30 Underrated Film Festivals Around the Globe

Published on in Industry Announcements / Events

Everyone’s heard of Sundance, Tribeca and Cannes. What everyone doesn’t know is that there are great festivals out there just as inspiring, that are sometimes overlooked or underrated. We’re not saying you shouldn’t try and submit your work to some of the more “popular” film fests, but the other fests need love too! (Plus, it’s a great way to gain feedback while learning and meeting new people, instead of getting lost in the shuffle at the bigger events.) Listed are our picks of underrated festivals across the globe that should be given a reel chance. You never know, one of them might just spark your filmmaking fancy…

Garden State Film Festival
The artistic philosophy of the Garden State Film Festival is rooted in the celebration of the independent film genre and the creation of a forum where local and other independent filmmakers can exhibit their work. 

Premiers Plans Film Festival
Since 1989, the Premiers Plans Film Festival takes place each year in the city of Angers, France. In 2012 its competitive sections, programs and other events attracted some 70 000 filmgoers who discussed and shared their passion of cinema with young European directors and other professionals. Each year, the Official Selection presents 100 European first films divided in six competitive sections. Premiers Plans has two major characteristics: it enables the meeting between the public and filmmakers from one generation and also gives the opportunity to discover or rediscover masterpieces of European cinema on screen through retrospectives highly appreciated and attended by journalists and professionals. 


Sunscreen Film Festival
The Sunscreen Film Festival is a worldwide acclaimed film festival for the independent film genre. If you are a new artist and would like to make a name for yourself, or learn from those who have made impressive and spectacular names for themselves in the entertainment industry. 

Antarctic Film Festival
Long a frozen intellectual wasteland, Antarctica now boasts its very own film festival. While festival founders believe it will take a few years until the festival can compete with Cannes, Venice, and Sundance, they believe representing an entire content will eventually bootstrap the festival to the top echelon amongst the world’s premiere festivals. While not yet a flagship festival, it certainly is an ice cutter. 

Ottawa International Animation Festival
The Ottawa International Animation Festival (OIAF) is the largest event of its kind in North America, a major film event attracting attendees from around the world. Film buffs, art lovers and cartoon fans won’t want to miss out on this festival. 

Florida Film Festival
Every year the Florida Film Festival premieres the best in current independent and foreign cinema. And this year we salute our 21st anniversary by bringing you more of the best. With over 160 cutting-edge films, 100 visiting filmmakers, plenty of special guests, and non-stop events, this festival will do everything to ensure 10-days of Film, Food, and Fun. 


BANFF World Media Festival
Attracting over 150 Development Executives and a wide-ranging cross-section of television and digital media professionals. BANFF is the ideal place to make new contacts, find production partners and green-light new projects. 

Filmshift Festival
The Filmshift Festival presents films from across the nation, produced independently and on the local level. The goal of this film festival is to highlight local, student and films that use predominantly small, local or “Green” businesses. 

Angel Film Awards / Monaco
The Angel Film Awards mission is to entertain, inform, inspire, encourage and educate. They honor artists who, through their creative work, actively increase awareness, provide multiple viewpoints, address complex social issues and strengthen ties between international audiences. Writers, directors and producers in Monte Carlo come together to create new opportunities, develop tools for success and forge new alliances within the internal film and entertainment industry.


New Media Film Festival
New Media Film Festival intersects the interactivity of new technologies & formats for Media & Cinema which exemplify the power of the cinematic arts to inspire and transform. A festival where we Honor Stories Worth Telling that are created by people of All Ages-All Cultures-All Media. 

Independent Film and Music Expo
The Independent Music & Film Expo is the first industry event for artists and industry insiders that is focused entirely on the creation, production, promotion and distribution of original music and movies. This premier Industry event allows artists, musicians, filmmakers, producers and prosumers as well as industry execs and creators an opportunity to see, touch, play with and understand the rapidly changing technologies and distribution channels that are transforming their art. 

NYC Filmmakers Festival
The NYC Filmmakers Festival was created in order to help all filmmakers, just like you, to become the best you can be and to give back to the community where ever possible. 


Queer Fruits Film Festival
Queer Fruits Film Festival was established to provide a vital regional screen culture event to enable the GLBTIQ communities and wider community to participate in the celebration and innovation of international queer filmmaking culture. 

LA Shorts Fest
The festival annually attracts 7,000 moviegoers, filmmakers, and entertainment professionals looking for the hottest new talent as well as brand sponsors looking to connect with the trend setters in Hollywood. LA Shorts Fest is recognized by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences. 

Chicago Social Change Film Fest
The Chicago International Social Change Festival was created for filmmakers to showcase films that heighten public consciousness and provide a film forum for their productions to be screened on an international level. In addition, the festival is dedicated to the art of film-making and the filmmakers who make each and every work possible. 

MIA Animation Conference and Fest
MIA ANIMATION is an industry conference that focuses on Computer Animation, Gaming, Visual Effects and Motion Graphics, Film, Web Design and Visual Arts. We have brought world-renowned industry speakers that offer master classes along with software demos and multiple panels. 

Madrid International Film Festival
The Madrid International Film Festival is an international film event to celebrate the movie making whilst bringing together film makers and the business of film making, from the smallest independent film maker to the most popular English and foreign language films and is open to all film genres. An inventive selection that is neither too traditional nor too sophisticated, a selection that is the most international in the world, open to all film types and yet never forgetting our over-riding passion- that of the love of film, a selection that is attentive to the arrival of new generations and which combines all the necessary conditions for the films to be hosted and honored in the great tradition of film makers around the world. 

