Your Guide to Fall 2020 Film Festivals in the Pacific Northwest and Beyond

French Cinema Now, the Chicago International Film Festival, and More Online Options
September 21, 2020
Rachel Brosnahan (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel) stars as a housewife on the run in Julia Hart's I'm Your Woman, screening online via the Chicago International Film Festival and LA's AFI Fest. (Courtesy of Amazon Studios)

Movie theaters will sadly miss out on this year's film festival season, but organizers in the Northwest and around the country are coming through with virtual events to bring those festivals to you. This way, you'll get to experience all the world premieres, short film blocks, and livestreamed events with actors and filmmakers that your heart desires without leaving your favorite spot on the couch/floor/bed or booking a cross-country flight. We've rounded up all the fall 2020 options available to you below, from Seattle's French Cinema Now to version 2.0 of the Portland International Film Festival to the New York Film Festival. Get yourself a couple months' supply of popcorn and start planning! In the meantime, you can also check out our on-demand calendar for movies available to stream now. 

Jump to: Seattle/Tacoma | Portland | EverOut Presents | Nationwide


Through September 27

Local Sightings Film Festival 2020
This always-great, hyper-local film festival highlights indie filmmakers who eschew New York or LA for the earnest and eccentric Northwest. "Local Sightings acts as a showcase and watering hole for regional filmmakers, VR artists, and others who range from emotional storytellers to nature documentarists to political essayists," wrote former Stranger Arts Calendar Joule Zelman last year. The 23rd annual event is, natch, entirely online, with feature blocks like 24 Hours in the CHOP, about the recent clashes between police and protestors on Capitol Hill and the resilience of Black Lives Matter activists, and Fall Back Down, which press materials describe as "simultaneously a murder mystery, a rom-com, and an anarchic ride through the Vancouver B.C. underground." The Stranger's Jasmyne Keimig and Chase Burns have more recommendations for this year's festival here.


Port Townsend Film Festival
The only thing lost in this year's Port Townsend Film Festival is the scenic drive to the Olympic Peninsula; the program, which boasts over 75 films and will stream online, is as noteworthy as ever. In addition to Her Effortless Brilliance, a music-filled documentary celebrating the late Seattle filmmaker Lynn Shelton, created by her longtime friend Megan Griffiths, features to look out for include Born Into the Gig (through Sept 30), a documentary about musicians whose careers were shaped by those of their famous relatives (think Bob Marley's kids), and Baato (through Oct 4), which follows a family's annual 200-mile on-foot migration from their village in the Himalayas to sell medicinal plants in the city markets, which one year is intersected by a construction gang building a modern new highway to China. Another highlight is A Home Called Nebraska, a feature doc about the refugees who rely on the seemingly conservative midwestern state for safety from the violence of their home countries. 


Mountainfilm on Tour
The Mountaineers and REI present a program of romantic period pieces outdoor-focused films for the seventh year in a row, but online this time. Take in sweeping vistas, snow-capped peaks, and brave ascents.


Social Justice Film Festival
This film festival highlights fierce and powerful progressive movements around the world. As social justice provides the only throughline, many of the movies have little in common. But the selection skews toward limber, on-the-ground filmmaking in the midst of protests and conflicts. The ninth edition's theme is "Transform," all about the power of collective and personal transformation. Don't miss Ask for Jane, based on a true story of a group of college women who developed an underground abortion network that helped over 11,000 people get illegal abortions in Chicago between 1969 and 1973.


French Cinema Now
This festival of French and Francophone cinema culture that's usually crammed (effectively) into a single week will get over three months of attention at SIFF. Nine of this year's feature films, presented on TV5MONDE, are directed by women, including emerging filmmakers like Manele Labidi, whose Arab Blues follows a woman who, after years of studying abroad in Paris, returns home to Tunis to pursue her dream of opening up her own psychotherapy practice.


Coalition of South Asian Film Festivals
Second only to Toronto, Seattle plays host to one of the largest South Asian-focused film festivals in the world. Things are a little different this year, and not just for the obvious COVID-related reasons‚ÄĒthe online event will bring seven South Asian film festivals across North America together for two weeks of free online screenings and special events. We're definitely cueing up¬†Behind the Bhangra Boys, about the Nova Scotia-residing Maritime Bhangra Group, who, when they're not delivering pizza or filling cars with gas to make a living, create joyous, viral dance videos set against the backdrop of bleak northern winters.¬†


Seattle Latino Film Festival
This 12th annual Seattle festival of Chicanx and Latinx cinema will feature a whole week of independent movies, filmmaker panels, workshops, and more online. The opening-night film is Renato Barbieri's Pureza, in which a mother searching for her son discovers slave labor practices on Amazonian farms.


North Bend Film Festival: Nightstream
As fall creeps in, the hometown of Twin Peaks hosts a film festival of strange, Northwest-themed movies. Together with the Boston Underground Film Festival, the Brooklyn Horror Film Festival, LA's Overlook Film Festival, and Florida's Popcorn Frights Film Festival, this year's event will take place online, kicking off with the world premiere of Run, Aneesh Chaganty's Hitchcockian new film starring Sarah Paulson.


Friday Harbor Film Festival
The Friday Harbor Film Festival, founded by Lynn Danaher and Karen Palmer, is a good one, although you won't get to use it as an excuse to take a beautiful road trip since it'll move online this year. Expect lots of documentaries. If you're a student, you can watch a bunch of films for free. 

