God save the screen: UK’s best indie film fests
The UK is a country with an abundance of independent film festivals. While London has always been the epicentre of prestige and creativity – boasting more than its fair share of renowned festivals, there are plenty of other up-and-coming and established indie film festivals well beyond the capital. Here are FD’s picks of the twelve absolute best.
Leeds International Film Festival
November 1 – 16
With the world’s first films made in Leeds in 1888 by Luis le Prince, the city remains a bustling epicenter for dynamic, daring ideas and LIFF is a prime example of that. Acting as a portal for audiences to discover the “real world of film that exists beyond regular film exhibition,” LIFF provides exposure to new & established filmmakers in the UK.
Once described by Little White Lies as featuring a “high standard” of obscure films that “played out like an habitual uncovering of hidden gems,” the festival is full of surprising and diverse short & feature films and invigorating experiences. As director Ken Loach once professed, “Every city should have a film festival like Leeds.”
London Independent Film Festival
April 11 – 23
Showcasing micro-budget and no-budget movies in the UK, the LIFF offers a platform for emerging indie filmmakers to showcase their movies. Described by Time Out Magazine as being “a treasure trove of undiscovered cinematic gems – one of Europe’s top indie film fests,” the event celebrates ingenuity & passion while nurturing the formative careers of modern filmmakers.
Former winner Jan Dunn – who won the Best British Feature at LIFF in 2008 for Ruby Blue – said, “The festival really can show how we filmmakers can get a film off the ground with little more than sheer willpower. We make films because we have something to say, but often we can’t compete with the sheer weight of a commercial feature to get our films onto a British cinema screen . . . so well done LIFF in giving filmmakers like us a starting point.”
May 3 – December 6
Showcasing genre-bending and -breaking movies that map uncharted cinematic territory, Best Fest may be one of the most innovative and audacious indie film festivals to tour the UK (before heading to the U.S. later in the year). Screening a major indie movie alongside an undiscovered gem from an emerging filmmaker at each event, Best Fest champions original ideas made by original voices and makes them accessible to the general public.
“We want to take the movies to the people, rather than having them read about them and not be able to see them at their local arthouse,” Best Fest rep Nicola Taylor explained. “We’re hoping to change the way that cinemagoers engage with film by offering them a chance to see unique, most wanted indie films in a cinema setting.”
September 19 – 30
As the largest and most prestigious independent UK film festival, Raindance enjoys an annual audience of over 16,000 people and has hosted the UK premieres of movies including Memento, Ghost World, Dead Man’s Shoes, The Blair Witch Project, and Capturing the Friedmans. As The Guardian once quipped, Raindance is “as likely to generate hit films as any of its mainstream rivals.”
However, isn’t just Raindance’s world-renowned film program of independent cinema that makes the festival one of the best in the UK. It also boasts a number of compelling masterclasses, talks, and panels with film industry professionals, and champions achievements in Web Series & VR content within two separate festival strands – Raindance Web Fest and Raindance Virtual and Augmented Reality Strand, respectively.
November 7 – 11
Founded in 2011, this BAFTA-recognized short film festival is a hotbed for emerging & established filmmakers to be discovered, acknowledged, and celebrated. Organized by Aesthetica Magazine (a revered publication for art, design, and photography), the ASFF aims to drive short film forward with inspiring and innovative works.
With guest programs, industry panels, masterclasses, networking sessions, and a film marketplace on offer, the ASFF is a breeding ground for new voices to come to the fore. Proving the festival is going from strength to strength, the ASFF will also be accepting and screening feature narrative & documentary films for the first time in 2018.
May 10 – September
Intent on changing the future of filmmaking, FutureFemmeFest elevates the perspectives of “anyone who identifies as a FutureFemme . . . woman, man, gender-fluid, trans, whatever” through a bold showcase of indie film across the UK. As well as boasting a daring program of independent cinema, FutureFemmeFest also features a scintillating screenwriting competition and streaming platform.
