Virtual Travel

Eight Film Festivals Worth Attending (Virtually)

COVID-19 has caused numerous film festival cancellations. Luckily, these ones moved online

The Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival, founded in 1997, is one of the many festivals streaming offerings this year. (Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)
smithsonianmag.com

If there’s one thing we all know about the internet and culture, it’s that modern society loves a good cat video. Now, thanks to coronavirus, we’re about to get an entire virtual film festival dedicated to them. The Quarantine Cat Film Festival will hit virtual theaters on June 19, with just one feature-length film stitching together home videos submitted by cat lovers. To partake, viewers will buy a ticket from a participating theater and then stream the film at home. Fifty percent of the proceeds from ticket sales go to helping those same theaters.

It may be a bit tongue-in-cheek, but the festival touches on an issue facing many others right now: Without guests to come see the movies, how will the festivals work? In an effort to both honor exceptional films and keep audiences engaged while we all shelter in place, some film festivals have opted for a virtual experience, moving everything online for the season.

Supplement your cat video experience with high-end films from these film festivals, all of which have also moved online in the face of COVID-19.

We Are One: A Global Film Festival, May 29-June 7

YouTube is putting its video streaming services to use with We Are One: A Global Film Festival, which will bring together 20 different film festival organizations around the world for ten days of programming. All your favorites are included: Cannes, Tribeca, Sundance, Venice, Berlin, and more. The proceeds of the festival benefit the World Health Organization and local aid groups, and viewers can donate to local community relief groups as well. Programming has yet to be released, but it will include everything you’d get at a traditional film festival: workshops, films, shorts, music and comedy performances. Free.

deadCenter, June 11-21

deadCenter, Oklahoma’s largest festival focusing on independent films, celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, and the entire slate of festival happenings will be available online in June. That includes everything from movies and filmmaker panels to film classes, celebrity chats and screenplay readings. Don’t miss Gravity, a 14-minute virtual reality film of two bothers falling through a void for their entire lives, until one of them finally sees something they appear to be falling toward, and Cannonball, a live action short from a first-time director about a woman who wants to hire an assassin to kill her abusive husband. For those wanting to learn about the craft of making movies, workshops include classes on costuming, location scouting, stop-motion animation, and more. $100 for all-access pass, $10 per individual screening ticket.

Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival, through May 31

LALIFF Connect, the Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival’s online event, is currently hosting between one and three events per day, ranging from films like Miguelito, a feature documentary on the short-lived career of a young Puerto Rican salsa singer, to concert performances and master classes on songwriting, animation, and more. The Last Rafter, a feature film that follows the journey of America’s first undocumented Cuban immigrant, kicked off the festival, ​and the last events on May 29 will be two master classes (Latinx in animation and songwriting) and a performance by Weapons of Mass Creation. Free.

Ashland Independent Film Festival, May 22-June 14

The Ashland Independent Film Festival is typically a five-day affair that draws upwards of 7,000 film enthusiasts to watch more than 100 documentaries, features and short films in Ashland, Oregon, a town known for its annual Shakespeare festival. This year, the festival is showing about 30 feature-length films and 50 short films online for AIFF members (with the exception of the Locals Only and Launch Student Film Competition programs, which are free to view for everyone, member or not). The AIFF has some specific rules for watching the films. Members who purchase a Virtual Festival subscription can watch all the short films with no extra charge, but must pay for feature film access. Feature films are available for between four and 24 hours, depending on the film, with some of them restricted by your location. The feature films include Runner, a documentary about one man’s journey from refugee to Olympian, and Murmur, about a woman addicted to adopting pets. $19.99 for membership and subscription, $7.99 per feature film.

International Vegan Film Festival, through June 30

Since 2018, the International Vegan Film Festival, held in Canada and touring around the world, has been the only vegan film festival worldwide. Every film in the festival—all of which have been moved online for this year—focuses on aspects of life that are important to vegans overall: climate change, animal rights, ethical eating, sustainability and vegan-friendly fashion. Eleven short films, totaling 90 minutes of viewing time, are available to watch on the festival’s website as part of its COVID-19 Virtual World Tour. Some highlights include Gold Doesn’t Rust, a film about 21st century alternatives to animal testing, and The Farm in My Backyard, about a tiny stronghold for the Canadian fur industry in Nova Scotia. Free.

Korean Film Festival DC, through May 31

Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art canceled its annual film festival in May, and instead directs viewers to its 110-film strong YouTube archive. On May 31, the museum’s film curator, Tom Vick, will host a Zoom discussion on Korean Golden Age cinema. Suggested films for the discussion include Aimless Bullet and A Coachman, which portray changes in Korean society around 1961; Mother and a Guest, about the rigidity of Confucian society; The Flower in Hell, about a sex worker and her alliances; A Water Mill, which is based in Korean folklore; and Insect Woman, a favorite film of Parasite’s director Bong Joon-Ho. Also available are two films showcasing the immigrant experience, and two documentaries about art and travel. Free.

Stowe Jewish Film Festival, May 24-June 9

The Vermont-based Stowe Jewish Film Festival celebrates its fifth year with three films, streaming for three days each over the course of three weeks. The first, Crescendo, about a famous conductor attempts to form an Israeli-Palestinian youth orchestra, streams from May 24-26. The second film, My Polish Honeymoon, streams from May 31-June 2; this one is a romantic comedy about Jewish tourism in Poland. In the final film, The Samuel Project, streaming from June 7-9, a teenager helps his grandfather tell his WWII story through animation. Free, though you have to register in advance.

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