What makes a film festival the Coolest? Is it a combination of quality cinema, great parties, and free swag? Or is it an alluring mix of hip, alternative venues and shoestring-budget, hyper-indie films you might not get to see anywhere else? What about the opportunity to gawk at celebrities, connect with fellow moviemakers, and take advantage of free travel perks? These are just some of the many factors we pondered before we could even begin to quantify the coolest film festivals on the planet this year. On top of all that, the MovieMaker team couldn’t possibly attend all the festivals in the Los Angeles area, much less the world—the territory this list’s title so ambitiously encompasses. So we decided to solicit a little help from our friends.
It dawned on us that the best way to create this list was to ask our readers to offer up their experience and opinions. After all, we know the collective MovieMaker readership has the goods on almost every festival out there. So instead of choosing 25 festivals ourselves as we’ve done in the past, we asked our readers to nominate and vote for what they see as the coolest. We also broke our list down into categories to reflect the increasing diversity on today’s festival circuit. While still naming 25 coolest “General” Festivals—all-encompassing fests that don’t discern their selections by genre—we also named the five coolest fests in 10 new genre-specific categories. Running the gamut from “Horror/Sci-Fi” to “Documentary” and “Shorts” and the smorgasbord that became the “Other” category (including animation fests, sports fests, 3D fests, you name it), just about every conceivable kind of festival is represented. Over four months, we received more than 15,000 votes and enlisted the help of Hone, a visual survey platform that simplified our crowd-sourcing efforts (check them out at gohone.com). It’s important to note that the following 76 festivals are presented without any particular hierarchy or order—if you made it in, you made it in!