Best Fests: The ultimate guide to indie film festivals March – April 2019
Whether your jam is emotional shorts, insightful documentaries, or subversive genre flicks, we’ve got the perfect rundown of upcoming film festivals coming up this spring. We’re passionate about giving a voice to the lesser-known indie platforms providing opportunities for homegrown talent. Film fan & filmmakers alike can check out our list below to expand your horizons and find out if there’s an exciting showcase of emerging talent right next door.
April 5th 2019
@SCSFFPetaluma: Any Sonoma County full-time and part-time student film fanatics would be wise to take notice of this homegrown film festival open to anyone attending school in the area over spring. This student film festival displays talent in animation, live action, documentary, and experimental works, with the chance to win some thrilling opportunities.
Successful filmmakers will be invited to screen at the film festival and also receive passes to attend Film Fest Petaluma in May, Sonoma County’s premier international short film festival. The event offers further opportunities for successful filmmakers to network and engage with industry professionals from around the world.
April 11th-15th 2019
Las Vegas, Nevada
@ClexaCon: Las Vegas’s premier fest for LGBTQI talent releases a variety of new releases and classics relating to vital issues of past & present. ClexaCon is passionate about giving voices to rising female and POC talent in the LGBT community, showcasing stunning features, shorts, web-based series, and documentaries. There are also frequent industry panels, Q&As, and networking events to help give your career the boost it needs.
March 27th 2019
New York City, New York
@mcnyedu: New York continues to be at the forefront of rallying for inclusivity in independent films, with the MCNY International Short Festival remaining at the top of the podium for showcasing talents from a wide range of backgrounds and communities.
This year screening films with the theme “Coming of Age During the Social Media Era”, MCNY spotlights the very best in world-class independent film from the surrounding area and the rest of the globe. The festival embraces diversity, dignity, and social justice, also offering a thriving education program geared towards achievement-oriented media professionals.
April 5th – 6th 2019
@BethesdaUP: Showcasing five documentary short films by local filmmakers, the Bethesda Film Festival offers cash prizes to winners and invites filmmakers to speak about their work at the screening. No topic is out of bounds and young filmmakers under the age of 18 are also encouraged to submit work, with one selected piece chosen to be screened at the festival each year.
This year features some startling shorts tackling subjects from civil rights to school shootings, and those in the area will have the chance to speak to the fantastic array of filmmakers.
April 4th – 6th 2019
Bismarck, North Dakota
@DakFilmFestival: Dakota Film Festival expands awareness of professional careers within the industry, but its key interest lies in promoting the work of emerging filmmakers and video artists within the local area. Its mission is to support and encourage filmmaking in all forms by providing a venue for filmmaking professionals and amateurs to meet and show their work. The festival accepts non-commercial films of any genre less than 20 minutes in length.
April 26th – 28th 2019
@harvardcollegefilmfestival: The Harvard College Film Festival is the first ever film festival run by Harvard students. Undergraduates worldwide now have the opportunity to create and submit films to be screened, judged, and awarded for creative excellence and powerful perspective. The event features multi-day screenings, lectures by judges, networking events, an official afterparty, and an awards ceremony.
Students are the lifeblood behind independent film, so The Harvard College Film Festival seeks to strengthen the global student film community and provide a dialogue among a network of creative and innovative artists by celebrating the power of storytelling.
April 5th – 6th 2019
@DIFestOfAnim: DIFA is all about the experimental, quirky, and surreal in modern animation and screens a diverse celebration of animated work by local and international animators & filmmakers. The festival venue also spotlights a gallery of animation and comic-inspired art with an exposition of local artists, animators, ‘zine publishers, and comic creators.
If cameras aren’t your cup of tea and you’re more at home with a pen & paper in hand, come flex your flick book wonders and CGI creations at Detroit’s best animation platform.
@That1Film: Dedicated to screening and exhibiting works of moving image that are experimental, weird, obsessive, no-/low-budget, avant-garde, and fun, That One Film Festival is committed to supporting emerging and experimental creators. The festival also aims to engage and educate audiences by facilitating film screenings and broadening an understanding of what moving image can achieve. TOFF’s first run last year was a huge hit, so we can’t wait to see what they pull out for their sophomore effort.
