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Here are the best documentary film festivals in 2023

Do you truly know which film festivals are totally worth the buzz and why filmmakers seem to adore them? Buckle up for a glamorous journey through the world of film festivals that have garnered a standing ovation from the industry insiders.

Let’s take a dive into the world of docs and see which festivals are leading the pack, not only in their lane but also in Oscars conversations.

Melbourne Documentary Film Festival

Hailing from down under is the documentary festival increasingly known for resilient indigenous spotlights and reckonings with the bigger cultural questions of our time. The Melbourne Documentary Film Festival has had quite the run over the last several years and this go-round doesn’t prove to be any different.  

Cool Vibes in Anchorage

Ever tried watching films when night starts at three in the afternoon? Geoff Marslett swears by the Anchorage International Film Festival. Not just because of the endless cinematic nights, but also for the compelling stories that come alive during the festival, and perhaps, an impromptu game of bingo!

Hailed as one of the coolest platforms for first-time filmmakers, Anchorage celebrates global cinema while giving a special nod to Alaskan indie gems. The chances of securing a slot for your film? Quite promising!

ATL’s Cinematic Energy

You know there’s something magical happening in Atlanta when the Plaza Theater marquee showcases indie films! Hanadi Elyan vouches for the Atlanta Film Festival’s transformative impact. And why not? With major Hollywood studios setting their sights on the city, the cinematic pulse here is unmissable.

Keep Austin Film-y

“A star on the festival circuit” – that’s the Austin Film Festival for you. Elyan and Sylvia Caminer sing praises of its welcoming, smart, and contagious vibe. And it’s not just about watching films; it’s about meaningful connections, in-depth discussions, and, of course, the legendary Texas hospitality.

Also, for the writers reading this – this festival hosts one of the most coveted screenwriting competitions. Need another reason to head there?

Parisian Cinematic Charm

For Geoff Marslett, screening Quantum Cowboys, featuring Anna Karina’s last screen performance, at the Champs-Élysées Film Festival was a memorable homecoming. And can we talk about that location? Cinema against the backdrop of the iconic Avenue des Champs-Élysées! Magnifique!

Tech Meets Cinema in California

Hanadi Elyan calls the Cinequest Film & Creativity Festival tech-savvy, and we can’t agree more. Nestled in San Jose and Mountain View, this festival not only hosts movie buffs but also showcases some stellar technological advancements in cinema. And the glitzy red-carpet events? Unparalleled!

Short, Sweet, and French!

Over in Clermont Ferrand, the International Short Film Festival is a cinematic carnival. Drawing a massive crowd, this festival is all about multicultural showcases, animated wonders, and a bustling marketplace.

Cleveland’s Cinematic Fiesta

Bigger is definitely better when it comes to the Cleveland International Film Festival. For Camrus Johnson, this festival isn’t just about screenings; it’s an experience – one that he felt compelled to share with his mother. And hey, you might want to jot down 2024 for this one; the 2023 edition was quite the sensation!

Coastal Cinema in North Carolina

Cucalorus in Wilmington is where you let your hair down. Aaron Hillis and Geoff Marslett paint a vivid picture of this festival’s eclectic charm. Be it riveting film premieres, performances, or community-driven events, Cucalorus ensures you leave with memories and stories to tell.

European Elegance in Porto

Fantasporto in Portugal is where old-world charm meets contemporary cinema. Caminer reminisces about her European holiday that seamlessly merged with this cinematic festival. Spellbinding films, delightful company, and those endless walks across Porto’s iconic bridges. Ah, the joys of cinema and exploration!

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