Amy McKeever gives us the scoop on the many alternative film festivals taking place in the coming months.
The Cannes Film Festival, which just wrapped up, is renowned for its star-studded red carpets and its glitzy Palme d’Or. But for those of us not fortunate enough to score tickets to this fest in the south of France, there are plenty of lesser-known film festivals throughout North America worth checking out. Here’s a round-up of five of the most intriguing small American film festivals.
Disposable Film Festival — San Francisco, California
San Francisco’s Disposable Film Festival is the ultimate exercise in filmmaking democracy – this festival, started in 2007, allows anyone with a cell phone, PDA or web cam to make and submit short films to be judged. Even better, the festival charges a very affordable submission fee of $.99. Although the festival premieres in late January, film buffs can also catch screenings of the films throughout the year (the latest is taking place June 12-14 in Paris at the Forum Des Images). Organizers even hosted a free bike-in screening in San Francisco this month which, like DFF itself, is a refreshingly updated version of an old concept.
Moondance International Film Festival – Boulder, Colorado
Some film festivals strive to do more than simply entertain audiences and honor filmmakers. Festivals such as Boulder’s Moondance also aim to improve their community. Through its Columbine Award, this festival emphasizes non-violent conflict resolution and peace-building.
The films screened at Moondance relate human experiences and struggles – from racism to body-image issues – in hopes of sparking dialogue and understanding. Moondance also offers workshops, pitch panels and even a Native American blessing ceremony at sunset. The festival runs from September 15-27.
Napa Sonoma Wine Country Film Festival – Napa and Sonoma, California
The 22nd annual Napa Sonoma Wine Country Film Festival runs from September 17-27 and is known for its “Films al Fresco,” open-air screenings which, coupled with food sampling or even a sit-down meal, make this a top-rated festival for romance and relaxation.
The festival offers several evenings of these al fresco screenings in addition to the 100 international films shown over the course of 10 days as part of its regular program. Eco-friendliness is also a cornerstone of this festival. Several of the films selected highlight environmental issues, and the festival itself strives to be a zero-waste zone – so leave the plastic bottles at home.
Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival – Birmingham, Alabama
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Though Birmingham may not have the glamour of Cannes, the Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival does have the attention of devout filmmakers.
The two-day festival, which runs from September 25-27, is widely known for its selection of feature-length and short independent films, as well as its many opportunities for mingling among filmmakers and film-goers. In a fitting nod to Birmingham’s history, the festival has partnered with the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute on the Life & Liberty Sidebar, a series of documentaries, features and shorts that focus on civil rights issues.
Eerie Horror Film Festival – Erie, Pennsylvania
There are few better places for a horror film festival than a place named Erie. This Pennsylvania city, wisely playing off its sinister-sounding name, has hosted the Eerie Horror Film Festival for five years; this year’s will take place October 8-11.
The international competition showcases short and feature-length horror, suspense and science fiction films, as well as screenplays. One irresistible element of the festival is the foreboding Carnival of Carnage Expo, where fans can buy horror-related paraphernalia such as DVDs, comic books, magazines and more. Sounds like a hell of a good time.