The 25 Coolest Film Festivals in the World, 2016

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Photo by Al Case, Ashland Daily Photo

In case you’ve forgotten, sometimes movies can just be about fun.

Welcome to the 25 Coolest Film Festivals in the World. A companion list to our definitive “50 Film Festivals Worth the Entry Fee” list released in spring, “Coolest Fests” is where things get a little looser, a little funkier, a little weirder. Think of it this way: While that list is all about bang for moviemaking bucks, this list is, simply, about having the best time at a festival imaginable—whether that means incredible atmosphere, superb repertory programming or choice victuals.

And yes, one moviemaker’s “cool” is another’s “I didn’t get to see any films, I was rolling my eyes so hard”—so that’s why we ask a broad, certified-hip panel of film festival veterans to nominate their circuit favorites, then present the top of the crop. These fine folk have logged Academy Awards, national theater franchises, and lots of mescal—sorry, moviemaking—between them. They’ll show you the way.

Every year, before we receive the nominations, we think we’ve seen it all… and while, yes, there are a handful of repeat offender fests in the following line-up, we never fail to learn about at least a few events we’ve never heard of, but are immediately desperate to attend. Some other findings this year: The beach is where everyone wants to be. Florida is getting cooler than ever. If you’re a genre nut, you better speak Spanish. And, finally, coolness can be found anywhere in the world (yes, even New Jersey!). So go out, make some memories, and tell us about them next year.

Ashland Independent Film Festival // Ashland, OR // April 6-10, 2017

Sure, Ashland is best-known for its long-running Shakespeare Festival, but AIFF isn’t mired in tradition. The 15-year-old fest has recently taken steps to broaden its range, with dives into live cinema, art installations and interactive media offerings, plus a new category called BEYOND which this year showcased Celia Rowlson-Hall’s dance-driven narrative Ma, amongst other titles. Even so, the festival hasn’t lost any of its particular Southern Oregon charms—it’s still “such a down-to-earth exhibition of talented filmmaking,” says a panelist. “It treats filmmakers with so much respect.”

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