April 5th – 6th 2019
@shutterspeedfilmfestival: Designed to bring independent filmmakers together and encourage networking, the Shutter Speed Film Festival offers a director’s workshop taught by Arthur Muhammad (Carter High) and showcases films across two movie screens. Another grassroots fest in only its second year that’s already promising big things from its community of supportive filmmakers.
April 5th – 7th 2019
@bigforkindependentfilmfestival: Holding the belief a film’s purpose is to be watched and enjoyed, the mission of the Bigfork Independent Film Festival is to create a place where local films can do just that. Offering a unique cinematic experience, the two-day festival is open to all filmmakers throughout Montana.
Showcasing features, shorts, animations, and student films, the event offers an opportunity to show films to a supportive audience in a comfortable venue and for filmmakers to talk about their work, answer audience questions, and compete for a cash award. For its third year, BIFF is introducing three free filmmaking workshops to encourage new talent to join their growing society of passionate artists.
@COAcreative: While Animation : Illustration Festival is still relatively new, its organizers are eager to draw in the best talent in animation for the event held on the Campus of Georgia Piedmont Technical College. Creatives of America, Mosaic Film Festival, and My Animation Life have teamed up to produce the annual animation-themed event.
Attendees can experience the festival and witness the expert workshops, panel discussions, and live screenings, as well take part in an awards ceremony with the Mosaic Film Festival.
March 13th – 17th 2019
Rehoboth Beach, Delaware
@RehobothFilm: Rehoboth Beach Film Society seeks to cultivate local Delaware talent but is also on the lookout for talented, passionate filmmakers in Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington D.C. for its Regional Showcase.
The organizers are calling on filmmakers who dream of having their work projected onto the big screen. The goal is to expose audiences to the creative talents of regional filmmakers and provide opportunities for filmmakers and audiences to engage in post-screening discussions. Eligible movies include shorts, docs, and features of any length, and the filmmakers of selected flicks will be invited to attend a post-screening Q&A session.
March 15th – 16th 2019
@film_mosaic: The Mosaic Film Festival screens films of various running times from a vast selection of genres and forms. Georgia Piedmont Technical College plays host to the fest and seeks to showcase the unique stories from a diverse population of filmmakers. Included in the festival are workshops and discussion panels conducted by film, television, and animation artists.
MFF features competitions at the professional and amateur levels of filmmaking and offers awards for a huge array of categories including both emerging and professional voices in documentary, fiction, and music videos.
October 19th 2019
@austinunderthestars: If you ever wanted to experience the immersive outdoor experience of a drive-in but don’t own a car, Austin Under the Stars is the place for you. Austin’s first outdoor film festival is held at retro-inspired boutique hotel Lone Star Court and aims to make film festivals fun again by offering live music, drinks, socializing, and movies, all nestled in the live music capital of the world.
Filmmakers have the chance to take home a cash prize awarded to the best-reviewed film of the festival and the outstanding female filmmaker of the night.
April 5th 2019
The MFF Friday Night Horror Fest is a program of the Media Film Festival held annually in the gorgeous Media Theater. The mini-event is a 90-minute showcase for the best local, national, and international short films in the genres of horror, dark fantasy, science fiction, and thriller.
The festival jury votes on the best horror film, announced at the end of the event. Plus, there’s a chance to win over the crowd with the Audience Award, which one skilled filmmaker will take home for scaring the audience straight.
March 8th 2019
@go_wifmco: The Women in Film & Media Screenplay Contest aims to help budding screenplay writers get a foot in the door with their work. When entering the competition, writers put their script in the running for $1000 in cash prizes, a table read with professional actors and directors, and feedback from three Hollywood writer representatives. There are frequent networking events throughout the year, so keep tabs on their site, upcoming female writers around Colorado!
