10 of the best film festivals in NYC


(Photo: WalkingGeek via Flick / CC BY 2.0)

New York City has been the setting for some of the world’s most iconic movies, and in keeping with this heritage the Big Apple also plays host to a large number of prestigious film festivals every year. Many of these festivals serve to celebrate a particular niche or genre, while others honour particular neighbourhoods and the contributions of its residents to the silver screen.

The annual film festival programme augments an already brimming cultural calendar in New York. If you’re coming to NYC next year and would like to see if there are any film festivals or other events that take your fancy and coincide with your visit, we’ve picked out 20 of the best to look out for.

New York Jewish Film Festival

Presenting films from around the world that explore the Jewish experience, the New York Jewish Film Festival celebrates its 30th edition at the start of 2021, during which time it has grown into one of the most significant Jewish film festivals in the world. The festival spans a wide range of silver screen formats and genres, from narratives, documentaries and shorts to restored classics and world premieres. Numerous filmmakers attend the event to introduce their work and participate in post-screening Q&As.

LOCATION Walter Reade Theater DATES 13-26 January 2021

(Photo: The Jewish Museum via Flickr / CC BY 2.0)

Athena Film Festival

Now into its 11th year, the Athena Film Festival is a weekend-long celebration of women and leadership, featuring inspiring films that tell the stories of fierce and fearless female leaders. The event routinely attracts more than 350,000 visitors from across the globe who come to enjoy more than 200 screenings of narratives, documentaries, and shorts that tell diverse stories of ambition, courage, and resilience.

LOCATION Barnard College, Columbia University DATES 18-21 February 2021

New York International Children’s Film Festival

For four straight weekends in February & March, the New York International Children’s Film Festival welcomes over 25,000 young people and parents with a shared passion for movies and invites them to immerse themselves in the world of film. The event presents the best new animation, live action, documentary, and experimental films from across the globe, with winners of the show’s juried prizes even eligible for Academy Awards consideration at the iconic Oscars.

LOCATION Venues throughout NYC DATES February – March 2021

(Photo: New York International Children’s Film Festival)

Columbia University Film Festival

With its prestigious School of the Arts, Columbia University is a fertile breeding ground for young film-making talent. For more than three decades, the university has hosted the annual Columbia University Film Festival, a week-long programme of thesis short film screenings, visual arts exhibitions, screenplay and teleplay readings by film students. Screenings and other events take place at venues across the city.

LOCATION Venues throughout NYC DATES Spring 2021

New York Indian Film Festival

The Indian subcontinent has a rich movie making heritage and continues to produce world class cinema to this day. The New York Indian Film Festival focusses on independent, arthouse and alternative movies made in India, or that explore Indian themes, with six days of screenings encompassing features, documentaries and short films. There are also post-screening discussions, industry panels, an award ceremony, nightly networking parties, red carpet galas, and more.

LOCATION Venues throughout NYC DATES April 2021

The Women of African Descent Film Festival

Created to support the artistic development of female filmmakers of African descent, this festival showcases movies centred around women, their families, neighbourhoods and the global community. Celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2021, the event features screenings and talks that challenge media perceptions of black women by emphasising their positive accomplishments and uplifting experiences.

LOCATION LIU Brooklyn Campus DATES 1 May 2021

(Photo: The Women of African Descent Film Festival )

New York City Independent Film Festival

Celebrating the best in independent cinema, including short films, feature films, music videos, and animated works, the New York City Independent Film Festival is a vital showcase for those keen to stamp their mark in the movie industry. The week-long gathering sees screenings take place in the heart of iconic Times Square, and there’s also an awards ceremony, panels and parties.

LOCATION Venues throughout NYC DATES 16-23 May 2021

International New York Film Festival

Founded in 2010, the International New York Film Festival has grown to become a major industry event that honours and celebrates the talent of movie making around the world. With a strong focus on shining a light on the unity of diverse societies and ethnicities, filmmakers, writers, directors and performers come here to showcase their creativity, connect and discuss the methods of their craft. There are also red carpet galas and press events.

LOCATION Times Square DATES June 2021

Brooklyn Film Festival

A 10-day international-competitive festival, the Brooklyn Film Festival was created to discover and promote emerging independent filmmakers, draw worldwide attention to Brooklyn as a centre for cinema, and promote the creative freedom of artists without censure. The festival features up to 150 films selected from a range of categories – Narrative Feature, Documentary Feature, Short Narrative, Short Documentary, Experimental, and Animation – with all selected films eligible for several awards, including the highly coveted Grand Chameleon prize. In addition to its film programmes, the event also hosts multiple filmmaker parties and other networking opportunities.

LOCATION Venues throughout Brooklyn DATE 4-13 June 2021

(Photo: Brooklyn Film Festival)

Tribeca Film Festival

Acting as a platform for independent filmmaking, creative expression and immersive entertainment, the Tribeca Film Festival supports emerging and established voices discovers award-winning filmmakers, and curates innovative and interactive experiences. The event also introduces and explores new technology and ideas through panels, premieres, exhibitions, and live performance.

LOCATION Venues throughout NYC DATES 9-20 June 2021

(Photo: Darius Whelan via Flickr / CC BY 2.0)

By Paul Joseph