Support indie cinema: Roundup of Canada’s coolest film fests
It’s no secret that Canada hosts some of the best film festivals in North America, with one of its most famous being the annual Toronto International Film Festival. But while the city might be home to the main event, there are dozens of other independent events worth travelling to. To celebrate the film fests of Canada the Great, here are eleven of the best:
DOXA Documentary Film Festival
May 3 – 13
Vancouver, British Columbia
Presented by the Documentary Media Society, this Vancouver-based non-profit devoted to educating local audiences about the art of the documentary has been sharing its perfectly curated doculove since 2001.
Screening some of the world’s most outstanding documentaries alongside panel discussions, public forums, and educational programs, DOXA (pronounced dox’-ah) is renowned for being one of the best (and most conversation-worthy) independent film festivals of its kind in the world.
Toronto LGBT Film Festival
May 24 – June 3
Starting life in 1991 when Inside Out celebrated its first LGBT film & video festival within a small community, the Toronto LGBT Film Festival has expanded in scope and attendance ever since. The festival remains the largest of its kind in Canada and is considered to be in the top five LGBT film festivals in the world, attracting crowds of around 35,000 people.
Taking place across eleven bustling, buoyant days, the festival showcases the finest in international LGBT indie cinema alongside installations, parties, talks, and panel discussions.
Festival du Nouveau Cinéma
October 3 – 14
Devised as a space where filmmakers, industry professionals, and film fans can exchange ideas in an intimate, relaxed setting, Festival du Nouveau Cinéma explores fearless cinematic feats alongside spirited discussions.
For over 40 years, this well-regarded festival has presented singular independent films from Canada and beyond, supporting amateur filmmakers alongside eminent indie auteurs like Jim Jarmusch (Only Lovers Left Alive), Jane Campion (The Piano), Souleymane Cissé (Brightness), and Guy Maddin (The Forbidden Room). With the FNC eXPlore section, the festival also offers a free program of virtual reality and new media work.
October 18 – 20
Offering regular screening events alongside a streaming platform, Vanguard is a progressive indie film festival looking to instigate change in the current movie system. Showcasing bold movies featuring intriguing narratives & characters, the festival platforms outsider stories in a bid to promote societal change.
As Vanguard rep Daniel Vine told Film Daily, Toronto was the perfect home for the festival due to the vibrant unapologetic art scene. “We seek to create a community around creativity and foster a spirit of collaboration in Canada and beyond.”
Planet in Focus Environmental Film Festival
October 25 – 28
Canada’s largest environmental film festival showcases stories that question, challenge, and explore the world in natural, social, and personal ways. Using film as a catalyst to incite discussion & engagement on a range of environmental issues, this niche festival celebrates filmmaking across a number of genres. Unsurprisingly, Planet in Focus has also spearheaded a pan-industry program to reduce the environmental footprint of the film and television industry with the Green Screen Initiative.
Whistler Film Festival
November 28 – December 2
Whistler, British Columbia
Recognized as being “one of the top 30 film festivals in the world” by Variety, Whistler has attracted and launched some incredible filmmaking talent, establishing a thriving community of 1,850 industry alumni since the festival’s inception in 2001. Dedicated to advancing the art of film – and the careers of the artists creating it – Whistler offers project development programs for Canadian filmmakers alongside a booming program of independent cinema.
Toronto Independent Film Festival
September 6 – 15
Better known as the Toronto Indie, this festival is a headline event for micro-budget and no-budget films in North America, offering an opportunity for undiscovered filmmakers to be seen and celebrated by the industry. Created by and for indie filmmakers, the festival features a showcase of sterling low-budget cinematic achievements from around the world alongside targeted networking events and unmissable panel discussions.
Gimli Film Festival
July 25 – 29
Widely recognized as being the most successful film festival in Manitoba, Gimli aims to bring urgent, challenging, and thought-provoking cinema to the local lakeside community. Promoting singular voices, the festival includes annual programs dedicated to social justice, the environment, and female-driven stories, as well as films featuring indigenous narratives or hailing from the Circumpolar regions.
FIN: Atlantic International Film Festival
September 13 – 20
Halifax, Nova Scotia
Originating as a small, grassroots festival in 1981, FIN has since established itself as being an essential platform for local & global filmmaking and one of Canada’s premier celebrations of the artform. A proud curator of “epic and unforgettable stories”, the festival is inspired by the surrounding community and continuously aims to nurture artists and to unite them with industry professionals and film fans.
Edmonton International Film Festival
September 27 – October 6
Consisting of more than 150 movies from 40 countries, the EIFF is often celebrated for offering a diverse and vibrant film program. Showcasing short & feature independent films, the festival screens everything from “dramatic to documentary” and “comedy to gut-wrenching”, while engaging audiences with Q&As, intimate filmmaker chats, gala screenings, short film lunches, and parties.
For over 30 years, EIFF has welcomed such cinematic dignitaries as John Waters (Cry-Baby), Jon Cryer (Pretty in Pink), Naomi Klein (This Changes Everything), Werner Herzog (Fitzcarraldo), and Shea Whigham (Take Shelter), making the otherwise informal, breezy atmosphere of the festival abuzz with illustriousness.
Reelworld Film Festival
October 10 – 14
Dedicated to screening and supporting underrepresented voices of indigenous and racialized media artists, the Reelworld Film Festival prioritizes film exploring current social issues. Showcasing a variety of independent content intended to spark significant dialogue and inspire social change, the festival screens narrative features & shorts, documentaries, music videos, and webisodes, alongside more unconventional media like computer games and VR / 360 movies.