April 7th – 13th 2019
Vancouver, British Columbia
@r2rfilmfestival: An annual competitive international event presented by Reel to Real: A Celebration of Moving Images for Youth Society – a nonprofit media arts and education society dedicated to showing the best in culturally diverse authentic programming for young people.
R2R seeks films that are imaginative, evocative, innovative, inspiring, and entertaining. This year, the fest is coming of age with a 21st anniversary celebration, so their program is packed with special events including a pancake breakfast, and their 12th annual youth conference for young filmmakers to get an early chance of getting their foot in the door.
March 31st – April 6th 2019
Concord, New Hampshire
@draftfestnh: Sometimes nothing goes better with an indie film than an indie beer. The Derry Regional Ales & Films Festival understands that, offering a unique experience in which each film that screens will be paired with a craft beer picked by the film & beer selection team. The fest returns to southern New Hampshire each year to showcase films at one of Derry / Londonderry’s craft breweries, with each brewery seating an intimate crowd of 30 to 40 people.
April 14th 2019
@soul4real: The Soul 4 Reel International Film Festival spotlights independent short films in every genre created by new & established filmmakers dealing with “the soul of relationships”. The competition is open to students, indie filmmakers, and music video directors from all over the world.
From tight one-minute demos to 15-minute stories, the fest features over 30 movies each year from over 10 different countries. There’s also the chance to attend Q&A segments from directors in the industry as well as directors of the films in competition to build your network and show your appreciation to the talent in attendance.
April 7th 2019
Durham, North Carolina
@unexposedcinema: Rather than sticking to the rigid festival format, Single Frame offers an elaborate screening series around the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival focusing on experimental documentary shorts. The event aims to shed light on nontraditional documentaries at a time when big-budget Hollywood documentaries are hitting the Durham scene.
Its organizers announced, “We cherish documentaries that respect the art form of filmmaking equal to the topic discussed. We respect documentaries created by a small crew of people with huge vision. We love documentaries that challenge our perception of reality by presenting a new way to see the world.” If you’re into true crime and crazy historical docs that are all the rage on Netflix, but getting tired of oft-repeated formulas, this is the space for you.
April 8th – 14th 2019
@AthensFilmFest: For four decades, Athens International has embraced experimental, narrative, short-form, feature-length, and documentary films from every corner of the globe. Founded in 1974, AIFVF has been presenting the best in international film ever since. Known globally as a festival that supports cinema from underground and marginalized populations, each film screened provides a platform for an underrepresented artist.
The fest offers filmmakers a stellar opportunity for public exposure and an environment that values artistry above marquee names and industry relationships. AIFVF also sponsors guest artists screenings that often include workshops and additional opportunities for artists to meet with audience members, fellow filmmakers, and members of its community. Emerging Ohio filmmaker? This is the place for you.
April 8th – 14th 2019
Providence, Rhode Island
@IvyFilmFestival is among the largest student-run film festivals in the world, offering students from domestic and foreign universities a place to exhibit their work. The Brown University festival occurs annually each spring and spans an entire week. Thousands of filmmakers and enthusiasts flock to Brown to attend filmmaker screenings, keynote speeches by entertainment industry executives and celebrities, panels and workshops by industry professionals, cocktail receptions, and parties.
Past industry guests have included Jack Nicholson (The Shining), Martin Scorsese (Taxi Driver), Oliver Stone (Platoon), Wes Anderson (Isle of Dogs), Adrien Brody (The Pianist), Laura Linney (The Savages), Wes Craven (Scream), Aaron Sorkin (Molly’s Game), James Franco (The Disaster Artist), and Lena Dunham (among many others).
Along with some of the best guests in the festival circuit, the event also features four separate competitions each with its own awards, including the Domestic Undergraduate Film Competition, The Graduate School Film Competition, The International Film Competition, and The Screenplay Competition.
April 10th – 14th 2019
Rincón, Puerto Rico
@RinconFilmFest: The Rincon International Film Festival is the largest film festival in Puerto Rico, founded eleven years ago to bring the world of independent film to an underrepresented location. Held in a world top-ten surfing spot, RIFF screens entertaining films outdoors at the beachfront in beautiful resorts.
