
10. Martha's Vineyard Film Festival
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The Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival is as much a community event as it is a film festival. It screens independent and lesser-known documentaries, narratives, and short films on subjects that resonate with its audiences, including the environment, family dynamics, politics, subcultures, the arts, alternative lifestyles, and special individuals that have made a difference in society.
The selected films come from all over the world and are drawn from the most reputable festivals such as Berlin, Sundance, and Cannes. The movies are only a part of the festival offerings – the movie buffs can meet celebrated movie industry personalities and enjoy the debates and discussions on the movies they have seen and on the topics depicted in them.
11. Sedona International Film Festival
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The Sedona International Film Festival features the latest independent films from all over the world, showing the power of independent film to educate and inspire viewers and filmmakers to make a difference. The festival screens the best in documentaries, narrative features, short films, animated features, and foreign language films regardless of the genre.
Over a period of nine days, the festival shows about 160 films and organizes a series of discussions, panels, and seminars in Harkins Sedona Cinemas, the Mary D. Fisher Theatre, and the Sedona Performing Arts Center.
12. Kansas City FilmFest
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The Kansas City FilmFest focuses on independent documentary, animated, and narrative films. Founded in 2001, Kansas City Filmfest is a juried festival that attracts international, national, local, and regional filmmakers. Its goal is to increase awareness and recognition of independent and classic movies within the general movie-going public, as well as to distinguish filmmakers and screen personalities for their contributions.
The festival features over 100 films every year and offers filmmakers the opportunity to win recognition and cash prizes for their categories. Since 1997, the festival has awarded more great cash prizes. Filmmakers also have an opportunity to meet big movie industry names who come to the festival as judges.
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13. Maryland Film Festival
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The Maryland Film Festival has a goal of bringing filmmakers to Baltimore in order to expand moviegoers’ horizons through movies and videos with diverse voices and unique, uncompromising vision. It is a five-day event during which the festival screens about 50 features and 75 short films, which are documentary, narrative, animation, and experimental.
Besides contemporary American films, the festival also shows a few cutting-edge features from different countries each year. The festival invites celebrity guest hosts who are not part of the film world to present their favorite movies. Some of the previous years’ guests were musicians Branford Marsalis and Harry Belafonte.
14. Omaha Film Festival
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The Omaha Film Festival was established in 2005 to celebrate the artistic, historical, and educational importance of movies. It offers a platform for independent film artists to show their work and introduces moviegoers to original and innovative new movies as well as classic cinema masterworks. From approximately 500 entries from all over the world, the Omaha Film Festival showcases about 90 selected films every year during the five-day event.
The movies include features, short films, documentaries, animated short films, world premiers, and advanced screenings of movies that have been already widely distributed. There is a special section for movies made in Nebraska.
15. Northern Virginia International Film and Music Festival
© Northern Virginia International Film and Music Festival
The Northern Virginia International Film and Music Festival was established in 2015 to celebrate the country’s recognized filmmakers, screenwriters, and musicians. The festival is a ten-day-long event with movie screenings, panels, seminars, concerts, and events that end with a big party and an Awards Ceremony.
The movies screened are chosen regardless of their budget, style, origin, or genre. There is something for everyone, from car chases to war documentaries, spaceships, and first kisses. All events are held in Angelika Film Center at Mosaic.
16. Green Bay Film Festival
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The Green Bay Film Festival was established in 2011 by the Film Green Bay in order to showcase independent films from Wisconsin and other countries. The movies compete in a range of categories: documentaries, features, shorts, Best Short Film, and Wisconsin shorts. Besides movie screenings, the festival also organizes talks, seminars, award ceremonies, and parties.
Movie screenings and events are held in a range of different venues all over town. One of the festival activities is “Festival Around Town,” showing independent films at several locations before and after the festival weekend celebration.
17. Sun Valley Film Festival
© Sun Valley Film Festival
Launched in March 2012, the Sun Valley Film Festival features a week-long celebration of filmmaking by showing about 60 films from a variety of genres, from film student works and documentaries to children movies, web series, music videos, and narrative features. The Festival ‘s One Potato short screenplay competition was launched to promote filmmaking in Idaho.
The WILD TO INSPIRE film contest was launched with National Geographics, and the High Scribe Screenplay Competition offers winners an opportunity to discuss their work with some of the biggest names in the movie industry. The movies are shown in the town’s meticulously restored Liberty Theatre, and the screenings are followed by networking dinners, forums, debates, discussions and, of course, lively parties.
Sun Valley, Idaho, March 2016
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