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Best of Toronto

The Best Film Festivals in Toronto

Posted by Christine Brooks / September 25, 2013

Festivals TorontoThe best film festivals in Toronto underscore just how far the city has come in a cultural capacity over the last decade or so. Toronto is home to over 50 film festivals (and counting), covering nearly every community and genre. From huge international events to small local gatherings, there is no shortage of options for film fans to choose from throughout the year. If you look hard enough, you can find a film festival representing just about any country, any style of film nearly every month in the GTA, most being just as affordable as going to your local multiplex to see the latest blockbuster.

In compiling a list of the best film festivals in Toronto, there is bound to be some worthy ones that get overlooked. Toronto Animation Arts Film Festival and Rendezvous with Madness are just a couple that deserve an honourable mention. What's great about listing the best film festivals in Toronto is that with each new year, it's bound to change along with the city's film culture, which continues to grow and diversify.

Here is a list of the best film festivals Toronto has to offer.

See also:

The Best Place to Watch a Film in Toronto
Where to watch free movies in Toronto

By far the most popular and high profile festival, the Toronto International Film Festival is an easy and predictable pick for the top of the list. Every September, TIFF brings a buzz to the city as well as nearly 300 films. It's the last stop on the festival calendar for many filmmakers, which makes TIFF the first stop for Oscar predictions. Everyone talks about the big Hollywood galas, but TIFF is best at finding and supporting innovative and independent filmmakers internationally and at home, and gives them one of the biggest platforms for their work.

Hot Docs
Holding it down as North America's largest documentary festival, Hot Docs has been providing Torontonians with some of the best documentaries from around the world for 20 years. With almost as big a following as TIFF, but with a more down to earth atmosphere (reasonable prices, free daytime screenings for students and seniors) Hot Docs is definitely one of the best festivals around. Its expansion into its own cinema of year round programming speaks to its popularity and success.

Toronto After Dark
Toronto's preeminent Cult, Sci-fi, and Horror film festival, Toronto After Dark showcases some of the weirdest films out there. Past years have included cult favourites like Human Centipede and Black Dynamite as well as appearances from Eli Roth and Simon Pegg. There's even a discount for people dressed as Zombies on their annual Zombie Appreciation day. There isn't another festival like it in the city and fans of cult and horror movies are some of the most fun audiences around.

Inside Out Film Festival
For 24 years the Inside Out Film Festival has been promoting queer cinema in all its forms to the city, starting the summer off with a bang. Inside Out's programming is always eclectic, with screenings ranging from local short films and boundary pushing features to powerful documentaries, like last year's Oscar nominated film, How to Survive a Plague. Plus, they have three great parties during the festival and some of the most passionate audiences in the city.

Reel Asian Film Festival
Coming up to it's 17th year, Reel Asian is Canada's largest Asian film festival and its programming is as diverse as the continent which it covers. Spanning six days every November in downtown Toronto and now also Richmond Hill, Reel Asian showcases some of Asia's best artists in film and video, presents art installations and some pretty fun parties, as well as an annual pitch competition which gives local filmmakers an opportunity to make their idea a reality for screening at the following year's festival.

Toronto Jewish Film Festival
Throughout its 20 year run, the Toronto Jewish Film Festival has continuously provided the city with a wide range of films that touch on the Jewish experience from all over the world. TJFF's programming continues to evolve each year, looking for new ways to showcase Jewish film. Last year they explored African and Bollywood through the Jewish lens and their yearly sidebar series, retrospectives of influential Jewish entertainers, are always inventive and unique. Previous years have celebrated comic book writers like Harvey Pekar and the 3 Lennie's (Bruce, Cohen and Bernstein). They also offer free day of student tickets, which adds to this festival's welcoming atmosphere.

