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San Francisco Bay Area Film Festivals

last updated: 2014-05-18

San Francisco bay area holds more than 30 film festivals a year, ranging from big events like San Francisco International Film Festival (the longest-running North American film festival), Frameline (World’s largest LGBT film festival) to one-day festival like “Intergalactic Feline Film and Video Festival for Humans”. Here you won’t find Sundance, Tribeca or SXSW, but you’ve got San Francisco, what could you complain?

Check out film festivals by month:
Jan   Feb   Mar   Apr   May   Jun   Jul   Aug   Sep   Oct   Nov   Dec  

Check out film festivals by type:

Januray

Berlin & Beyond Film Festival
Last: (18th) Jan 15 – 21, 2014 at Castro Theatre and Goethe-Institut, San Francisco
Since its inception in 1996, Berlin & Beyond Film Festival has become the leading festival of films from German-speaking countries in the Americas.

Noir City Film Festival
Last: (12th) Jan 24 – Feb 2, 2014 at Castro Theatre, San Francisco.
Noir City, the Annual San Francisco Film Noir Festival, began in January, 2003. It immediately grew into the largest film noir-specific annual event in the United States, the centerpiece of the Film Noir Foundation’s public awareness campaign. Noir City also runs in Seattle, Los Angeles, Chicago, Portland, Washington D.C. and starting in 2014, Austin.

February

San Francisco Independent Film Festival
Last: (16th) Feb 6 – 20, 2014 at Roxie Theatre and Balboa Theatre, San Francisco; New Parkway Theatre, Oakland; Aquarius Theatre, Palo Alto and Rio Theatre, Santa Cruz.
SF Indiefest is a year-round, non-profit organization that has been operating since 1998. In addition to the film programs, IndieFest is known for throwing some great parties, including the annual Roller Disco Costume Party, the annual Big Lebowski Party and many live music events.
[+] Most of films will not be theatrically released — see it here or see it nowhere.
[+] Definitely not something you can see in a multiplex. (2013’s gems include Audience award winner “The story of Luke”, and beautiful thriller “Sun don’t shine”.)
[+] Mission district is super lively, enjoy the parties of the festival, or of your own.
[-] Pass holders have to exit the auditorium and joins the line after every screening.
[-] The bar next to little Roxie is really loud, be aware!

Mostly British Festival
Last: (6th) Feb 13 – 20, 2014 at Vogue Theatre, San Francisco
Mostly British film festival showcases new and Classic Films from the UK, Ireland, Australia and South Africa.

March

Cinequest Film Festival
Last: (24th) Mar 3 – 16, 2014 at several theatres in San Jose.
Cinequest remains one of the last big festival bastions for the discovery of new and emerging film artists. Exhibiting unique social and artistic visions from around the globe, Cinequest’s dynamic festival engages audiences in thought-provoking dialogue, giving film artists and film lovers alike an opportunity to connect. Furthermore, Cinequest provides cutting edge technology and movie-making forums to empower professionals and students.

San Francisco Ocean Film Festival
Last: (11th) Mar 6 – 9, 2014 at Pier 39 Bay Theater, San Francisco.
The mission of the San Francisco International Ocean Film Festival is to inspire people to appreciate and care for the ocean by revealing its wonders through independent films. It was the first event of its kind in North America, inspired by the well-established ocean festival in Toulon, France.

San Francisco Women Film Festival (Shorts)
Last: (9th) Mar 7 & 29, 2014 at San Francisco.
The San Francisco International Women’s Film Festival (SFIWFF) has a long tradition of providing the community with some of the best films directed and co-directed by women from all over the world. SFIWFF film screenings serve as a catalyst for creating and facilitating dialogue through the power of independent filmmaking, and represent a range of perspectives, both locally and globally.

San Francisco Asian American Film Festival (CAAMFest)
Last: (32nd) March 13 – 23, 2014 at Sundance Kabuni Cinemas, New People Cinema and Castro Theater, San Francisco.
CAAMFest is the nation’s largest showcase for new Asian American and Asian films, annually presenting approximately 130 works in San Francisco, Berkeley and Oakland. Since 1982, the festival has been an important launching point for Asian American independent filmmakers as well as a vital source for new Asian cinema.

