One Month, 120 Film Fest Days: A Guide to June’s U.S. Festival Frenzy
by Eugene Hernandez
Nearly every single day this month a notable film festival is underway somewhere in the United States. Over the years June has emerged as a key festival month, welcoming international events in big cities like Seattle and Los Angeles, queer fests in San Francisco and New York, a solid southern event in Atlanta, and numerous weekend festivals in resort towns like Nantucket, Newport and Provincetown. That’s more than 120 film festival days packed into just one month.
Notably, a favorite of the June fest frenzy dropped off the list this year. The Lake Placid Film Festival in upstate New York came to an end after just five years with organizers unable to raise the necessary funds for this year’s event. Planners promise to resurrect the event in some fashion.
With so much going on, here’s a quick list of the notable festivals that are on indieWIRE’s radar this month, many of which we will be attending. We’re including URLs for further info and/or planning your own festival trip.
May 19 – June 12: Seattle International Film Festival
The massive Seattle event spans weeks. It opened last month with Miranda July‘s “Me and You and Everyone We Know,” with July in town when she was summoned back to Cannes to accept her Camera d’Or. Nearly 350 films are screening in Seattle this year, under the guidance of insiders Helen Loveridge and Carl Spence, including special screenings of Craig Lucas‘ “The Dying Gaul,” Tom Hooper‘s “Red Dust,” Carlos Sorin‘s “Bombon, El Perro,” and Olivier Ducastel & Jacques Martineau‘s “Cote d’Azur,” along with a number of premieres. Gus Van Sant‘s “Last Days” will close the event. Also on tap again is the mysterious “Secret Film Festival” in Seattle, including weekly Sunday screenings of new films that can’t be seen anywhere else. We won’t make the mistake of accidentally revealing any of those titles this year. Attendees are literally sworn to utter secrecy.
June 2-12: NewFest, The New York Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, & Transgender Film Festival
NewFest kicks off a busy season of long-running queer fests, leading into events in San Francisco (Frameline) and Los Angeles (Outfest). This year’s event opened with a screening of Tim Kirkman‘s “Loggerheads,” it will close with Marco Kreuzpainter‘s “Summer Storm.” Festival programming, from event head and chief programmer Basil Tsiokos, this year includes films grouped into such categories as activism, parenting, retro sex, and sports.
June 3-12: Brooklyn International Film Festival
Were it not a borough of New York City, Brooklyn would be one of the largest cities in the country with a population of about 2.5 million people. So why shouldn’t it have its own film festival? 150 films are scheduled to screen at the Brooklyn Museum for the event’s 8th edition. With the theme “Opinion 8” this year, the festival will in their words, present “a compilation of sharp, analytical, and original projects with an opinionated twist.” Melissa Painter‘s “Steal Me,” from Sundance, will open the event tonight (Friday).
June 7-12: Newport International Film Festival
After just seven years of festivals, Newport has grown into a popular June event, luring locals and industry to Rhode Island for its long weekend of programming. Founders Christine Schomer and Nancy Donahoe took a step back from the event in recent years, programming is headed by Skye Sitney. The fest will open with Douglas Keeve‘s “Seamless” and close with Hans Petter Moland‘s “The Beautiful Country.” Cinematographer Ellen Kuras will give a master class and Michael McKean will be honored at the event.
June 9-23: Human Rights Watch International Film Festival
The annual New York event, presented by the Film Society of Lincoln Center, includes editions in London and its main site in Brixton. Programs will also travel to other cities. A benefit screening of “Omagh,” with filmmaker Pete Travis on hand for a discussion, kicks off the event this year in Manhattan. Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady‘s “The Boys of Baraka” will end the event.
June 10-18: Atlanta Film Festival
150 films are on tap for the 29th edition of this popular southern festival which recently moved to downtown Atlanta. Craig Brewer‘s “Hustle & Flow” will open the event this year, with programming by Woodstock fest programmers Ryan Werner and Tom Quinn of Wellspring Media and Magnolia Pictures respectively. The event from the IMAGE Film and Video Center is headed by festival director Jessica Denton. It will close with Miranda July’s “Me and You and Everyone We Know” and again offer a number of panels serving the active local filmmaking scene.