Planet in Focus
Have the fluctuating temperatures this fall got you wondering what is happening in the world? If so, make your way to the Planet in Focus film festival in November to find some answers. Focused primarily on documentaries and experimental shorts about our changing planet from around the globe, PIF also screens over 100 films and offers free and discounted programming for schools and kids. It's one only a handful of film festivals with a spirit of art and activism at its core.

Cinefranco is all about French language cinema, as the name would suggest. Selections from francophone Canada and the rest of the French-speaking world are presented every March, often with special guests in attendance. Additionally, they present a youth festival leading up to the main event and year round programming, with highlights from French cinema from around the globe. Previous years have included Canadian Screen Award nominated Quebec films, many of which never find theatrical distribution in English Canada. It's a great way to support Francophone films, while brushing up on your language skills (although subtitles are present at all screenings, just in case).

By far the most unique festival out there, Images Film and Video Festival is in a league of its own. Focusing on experimental film and video art, Images' programming is possibly the most avant-garde and innovative in the city. One of the most amazing experiences I've ever had at a festival was during Images 2010 for their closing night performance by Shary Boyle, who has since gone on to represent Canada at the Venice Bienniale. Images is continually pushing boundaries in the realm of film and art.

Open Roof Festival
Possibly the most laid back festival on the calendar, Open Roof is a festival of film, music and food. Less about premieres and red carpets and more a fun summery atmosphere, Open Roof screens films once a week from June through August, with live bands accompanying each screening and top-notch food trucks for pre and post movie snacks. Previously located at the Amsterdam Brewery, Open Roof has since moved to the Moon Lot View on Queens Quay for even more breezy summer vibes.

Reel World
In many ways, Reel World is not just a film and video festival, but a grassroots movement focused on giving opportunity to and celebrating diversity in the arts. Every April, Reel World screens film and videos from a variety of communities as well as provides support and encouragement to new filmmakers through their Reel World Foundation. Founded by actress Tonya Williams (from Young and the Restless and Polka Dot Door!) they also promote local filmmakers with a promise of 50 to 75% Canadian content. Reel World is a festival with a message.

European Union Film Festival
If you missed seeing the latest films from some of Europe's finest at TIFF in September, don't fret. There's a good chance many of them will turn up at the European Union Film Festival. Collaborating with EU consulates and cultural institutes, this completely free film festival takes over the Royal every November, offering up some great films from EU nations, from Ireland to Estonia and all the places in between. Get a glimpse of some of next year's contenders for Best Foreign Film Oscars 3 months before everyone else.

Regent Park Film Festival
Totally independent and always free, Regent Park Film Festival work with and for the community, presenting a variety of films and events, both international and locally produced. Using film as a way to reach out to the community and beyond, the Regent Park film festival has expanded to include year round programming such as summer outdoor screenings and community workshops, always at no cost. Going into its 11th year, it shows how art and film can be inclusive and engaging at the same time.

Toronto Palestine Film Festival
Taking place every September, the Toronto Palestine film festival is ready for anyone who didn't get enough of a film fix from TIFF. Only in its 6th year, this festival has quickly established a strong audience for its selection of Palestinian film and music. In addition to highlights from the year's best Palestinian films, there is also an annual art show and the very popular Palestinian Brunch, one of the hottest tickets of the festival.

ImagineNative Film and Media Arts Festival
Since 1998, imagineNative has been showcasing emerging and established indigenous film and new media artists from Canada and beyond. With a wide range of features, shorts programs featuring local talent, plus great new media exhibits and their annual concert The Beat (featuring popular aboriginal performers), the imagineNative festival gives voice to a diverse collection of indigenous artists from all over the world.

Is your favourite local film festival missing? Add it to the comments below.