April

Sonoma Valley International Film Festival
Last: (17th) Apr 2 – 6, 2013 at Sonoma, CA.
The Sonoma International Film Festival takes place in the heart of Northern California’s Wine Country. All films are shown at intimate venues within walking distance on Sonoma’s historic plaza. This unique 5-day event offers world-class cuisine from local artisans and exceptional wine from Sonoma vintners.

San Francisco Human Rights Film Festival
Last: (12th) Apr 3 – 5, 2014 USF Presentation Theater, San Francisco.
The goals of Human Rights Film Festival are to promote awareness and discussion of global human rights issues and explore challenges to human rights in specific locations. The Festival seeks to strengthen the University’s links with Bay Area human rights organizations, and is free and open to public.

Tiburon International Film Festival
Last: (13th) Apr 11 – 17, 2014 at Tiburon, CA.
The Tiburon International Film Festival seeks to provide a greater understanding of the world and its many cultures through the artistic medium of film, and through the top quality films from around the world. The festival wishes to enhance tolerance between people of all backgrounds and create a platform for the independent filmmakers to express their talent and vision from any nation.

San Francisco International Film Festival
Last: (58th) Apr 24 – May 8, 2013 at Sundance Kabuki Cinemas and New People Cinema, San Francisco.
Founded in 1957, the San Francisco International Film Festival is the longest-running film festival in the Americas. Held each spring for two weeks, the International is an extraordinary showcase of cinematic discovery and innovation in the country’s most beautiful city, attracting an annual audience of more than 70,000. SFIFF is one of the most important events in the Bay Area’s cultural calendar and an important stop on the international festival circuit.
[+] Great film selection, sort of between mainstream and art-house, good for general audience.
[+] High filmmaker participation rate. I didn’t see any big star in 2013, but Ryan Gosling had an red carpet appearance at 2014 SFIFF!
[+] Sundance Kabuki Cinemas is cozy and luxury, Fillmore St is fun and lively.
[-] Price on the high side, and no affordable festival pass.
[-] High sell-out rate, reservation is strongly recommended.
[-] The line is long and outside the cinemas. (So you can savor the chilly night of San Francisco?)
[-] Many (esp. domestic) films will be released later. Why bother seeing them here?

May

San Francisco Greek Film Festival
Last: (11th) May 3 – 10, 2014 at Delancey Street Screening Room, San Francisco.
The San Francisco Greek Film Festival is sponsored by the Modern Greek Studies Foundation and all proceeds benefit the educational initiatives of the Center for Modern Greek Studies and the Nikos Kazantzakis Chair at San Francisco State University.

San Francisco Sex Worker Film Festival
Last: (8th) May 18 – 26, 2013 at San Francisco (Roxie).
The biennial San Francisco Sex Worker Film Festival provides a forum for sex worker film and video makers to screen works about sex workers and sex work, businesses, industries and trades around the world. The Festival has expanded to become a vibrant venue for performances, workshops, visual arts, political organizing, skills sharing and ever expanding events.

San Francisco Silent Film Festival
Next: (19th) May 29 – Jun 1, 2014 at Castro Theater, San Francisco.
Over the years, the San Francisco Silent Film Festival has become an internationally renowned destination for filmmakers, scholars, and movie lovers. In the last 18 years, the festival has presented more than 150 rare and classic silent films, all with live music performed by the most accomplished composers and musicians in the field.

SF Green Film Festival
Next: (4th) May 29 – Jun 4, 2014 at Roxie Theater, San Francisco.
The San Francisco Green Film Festival is the West Coast’s leading destination for groundbreaking and compelling films on the urgent environmental issues of our time, and aims to educate and connect communities through forward-thinking programs of environmental films and discussions.

June

San Francisco Documentary Film Festival
Next: (13th) Jun 5 – 19, 2014 at Roxie Theater, San Francisco, Oakland, Palo Alto and Santa Cruz.
SFDocFest is another film festival presented by the SF Indiefest organization, same programmers, same locations, same atmosphere. Over 100 documentaries are screened here every year, range from Sundance/SXSW winners to local productions.
[+] Wide selection of films, well balanced between global issues and local interests.
[-] Everything not so enjoyable at IndieFest also happens here.

San Francisco Black Film Festival
Next: (16th) Jun 12 – 15, 2014 at San Francisco.
The mission of the San Francisco Black Film Festival is to celebrate African American cinema and the African cultural Diaspora and to showcase a diverse collection of films – from emerging and established filmmakers.