New York Festivals
New York Festivals (NYF) is an International Awards Group (IAG) LLC Company. Recognizing the World’s Best Work™ in advertising and TV, Film & Radio programs, IAG along with its other brands, AME®, Globals®,  and Midas®, honor advertising and marketing in global communications through seven annual competitions.

Belfast Film Festival
The Belfast Film Festival’s activities are entertaining and provocative, and in many instances provide an important platform for debate across the religious, social and cultural divides in Northern Ireland.The presentation of innovative ways to screen film is one of the festival’s specialties; films can be viewed - on a boat in the River Lagan; in beautiful historic buildings like St Anne’s Cathedral with live piano accompaniment; in unique audio visual collaborations with local talent such as Duke Special and David Holmes; alongside unique architectural and heritage sites such as a screening of A Night To Remember by the famous Thompson dry dock which was the Titanic’s last point on dry land before it’s maiden voyage. The Festival showcases both local talent, and the best in new International cinema.  


Valley Film Festival
The Valley Film Festival holds the title of being the first film festival in L.A.’s San Fernando Valley. Their mission is to further the education, production, and distribution of filmmaking in the Valley, with a goal of bringing together established filmmakers, emerging talent, and their audiences on the studio backlot- just North of Hollywood. 

Irish Film Festival 
Boston Irish Film Festival, was set up in 1999 to celebrate and promote global Irish cinema. The festival quickly became the largest event of its kind outside Ireland. It provides exhibition, distribution, and educational opportunities for filmmakers; honors their work with awards; and produces original documentaries on contemporary Irish cinema. 

Australian Film Festival
The Australian Film Festival celebrates the huge array of Australian creative talent in the feature film, short film, online content and television industries. Each year, the AFF shines the spotlight on their home grown talent, from their distinguished and experienced heavyweights to their up-and-coming cinematic stars. The purpose of the festival is not simply the screening of Australian film - The AFF is focused on the long term development of Australian film content in a rapidly changing global environment, as well as building of audiences for Australian film. 


San Francisco Jewish Film Festival
SFJFF is a year-round media arts organization that promotes awareness, appreciation and pride in the diversity of the Jewish people. Our programs are meant to create community and strengthen consciousness of Jewish identity, history and culture; provide a dynamic and inclusive forum for exploration of and dialogue about Jewish experiences around the world, and encourage independent filmmakers working with Jewish themes 

True/False Film Festival
The True/False Film Fest highlights innovative work with a cinematic scope, creative takes on contemporary currents, and most of all work that provokes dialogue about its subject and the documentary form itself. For four days, downtown Columbia, Missouri is transformed into a small-town Midwestern utopia. Most films come freshly discovered from Sundance, Toronto and other festivals, others appear mysteriously before their official premieres elsewhere. Sandwiched between the nonstop movies, they throw parties, host debates and field trips, and challenge local filmmakers to re-imagine the possibilities of nonfiction filmmaking. 


European Film Festival
Festival The European Film Festival’s mission is to bring quality international independent film to the widest possible audience in Europe and beyond. The Festival aims to provide a cultural alternative to the commercial film experience, to support independent filmmakers, and promote the art of filmmaking. The European Film Festival was established to utilize the poser of film to further the goal of inter-cultural understanding among nations and to assist in the building of a shared artistic experience. 

Slamdance Film Festival
It all began when a group of cheerful, subversive filmmakers weren’t accepted into the Sundance Film Festival. Unwilling to take “no” for an answer, they instead started their own event- Slamdance: Anarchy in Utah. 18 years later, Slamdance has become a year-round organization fostering the development of unique and innovative filmmakers. The organization now consists of the Film Festival, Screenplay and Teleplay Competition and Slamdance Studios. 

Going Green Film Festival
One of the most unique film festival in existence, the Going Green Film Festival was created not only as a fundraiser for a charity, but to encourage and reward “green” filmmakers. 

Women International Film and Arts Festival
The overarching mission of WIFF is to become the premiere film festival in the world for women to network, screen their films, and recognize the brilliance and accomplishments of women throughout the globe.They believe the images of women on film directly effect how women are perceived, valued and treated in society.  With women representing only 7% of film directors, every effort should be made to enhance the opportunity for women’s voices to be heard, and to present a wider range of roles and identify choices for women. Designed to promote women in the film industry and celebrate women’s accomplishments, the festival consists of panel discussions, workshops, and symposia. WIFF’s goals include empowering women of all ages to see themselves in a broader context. 

Alaska International Film Awards
The Alaska International Film Awards is an independent film competition that aims to recognize the best and brightest new work in international cinema and highlight Alaska’s important role in the international film community. 

Cairo International Film Festival
The Cairo International Film Festival is an annual film festival held in Cairo, Egypt. It was established in 1976 and was the first international film festival held in the Arab world.  


Images/Video Courtesy of: Premiers Plans Film FestivalAngel Film Awards / MonacoNYC Filmmakers Festival,MIA Animation Conference and FestAustralian Film FestivalTrue/False Film FestivalBelfast Film FestivalSlamdance Film FestivalFlorida Film FestivalCairo International Film Festival and Google

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