June 10-18: CineVegas
Festival director of programming Trevor Groth, who spends the rest of his year on the selection team at the Sundance Film Festival, has brought a number of notable films to Vegas in recent years for the festival that is housed in the popular Palms Casino. Andrew Wagner‘s “The Talent Given Us” is among the recent films to make the leap to wider awareness out of the festival, it went on to screen at Sundance this January.
June 14-19: Silverdocs
Just outside Washington D.C. in Silver Spring, MD, AFI and Discovery Channel launched Silverdocs only three years ago and it has already gained notoriety as a key new documentary showcase. Headed by former New Yorkers Patricia Finneran and lead programmer Mary Kerr, organizers run a concurrent International Documentary Conference featuring programs for filmmakers and funders alike.
June 15-19: Maui Film Festival
An enticing photo on the festival’s website, featuring festival guests gathered on a large green lawn watching “Whale Rider” as the sun sets in Hawaii will no doubt lure many to this increasingly popular getaway fest. Barry Rivers and his family launched the event, which prides itself on its outdoor showings, six years ago, returning annually to Father’s Day weekend in Wailea.
June 15-19: Provincetown International Film Festival
Since 1999, this weekend fest has competed with other Northeastern June resort events, carving out a niche for itself in the artsy New England beach colony. The event’s Filmmaker on the Edge stands out, having gone to John Waters, Christine Vachon, Ted Hope & James Schamus, Gus Van Sant, Todd Haynes and Jim Jarmusch in previous years. This year the event will honor Mary Harron. Van Sant’s “Last Days” will open the fest this year.
June 15-19: Nantucket Film Festival
Celebrating a decade of its festival devoted to the screenwriter, Jill Burkhart and Mystelle Brabbee have established an event that leads the way as a stellar weekend resort festival. The event mixes star power (this year Steve Martin will be on the Massachusetts island), entertaining special events like the annual late-night storytelling session and a yearly screenplay reading, as well as a solid selection of both new films (Jarmusch’s latest “Broken Flowers” will have its North American premiere at the event) alongside festival favorites (Andrew and Luke Wilson‘s “The Wendell Baker Story” is closing the fest).
June 16-26: Frameline, San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival
Olivier Ducastel and Jacques Martineau’s funny French farce “Cote d’Azur” kicks off Frameline this year, San Francisco’s International LGBT Film Festival, the largest event of its kind now in its 29th year and serving some 70,000 guests each year. Screenings spread out to venues including the Castro, Victoria, and Roxie theaters in the city, as well as the Parkway Theater in Oakland. Duncan Tucker‘s “Transamerica” will close the event, while Don Roos‘ “Happy Endings” is its centerpiece showing. Organizers also run Frameline Distribution, maintaining a library of some 200 films and supporting filmmakers with a completion fund.
June 16-26: Los Angeles Film Festival
Morphing years ago into the Los Angeles Film Festival from its moniker as the LAIFF, the LA Film Fest is a leading program of the recently renamed Film Independent (formerly known as IFP/Los Angeles). This year more than 250 films are on tap from fest head Rich Raddon and lead programmer Rachel Rosen. Last year’s event unveiled such favorites as the doc “Rock School,” where then Newmarket head Bob Berney discovered the film. The event’s competition offers winners a cash award of $50,000, making it a coveted fest berth. Other notable programs include a pre-fest retreat for filmmakers and an array of industry programs. Fresh from Cannes, David Jacobson‘s “Down in The Valley” is opening this year’s event, it will close with Don Roos’ “Happy Endings.”
June 22-26: Urbanworld Film Festival
The festival, founded in 1997 by former industry exec Stacey Spikes, has moved into June offering its annual showcase for the work of filmmakers of color. The event got a big boost last year with a special screening of “Collateral” featuring appearances by stars Tom Cruise and Jamie Foxx. It has also screened such high profile work as “Rush Hour 2” and “How Stella Got Her Groove Back,” alongside smaller films from indie directors. Plans for this year’s event to expected to be announced shortly.