RIFF looks for crowd-pleasing films of any genre in English or with English subtitles. RIFF loves genre, so indie films receive special attention if they’re themed comedy, romantic, surfing, horror, or documentary.
April 9th – 11th 2010
@NIURealityBytes: The Reality Bytes Film Festival was established in 2001 by Northern Illinois University Professor of Media Production and Theory Laura Vazquez to provide a launching point for emerging student filmmakers. The yearly festival is sponsored by the university’s Department of Communication to allow high school, college, and graduate students to competitively screen their films, with free access to the public to check out some potential new talent.
April 12th 2019
Charlotte, North Carolina
@QCCinephiles: Queen City Cinephiles is an independent film screening and discussion group based in Charlotte, North Carolina. The festival is committed to showcasing short and feature-length independent films, exposing cinema aficionados to more independent film and supporting local filmmakers from around the globe.
Queen City Cinephiles runs screening events twice each month, inviting submissions for any number of films for consideration. Their upcoming event happening in April features films around the theme of “Transformation”, with attention paid to LGBTQ Pride and Disabilities later in the year.
April 10th – 14th 2019
Kansas City, Missouri
@kcfilmfest: The Kansas City FilmFest serves up five days of indie cinema from around the world, and has been introducing the city to global films for the past two years. Each year the festival builds on its tradition of bringing inspiring, thought-provoking, and entertaining films to Kansas City audiences and offers opportunities for artists and filmmakers to network and develop their craft and art.
In addition to its movie screenings, there are filmmaker panels, seminars, opening receptions, and nightly afterparties, as well as three audience awards and nine juried awards selected by film professionals from across the U.S.
April 11th – 14th 2019
Los Angeles, California
@iffla: The Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles is a nonprofit organization devoted to a greater appreciation of Indian cinema and culture by showcasing films, honoring entertainment industry performers and business executives, and promoting the diverse perspectives of the Indian diaspora. IFFLA showcases a combination of features and shorts, with documentaries and animation welcome in both categories.
The festival provides programming and activities and serves a community of Indian and international filmmakers, providing the Los Angeles community a unique opportunity to learn about India’s multifaceted culture and long history of filmmaking. Tickets for their Opening Gala, as well as standard and All-Access passes to the fest are now on sale, so check out their website and start planning your cultural expansion.
April 11th – 21st 2019
@capcityfilmfest: The Capital City Film Festival is a multimedia showcase of independent films, live touring bands, and multimedia experiences that engage audiences in Michigan’s capital city. The fest celebrates artists from around the world who share their craft while promoting and building on the cultural assets of its diverse locale.
The Fortnight Film Contest gives teams two weeks to create an original short. The top ten films are then played during a screening at the fest, giving away an Audience Choice award and cash prizes for the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd teams. The fest has been named one of the 25 Coolest in the World by Movie Maker Magazine, so it’s a must for trendsetting film fans in the Michigan area.
April 10th – 14th 2019
@Freep_Film_Fest: Freep Film Festival is an annual documentary-focused festival produced by the Detroit Free Press. The event’s focus is documentaries with strong connections to Detroit or Michigan, though it also books films outside that realm as well.
In addition to screening films, Freep Film Festival embraces the journalistic and community-minded mission of the Free Press by hosting in-depth discussions after many of its movies. Freep also hosts other related events including dance parties, panel discussions, theater tours, and more.
April 10th 2019
San Antonio, Texas
The San Antonio Public Library has taken the vital role of fostering local talent by creating a film festival that celebrates the creativity of emerging & established filmmakers in San Antonio. The fest accepts submissions in features, documentaries, and shorts, handing out awards for Best Overall, Best Feature Film, Best Documentary, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best San Antonio Public Library Film.
April 4th – 20th 2019
@mspfilmsociety: The Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival is the largest film festival in the Upper Midwest region of the U.S. As a nonprofit, this highly anticipated celebration of international independent cinema annually debuts more than 250 films to an audience of 45,000+, welcoming the attendance of more than 150 filmmakers from around the world.