Festival representative Katy Cole told Film Daily, “FutureFemmeFest is a celebration of female filmmakers. We encourage activism in art. Rather than complaining about the status quo, our filmmakers do something to disrupt it.” The result is a forward-thinking film festival that also acts as a dynamic meetup group, educator, and innovator.
East End Film Festival
April 11 – 29
With a mission to discover, support, and exhibit pioneering work by local & international filmmakers, the EEFF entertains an annual audience of over 30,000 people with cinematic experiences as cutting-edge as they are challenging. Describing the festival as “London’s coolest movie fest,” Gay Star News applauded EEFF’s “wonderfully subversive” film program, which is quite the accolade in a city full of slick, boundary-pushing festivals.
Committed to showcasing the work of first & second-time directors, the EEFF presents diverse, innovative voices and is known for championing homegrown cinematic talent. The festival also bolsters such homespun talent alongside a remarkable set of special guests, which have previously included Danny Boyle (28 Days Later), Ben Wheatley (Free Fire), Ron Perlman (Hellboy), and Andy Serkis (Black Panther).
World of Film International Festival
October 4 – 7
With a focus on promoting independent cinema while championing rising UK filmmakers, the WoFF unites international cinema with local audiences in a bid to nurture creativity, discover new voices, and inspire the cinematic gems of tomorrow. With three main sections to the festival including First Features, The Female Perspective, and Focus on Balkan Cinema, the WoFF also provides special support to first time, female, and Eastern European cinema.
UK Film Festival
November 20 – 24
Screening in the heart of London, UKFF welcomes a diverse set of international films in a bid to connect rising filmmakers with revered industry professionals. Previous attendants include Bill Nighy (Love Actually), Judi Dench (Philomena), Dustin Hoffman (Rain Man), and Timothy Spall (Mr. Turner).
Renowned for being a lively networking hub, the festival showcases a variety of film industry talent and has become a crucial career stepping stone for filmmakers looking to make a name for themselves. In the last six years, UKFF has established itself as a hub of success, promoting movies that have gone on to become Oscar and BAFTA nominees & winners and script competitions that have led to prestigious distribution and production deals.
Norwich Film Festival
November 7 – 19
In 2017, the Norwich Film Festival became a British Independent Film Awards-qualifying event and was recently chosen by The Metro as being one of the best in the UK, proving the nine-year-old festival continues to grow in strength and reputation.
The Norwich Film Festival promotes movies of all budgets from local, national, and international filmmakers and offers a growing platform for independent cinema to be seen and celebrated. With an impressive array of celebrity patrons including Olivia Colman (The Lobster) & Stephen Fry (Wilde) and judges including veteran actor Alfred Molina (Frida) & Andrea Gibb (Swallows and Amazons), the Norwich Film Festival provides a prestigious showcase of indie cinema while remaining wonderfully accessible to the general public.
Bolton International Film Festival
October 2 – 4
Described by the director of Rabbit Punch, Keith Farrell, as being “the best festival in the North West of England,” the Bolton International Film Festival is committed to showcasing boundary-pushing, innovative indie short films.
Festival patron Maxine Peake explained, “Bolton Film Festival gives filmmakers and actors in the area an opportunity to celebrate the talent in and around the town, to share their work to a wider audience and to meet industry experts and other filmmakers.”
While larger North West cities like Manchester & Liverpool offer their own impressive fests, the Bolton International Film Festival has a heightened sense of community by supporting local filmmakers alongside national and global names.
Kerry Film Festival
October 18 – 21
Co. Kerry, Ireland
Renowned for celebrating the work of emerging filmmakers alongside the support of such film luminaries as Cillian Murphy (Inception), Paul Greengrass (United 93), Liam Neeson (Schindler’s List), and Jeremy Irons (Dead Ringers), the KFF showcases short & feature film within a lively event. As well as boasting a unique film score program, the festival will also introduce a further slate for music videos and advertising in 2018, marking the KFF as a singular, forward-thinking festival.