Steve Veale / September 25, 2013 at 10:41 am
Oh no! You missed a good one! Some would say great...... The Toronto Independent Film Festival ("TO indie") just finished it's 4th annual presentation at the Carlton Cinemas. We screen the exact dates as TIFF. Each night we show two Feature Films (6 pm and 9 pm) and then a "Block of Shorts" at approx. 7:30 pm. A mere $8 ticket will cover one Feature and the Shorts. The TO indie shows the best of low-budget independent filmmaking from Canada and around the world. As for the best place to watch a festival, check out the renovated Carlton and its large lobby spaces - good for gathering after to discuss the film and meet the filmmakers. I urge everyone to check out the new website for TFFA - The Film Festivals Association. www.torontofilmfestivals.com. Toronto more film festival per year than any other city in the world.
TS / September 25, 2013 at 11:32 am
I think you forgot Sprockets.

Hot Docs is THE BEST. So entertaining and you learn with every film.
TPFF / September 25, 2013 at 11:44 am
Toronto Palestine Film Festival is so proud to be include in this list of amazing festivals. This year is actually our 6th year. Time flies! Hope you can join us this Saturday for opening night (Sept 28)!
whatever / September 25, 2013 at 12:27 pm
sycophantic blog post....really let's look at the possible opposite-Toronto's Worst Film Festivals....

let's make them up-you start
FR replying to a comment from TS / September 25, 2013 at 07:11 pm
Sprockets is now re-branded as TIFF Kids, and you're right, it's awesome! Not to mention TIFF's new teen festival, TIFF Next Wave. It's pretty impressive for a festival run by and for high school students.
Adam Lopez / September 25, 2013 at 08:31 pm
Thank you so much BlogTO for selecting Toronto After Dark as one of the best film fests in the city, and putting us in such fantastic company (and using one of our event images for the post)! I remember years back when we set out to create our little thrilling, chilling Halloween Season film event, the greater film festival community in our city was a huge inspiration to us, and it still is. Can't believe it's our 8th year already next month! I'd be remiss not to mention, this coming Monday, Sep 30, at our festival website, torontoafterdark.com, we announce our entire 9-Night lineup for this year's annual showcase of new horror, sci-fi, action and cult movies, screening this Oct 17-25, 2013 at the Scotiabank Theatre. Hope to See some BlogTO readers After Dark Next Month. Cheers! - Adam Lopez, Festival Director & Founder, TADFF
Aaron Zeghers / September 26, 2013 at 03:10 am
Don't forget The 8 Fest!! Toronto's small gauge festival!
james spanco / September 26, 2013 at 07:42 am
TO independent film fest
a2zee / September 28, 2013 at 10:57 pm
You are missing The Pomegranate Film Festival! It's in November this year... though smaller in size compared to some of these other festivals, it's always a great weekend with fantastic events. The Gala is something to look forward to!
Arshad Khan / September 30, 2013 at 11:16 pm
Don't forget the Mosaic International South Asian Film festival of Mississauga that showcases the best of South Asian diasporic cinema from around the world :)
Kyle / October 2, 2013 at 10:08 am
How do I get in touch with the writer?
Alex / October 5, 2013 at 03:43 pm
Human Rights Watch Film Festival!
Marta / October 7, 2013 at 07:41 pm
Toronto Polish Film Festival
November 13-17th, 2013
TIFF Bell Lightbox, Revue Cinema, Cine-Starz (Mississauga)
Tom / October 24, 2013 at 03:17 pm
Pleasure Dome has been exhibiting cutting-edge experimental film and video since 1989
Steve Nash / November 6, 2013 at 03:59 pm
Attention Film Enthusiasts: You are all cordially invited to an afternoon out at the movies. Sixteen incredible short films are being screened this Sunday afternoon and we'd love for you to join us at the Bloor/Hot Docs Cinema. If you like short-films and want to show your support of Canadian filmmakers then this “Best of Toronto” screening of short-films is definitely for you.

The Toronto 48 Hour Film Project: Best films of 2013 (screening and awards ceremony)
Date: Sunday, November 10th
Time: 3:30pm – 6:00pm
Location: Bloor/Hot Docs Cinema (506 Bloor Street West, Toronto, ON, M5S 1Y3)
Tickets: $10 (Tickets are available at the theatre box office, one hour before show time. Cash only.)