Each year, the festival presents a lineup of world, U.S., and regional premieres from more than 70 countries. This year, filmmakers are asked to submit their film to one of the festival’s programs that highlight MSPIFF’s emphasis on presenting the diversity of global cinema today.
April 11th – 16th 2019
@BostonInterFF: The Boston International Film Festival was created to celebrate the art of filmmaking and honor the filmmakers behind the camera. The festival strives to bring together Boston local, national, and international filmmakers by promoting the world’s most artistic and creative independent & experimental films. The five-day event features screenings of feature-length, documentary, short, and student works.
April 17th 2019
@zoomstudentfilmfestival: Since its launch in 1996, Zoom Student Film Festival has provided students with an opportunity to showcase their work on an international scale. Every year, a new generation of Earl Haig students takes on the challenge of creating and curating this school tradition by submitting films in a variety of genres, from comedy to documentary to animation.
March 20th – 24th 2019
@WaterDocs: The Water Docs Film Festival presents Canadian & international features and shorts about water, engaging discussions with filmmakers and special guests and providing opportunities to take action on the world’s water issues. While this festival is primarily about film, there are also exhibits, interactive presentations, musical performances, workshops, family-friendly offerings, speakers, and water-related NGO displays.
This year, WDFF is running a competition for Best Film with a $2,000 CAD dollar prize and the fest includes a tribute to Canada’s own Grandmother Josephine Mandamin, who passed away earlier this year. A self-professed “Water Warrior”, Josephine logged over 10,000 miles of sacred water walks to raise awareness of the need to protect the world’s water.
March 29th – 30th 2019
@SpeechlessFF: Speechless Film Festival is a three-day multimedia event showcasing local & international artists. The mission of the festival is to foster cross-cultural engagement through the celebration of visual storytelling. Accepting submissions in a wide variety of film genres including documentary, animation, drama, and experimental, Speechless showcases an ambitious and diverse program of films, providing a unique arts experience and valuable educational opportunity for students to connect with visiting speakers & filmmakers.
Speechless offers cash prizes ranging from $500 to $1000 depending on the category. All of its awardwinners (including honorable mentions) also receive trophies or plaques as well as invaluable experience to shape their future careers.
April 25th – 28th 2019
Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania
@JTIndieFilmFest: The Jim Thorpe Independent Film Festival “channels the rebellious spirit of the infamous Molly Maguires,” welcoming the boldest, most defiant filmmakers to present their work, shatter convention, and incite spirited debate. JTIFF welcomes features and shorts of every genre & budget, from gritty underground & experimental films to traditional narratives & documentaries.
This year the fest is adding a special student film program, offering deep discounts or waivers for young filmmakers with proof of current enrollment. Last year featured one of the most diverse and eclectic selection of short films we’ve seen in an independent festival program, so we can’t wait to see what Jim Thorpe’s young creatives can come up with this year.
April 28th – 31st 2019
Columbia, South Carolina
@IndieGrits is a multi-day DIY experimental film festival in South Carolina. Filmmakers often come to Indie Grits after premiering their films at festivals like SXSW and Sundance. It hosts a wide range of cultural events featuring the very best of art, music, and experimental media from the Southeast.
In addition to movie screenings, the festival also offers panels, post-screening talks, and video interviews. The perfect event for green fingers and distracted minds, and the perfect platform for artists with roots in the art world outside of film.
April 11th – 14th 2019
@CASCADIAIWFF: The Cascadia International Women’s Film Festival is dedicated to showcasing the exceptional work of female directors from around the world. Approximately 25 films are screened over the course of the three-and-a-half day event. Cascadia presents separate programs for short subject films, feature narrative, and documentary films.
Most festival film programs are followed by Q&A with the attending filmmakers and/or an industry or subject panel discussion. The festival also plans networking and social opportunities specifically for its directors, who are honored guests at Cascadia’s Saturday night directors’ party.