Queer Women of Color
Last: (9th) Jun 14 – 16, 2013 at San Francisco.
Queer Women of Color Media Arts Project (QWOCMAP) promotes the creation, exhibition and distribution of new films/videos that address the vital social justice issues that concern queer women of color and our communities, authentically reflect our life stories, and build community through art and activism.

Frameline(San Francisco LGBT Film Festival)
Next: (38th) Jun 19 – 29, 2014 at Castro Theater, San Francisco.
Frameline Film Festival is the world’s first and largest film festival devoted to LGBT community. With annual attendance as high as 80000, it is also the most well attended LGBT arts events in San Francisco Bay Area.
[+] The most intimate film festival experience, a celebration beyond film festival. Whether you are gay or straight, you should know how to howl like a wolf!
[+] Dozens of films world premier here — a feat even the SFIFF rarely achieves.
[+] Filmmakers appear in person in almost all US film screenings and many international film screenings at Castro.
[-] Most films have only one screening while two or three such films are shown at the same time in different locations — choose wisely (Castro is usually a safe choice).
[-] The qualities of the films are…diverse — choose wisely (or buy a Castro pass so you don’t need to choose).

July

San Francisco Jewish Film Festival
Next: (34th) Jul 24 – Aug 10, 2014 at San Francisco, Berkeley, Palo Alto and San Rafael.
The three-week summer festival screens in four Bay Area venues, featuring the highest quality Jewish films from around the world. As the first of more than 100 Jewish film festivals worldwide—and still the largest, with some 30,000 attendees—SFJFF is an influential showcase bringing together filmmakers and audiences to celebrate Jewish cinema and explore its new frontiers
[+] Multiple locations around the bay.
[+] Film festival pass for under 35 is only $30 ! Best film festival deal ever!

August

September

San Francisco Latino Film Festival
Last: (5th) Sep 12 – 27, 2013 at San Francisco.
The Cine+Mas SF Latino Film Festival showcases the work of emerging and established filmmakers from the US, Latin America, Spain and Portugal.

San Francisco Irish Film Festival
Next: (11th) Sep 18 – 20, 2014 at San Francisco.
The festival presents the very best in contemporary Irish cinema, celebrating everything from features to documentaries to Irish language films (with English subtitles for those who didn’t spend a summer at a Gaeltacht).

Italian Film Festival
Next: (38th) Sep – Nov, 2014 at San Rafael.
Originally started as an informal, one-time only presentation of Italian movies in a college lecture hall, the Italian Film Festival of Marin County has grown over its 36 years into a perennial favorite in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Wine County Film Festival
Last: (27th) Sep 25-29, 2013 at Sonoma County.

Oakland Underground Film Festival
Next: (6th) Sep 25 – 28, 2014 at Oakland.
The Oakland Underground Film Festival is a showcase for independent and Do-It-Yourself film, video, and projection-art based in Oakland, California. It places special emphasis on local filmmakers, social justice, urban life, the environment and works of fiction and non-fiction that thrive outside of classic narrative filmmaking.

October

Mill Valley International Film Festival
Next: (37th) Oct. 2 – Oct. 12, 2014 at Mill Valley and San Rafael.
Known as a filmmakers’ festival, the annual festival offers a non-competitive environment for exhibiting independent and world cinema.
[+] A lot of Oscar contenders premier here (San Francisco Bay Area premier, or even US premier), best chance to see the Oscar winners ahead of your friends — MVFF has premiered Slumdog Millionaire, The King’s Speech, The Artist, Argo…
[+] Lots of big stars appearance. Past years’ guests include Bradley Cooper, Dustin Hoffman, Sean Penn, Ang Lee and many more.
[-] Like SFIFF, there is no affordable festival pass.

San Francisco Film Society Fall Season
Last: Oct – Nov, 2013. San Francisco.
Hong Kong Cinema (3rd) Oct 4 – 6, 2013 at Vogue Theatre, San Francisco.
Sister Cities Cinema: Zurich/SF Oct 18 – 20, 2013 at New People Cinema, San Francisco.
Taiwan Film Days (5th) Nov 1 – 3, 2013 at Vogue Theatre, San Francisco.
French Cinema Now (6th) Nov 7 – 10, 2013 at Clay Theatre, San Francisco.
New Italian Cinema (17th) Nov 13 – 17, 2013 at Clay Theatre, San Francisco.
Cinema by the Bay (5th) Nov 22 – 24, 2013 at Roxie Theatre, San Francisco.

