toronto film festivals

10 Toronto film festivals you may not have heard of

Toronto film festivals are all the rage. The success of international heavy hitters like TIFF and Hot Docs show that this city has an insatiable appetite for great cinema. As long as the theatres are there and the audiences ask for more, film lovers continue to organize more and more festivals that reflect the diversity of this city's population and interests.

Here are my picks for notable Toronto film festivals you may not have heard of.

See also: The best film festivals in Toronto.

International Diaspora Film Festival - IDFF
The International Diaspora Film Festival builds on Toronto's reputation as a multicultural hub, bringing a program that explores themes of migration, immigration and diversity showcased by films from both emerging and established filmmakers. What sets this festival apart is how it spotlights independent Canadian filmmakers who come from ethnic backgrounds.

ImagineNATIVE Film Festival
For the past 15 years the imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival has programmed film, radio and new media works made by Canadian and international Indigenous artists. The festival prioritizes work pushing artistic boundaries and subverting stereotypical ways these communities are portrayed in mainstream media and cultural spaces.

Reel Awareness Human Rights Film Festival
This volunteer led festival showcases documentaries that draw attention to human rights issues around the world. Reel Awareness is guaranteed to give you a crash course on social justice issues on a global scale.

Filmi - Toronto's South Asian Film Festival
Filmi was created to promote South Asian independent films from around the world, and to provide a forum for South Asian artists to showcase their work to diverse audiences, highlighting films that fall outside of the Bollywood system. In its 15 years Filmi has introduced Toronto audiences to many features, documentaries, and shorts.

Scarborough Film Fest
In its third year, the Scarborough Film Festival is making a name for itself as an exciting new project in the city. The festival, presented by the U of T, features a bit of everything including features and shorts made by both Canadian and international filmmakers.

Toronto Japanese Film Festival
From remakes of Lolita and animated cartoons to classic Samurai flicks, the Japanese Film Festival covers various aspects of contemporary Japanese cinema. The fest is organized by the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre, who include film screenings as part of their regular programming so you have a place to get your regular fix.

Regent Park Film Festival
If you're short of money but want to see great films, the Regent Park Film Festival is the answer. This free community film festival has a roster of screenings that explore themes connected to inner-city communities. The fest has been active for over a decade and keeps on growing.

TO Web Fest
This is a festival dedicated to celebrating the small screens and videos made to be watched on your laptop or smartphone. With the growth of online series, more and more producers are creating content meant to live exclusively on the web. The fest also offers panels, workshops, awards as well as free public screenings.

Italian Contemporary Film festival
The annual Italian Contemporary Film Festival, takes place during Italian Heritage Month in June. The festivals highlights feature films, documentaries, and shorts from Italian contemporary cinema as well as films made in other parts of the world that grapple with Italian heritage.

Brazil Film Fest - BRAFF
Brazilian cinema is getting more critical attention, and this festival offers Torontonians a chance to see the new wave of filmmakers who are creating ripples with their innovative works. Approaching its 10th anniversary, BRAFF has come a long way to establish itself as hub for Brazilian cinema and culture in Canada.

What are some lesser known film festivals in Toronto you're excited about? Share your picks in the comments below.

Follow Sima Sahar Zerehi on Twitter @SimaSaharZerehi. Photo from TO Web Fest.


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