This year, hundreds of intrepid filmmakers competed in the Toronto 48 Hour Film Project. Teams had 48 hours to write, shoot and edit a 4-7 minute film. After a long and sleepless weekend, operating on pure adrenaline, these talented individuals somehow managed to create dynamic short-films that will entertain and inspire even the pickiest film-buff.

These wonderful shorts are testament to what a creative and competitive group of people can accomplish when they’re under the gun and fuelled by a collective passion for filmmaking.

An awards presentation will follow the screening. The Best Film from Toronto will go on to compete against the Best Films from 127 other 48 Hour Film Project cities, at Filmapalooza in New Orleans. If it’s in the top ten there it will be shown at the Cannes Film Festival!

We look forward to seeing you this Sunday afternoon,

Steve Nash & Christopher Cherry
Toronto Producers, 48 Hour Film Project

P.S. - An after-party is being held at the Paupers Pub (across the street from the theatre) and we'd love for you to join us there as well.
Gloria Bernal / November 18, 2013 at 05:22 pm
About aluCine 2014

The aluCine Latin Film+Media Arts Festival is Canada’s most important and firmly established Latin film festival. The festival functions as a vital Canadian outlet for emerging and established Latin filmmakers living in Canada, Latin America and the diaspora, while our year-round screenings, symposiums and workshops promote the development of Latin film and culture in Toronto.

In all of its endeavors, aluCine strives to transgress aesthetic, ideological and geographical borders and to transcend pre-established notions of representation as they pertain to Latin American culture in Canada.

aluCine’s 10 day festival features a juried program of screenings, a children’s film festival, live music performances and media art exhibitions.

The 14th aluCine Latin Film + Media Arts Festival returns to heat up Toronto from the 2nd to the 12th of April, 2014 launching Latin Heritage Month in Canada.

A complete schedule, list of programs, and ticket info will be updated on our website in the coming months at:
http://www.alucinefestival.com Trailer: http://vimeo.com/59421705

Keep an eye out for festival events promotions and festival pass giveaways!

We look forward to seeing you in the Spring of 2014!
Mohsin Nasar / March 12, 2014 at 12:30 pm
I need festivals invitation.Are you invitation my give me.I need reply.
Thank you,
Mohsin Nasar
Lahore Pakistan
Regan / March 13, 2014 at 05:01 pm
A new one this year, TO WebFest (Toronto's International Web Series Festival). It's our first year, but it's going to be an awesome event representing the whole spectrum of genres, May 9-11, at Harbourfront Centre.
Daniel / March 13, 2014 at 07:38 pm

From March 26th to 30th
Toronto Hispano-American Film Festival

INFO and tickets online:
Misha / May 26, 2014 at 12:29 pm
You missed the Toronto International Queer West Film Festival, now in it's 6th year (2014) with a great line up of 11 international LGBTQ films to be show @ Buddies In Bad Times Theatre August 9, 2014. This event is part of the Toronto Queer Arts Festival http://artsfestival.queerwest.org/queer-west-film-festival/film-festival-2014/
Jill / February 17, 2015 at 07:52 pm
TOTALLY forgot the BITE ME! Toronto International Body Image Film & Arts Festival (it's comin' back!!!) AND the inaugural Purr Toronto Feline Film Festival is having a soft launch on August 8 Int'l Day of the Cat!
Jill / February 17, 2015 at 07:53 pm
TOTALLY forgot the BITE ME! Toronto International Body Image Film & Arts Festival (it's comin' back!!!) AND the inaugural Purr Toronto Feline Film Festival is having a soft launch on August 8 Int'l Day of the Cat! www.BiteMeFilmFest.com www.BodyConfidenceCanadaAwards.com (Toronto, ON)
Katrina / April 5, 2016 at 03:24 pm
I went to the Toronto Black Film Festival to see Game Face this winter and it was amazing! Def worth adding to the list.
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