The San Francisco Film Society’s Fall Season—comprised of a growing slate of short, focused festivals—brings the best films from around the world home to adventurous and inquisitive Bay Area audiences through in-depth explorations of exceptional regional cinemas.
[+] Diverse and contemporary selections of films from some of the most important film production regions/countries.
[-] Like any other SFFS event, the ticket holder line outside the theater is a little bit annoying.

Arab Film Festival
Last: (17th) Oct 11 – 13, 2013 at San Francisco; Oct 24-27, 2013 at Berkeley.
The Arab Film Festival is the largest independent annual showcase of Arab films and filmmakers in the country. The festival has an international standing and is considered one of the most important Arab film festivals outside the Arab world.

San Francisco Short Film Festival
Next: (9th) Oct 16 – 18, 2014 at Roxie Theatre, San Francisco.
SF Shorts screens a very wide range of films, mixing genres, subjects, styles, and cultures. It’s about grabbing someone by the eyeballs and making them think, feel, and react. It’s about what people see every day but now stare at in wonder.

San Jose Short Film Festival
Next: (6th) Oct 9 – 12, 2014 at CineArts Santana Row, San Jose.
This community festival brings together filmmakers, industry executives, Silicon Valley notables and celebrities, to mix and mingle with audiences ready to discover creative works otherwise unavailable to Bay Area audiences.

Silicon Valley Jewish Film Festival
Last: (22nd) Oct 19 – Nov 17, 2013 at San Jose, Campbell, Palo Alto.
The SVJFF is regarded as a central, unifying event across Silicon Valley that drives the connectivity with and within the Jewish, multi-generational and increasingly diverse community. The festival screens films at several venues in Silicon Valley in one month period.

United Nation Association Documentary Film Festival
Last: (16th) Oct 17 – 27, 2013 at Palo Alto, Stanford, East Palo Alto and San Francisco.
UNAFF is originally conceived to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. As one of the oldest solely documentary film festivals in the US, UNAFF has grown and earned the respect of audiences and filmmakers alike for its fearless independence and integrity.

November

American Indian Film Festival
Last: (38th) Nov 1 – 10, 2013 at San Francisco.
The Festival, founded and produced by American Indians, chronicles our integrity as peoples, artists, and activists. The Festival showcases short films, documentaries, and features that come from the heart of Indian Country, produced by emerging and established Indian/Non-Indian filmmakers.

San Francisco Dance Film Festival
Next: (5th) Nov 6 – 9, 2014 at San Francisco (Delancey*).
San Francisco Dance Film Festival gives the Bay Area a much-needed platform for the presentation and further development of dance-based films. The Festival seeks to bring dance to wider audiences and supports interdisciplinary collaboration among artists by providing opportunities for education and creative exchange.

San Francisco South Asian Film Festival
Last: (11th) Nov 6 – 10, 2013 at San Francisco.
The premiere annual South Asian film festival in the U.S, the San Francisco International South Asian Film Festival (SFISAFF) has brought the cinematic heritage and culture of South Asia to Bay Area audiences for more than a decade. Presented by 3rd i Films, the oldest South Asian media arts organization in the U.S., the festival promotes diverse images of South Asians and catalyzes change through independent film.

San Francisco Transgender Film Festival
Last: (12th) Nov.8 – 10, 2013 at Roxie Theatre, San Francisco.
The San Francisco Transgender Film Festival (SFTFF) screens films that promote the visibility of transgender and gender variant people and challenge the mainstream media’s negative stereotypes of our communities. The festival provides opportunities for transgender and gender variant media artists, build community through our film and performance events, and engage our audiences in cross-community dialogue.

San Francisco Chinese American Film Festival
Last: (7th) Nov.13 – 20, 2013 at 4 Star Theatre, San Francisco.

Another Hole in the Head Film Festival
Last: (10th) Nov 29 – Dec 19, 2013 at Balboa Theatre and New People Cinema, San Francisco.
The annual festival of horror, sci-fi, dark fantasy and exploitation cinema defies convention to bring you the most outrageous genre films from both emerging and established filmmakers. Three weeks of celluloid mayhem not usually found in your local cineplex!

December

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