April 24th – 25th 2019
@BoviFilm: Founded in 2011 at Boise State University, the BoVi Film Festival showcases and celebrates student work in film. Students from all over the world come together in a professional theater environment and are given the opportunity to show their work in front of a large audience. As well as offering an opportunity to demonstrate their film talents, BoVi also holds an awards ceremony. BoVi is open to any and all genres of films and welcomes entries from all over the world.
April 4th – 14th 2019
@atlantafilmfest: The Atlanta Film Festival – an Academy Award-qualifying festival – is the Southeast’s preeminent celebration of cinema and the flagship production of the Atlanta Film Society. One of the largest and longest-running festivals in the country, ATLFF showcases both emerging and established artists’ works.
Recent festivals have seen audiences of nearly 27,000 film-lovers joining over 300 attending filmmakers in support of moving images that push the boundaries of independent cinema. Every spring, the ten-day festival presents local and international works and actively promotes filmmakers of color, LGBTQI films, and female filmmakers.
April 5th – 14th 2019
@MySFF: At the Sarasota Film Festival, independent and international narratives, docs, and shorts are programmed into a schedule of over 100 features. Festival events include socially driven parties and private receptions to honor guest filmmakers, community-wide street festivals, and the black-tie Filmmakers Tribute Dinner.
If you can’t make it this Spring, their Cinematheque screenings of classic films throughout the year are an excellent opportunity to take part in Florida’s vast indie cinema scene.
September 25th – 29th 2019
@thewsfest: WideScreen Film & Music Video Festival’s mission statement is: “To inspire the creation and distribution of art while ultimately enhancing the creative mind.” Submissions are welcome in a wide variety of genres from features & shorts to animation, web series, and music video, and encourages experimentation & young filmmakers. Participants have the chance to win awards for the Best Feature as well as in their chosen category, and Hollywood Connections’ Awards for reporters and talk show hosts.
April 4th – 7th 2019
@TwistedDreamsFF: The Milwaukee Twisted Dreams Film Festival is a celebration of horror and the macabre, a vital platform for filmmakers with twisted visions and a dark sense of humor to go wild with cinematic creativity. Throughout the year, its organizers host single screening events to keep the brand alive & fresh.
Events are broken down into sessions – short films are a part of “short blocks” running 90-100 minutes, while features form their own showcase. Depending on submissions, some short blocks are themed, including a block devoted to animation and one devoted to female filmmakers.
April 12th – 13th 2019
New York City, New York
@BlackWebFest: Black Web Fest is a two-day festival in which people from African backgrounds unite to discover online shorts, web series, new media, and web industry trends. With the entertainment industry moving to more streaming platforms, there are a vast amount of influencers, vloggers, and mediamakers creating content for online platforms such as YouTube and Vimeo.
The festival connects these creatives & mediamakers and provides opportunities to showcase their creative work. During the festival, attendees are able to screen web series & films created by black mediamakers. The event also features informative panels with industry professionals, mediamakers, and actors for a vital insight into the inclusive future of cinema.
New York, New York
@CAREGlobal: The mission of the C.A.R.E. International Film Awards is to provide a platform for emerging and established filmmakers alike to make bold artistic statements in a tenuous world. The top prizewinners will be given the opportunity to accompany relief teams into the Eastern Congo and create a documentary film about the slave conditions that exist there.
Other prize winners will be invited to speak at C.A.R.E. public events, publicize and distribute their film through C.A.R.E.’s distribution channels, and meet celebrities & political activists. This doesn’t mean submissions have to be explicitly political. C.A.R.E. wants artists with bold visions who are happy to use their work as a medium to promote a bold & bright future.
April 26th – 28th 2019
@webisodefestival: Once a year in Downtown Houston, filmmakers take over and turn the city into a canvas of artistic expression with live screenings and music. Accepting a wide variety of genres for submission, the Webisode Festival hands out awards at its yearly event in Best Comedy, Best Drama, Best Reality, Best Animation, Best International, Best Original Webisode, and Best Student Webisode for Comedy, Drama, and Animation.
This year’s winner will win an exclusive distribution deal with Eugot that includes an opportunity to pitch Amazon, Netflix, and iTunes!