Seattle Queer Film Festival
Local shorts, indie features, and national or international releases will stoke and satisfy your appetite for gay, lesbian, bi, trans, enby, and otherwise queer-focused films, which will be available to watch for 72 hours once you hit play. This year's online event is expanding its screenings to include not just Seattle but the rest of Washington, as well as Oregon and Idaho. The Stranger's Jasmyne Keimig lays out some recommendations here, including Monsoon, starring Crazy Rich Asians leading man Henry Golding.


Bicycle Film Festival 2020
The longrunning Bicycle Film Festival Northwest will present an international selection of three short film programs. In addition to screenings, the online event includes panel discussions with titles like "Bicycle, a Tool for Social Change" and "Women in Cycling."


The "young filmmaker's Cannes"‚ÄĒCharles Mudede called it "world-class"‚ÄĒthe National Film Festival for Talented Youth assembles the best films made by directors under 25. See works by promising cineastes who will make you feel very old. We're already choked up over¬†Bloom, about a victim of assault who learns to cope in her abstract world made of clay. There's also¬†Athol Park, wherein a girl searches for her missing school teacher, and a new Chong the Nomad music video.¬†


Engauge Experimental Film Festival 2020
This experimental film festival, which has moved online, will once again screen "films that originated on film" from artists around the world. 


Tacoma Film Festival 2020
Tacoma plays host to independent filmmakers from the Pacific Northwest and throughout the world in an intimate festival intent on examining community and showcasing perspectives from a diverse group of moviemakers. This year's online event will feature over 150 films, which will be announced on Thursday, October 1.


Romanian Film Festival
"The Romanian film industry has been producing international festival hits since 2004, and the so-called New Wave filmmakers and their successors have never stopped innovating. This brief but mighty film festival screens movies that range from caustically funny to fearlessly intellectual," wrote former Stranger Arts Calendar Editor Joule Zelman last year. Back for a seventh year, this online edition will pay special attention to films that inspire social change and give hope for life after the pandemic. 



Portland Eco Film Festival
Indie films about nature, environmental justice, wildlife conservation, and outdoor recreation reign supreme at this major Northwest festival, which will move online this year. In addition to local selections, look forward to international features from Italy, Mozambique, Nicaragua, and the Russian Federation, along with filmmaker interviews and Q&As. Proceeds will benefit the Hollywood Theater. 


POW Film Festival
If the last film festival you attended saw a dearth of women filmmakers, take comfort in the Portland Oregon Women's Film Festival, which highlights well-known and emerging women directors. All proceeds will benefit the Clinton Street Theater. This year's online event will focus on women and non-binary filmmakers from the Portland Metro area, like Jen Tate (Karaoke People), Cambria Matlow (No More Dope Parties), and Brandy Machado (Happenstance: The Funeral), plus a slew of short films.


H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival
In partnership with the Portland Horror Film Festival, this 25th annual event promises four-days of science-fiction greatness, featuring special guests Barbara Crampton and Victor LaValle. 


Wild & Scenic Film Festival
Usually held in Bend, the Oregon Natural Desert Association will host this year's online Wild & Scenic Film Festival, which showcases environmental and adventure films with subjects ranging from urban honey bee farms to the Arctic Circle to the coral reefs of the Caribbean.


Portland International Film Festival
Cut short in March due to the COVID-19 lockdown, the Northwest Film Center's 43rd annual film festival and "multi-media feast" will return with version 2.0 at the Cinema Unbound Drive-In and online. A few highlights include Anca Damian's expressionistic French animated film Marona’s Fantastic Tale, a portrait of renowned butterfly expert Robert Pyle in The Dark Divide, and Pedro Costa's Vitalina Varela, about a Cape Verde woman who travels to her husband's funeral after a quarter-century apart.


Portland Dance Film Fest
With 10 days of screenings, workshops, and world premieres (including 24 short films made while sheltering in place, such as Deny Ardianto's Morning Coffee), this fourth annual film festival will have you longing for live dance performances again. 


BendFilm Festival
Part of the fun of the BendFilm Festival is the venues at which its films are screened (like a historic movie theater downtown and a craft brewery), but while social distancing won't allow for that this year, features like Jimmy Carter: Rock & Roll President will be shown at drive-in venues. Don't have a car? There are plenty of streaming options too, like the Stranger-approved documentary Spawning Grounds.


McMinnville Short Film Festival
This year, the McMinnville Short Film Festival will highlight winning films from previous years, including Jerry Eichten's "Walking Tour" from 2011, Austin Smagalski's "Wake" form 2014, Christian Bergmans's "The Plumber" from 2015, and Zach Putnam's "The Kenton Lead Blob" from 2017.


Eastern Oregon Film Fest
No need to drive to¬†La Grande, Oregon for this year's¬†Eastern Oregon Film Fest‚ÄĒits genre-diverse program of nearly 50 locally made films will be streamed entirely online.¬†


The Fungi Film Festival
As far as we know, this is the world's first short film festival dedicated to the mushrooms, lichens, and microfungi of the Pacific Northwest. Premiering during the peak of mushroom-foraging season, the first night of the festival will also feature an event with mushroom growers, artists, and mycologists livestreamed from McCoy's Portland-based mushroom farm. 


Portland Latin American Film Festival XIV
The Hollywood Theater is moving the Portland Latin American Film Festival online, which is bittersweet. Bitter: Everyone loves a big screen, especially at this historic gem. Sweet: You'll have a full 48 hours to watch a film once you hit play. From September to November, the festival will present six movies from Argentina, Chile, Guatemala, Mexico, Switzerland, and Belgium that celebrate and honor the cultural diversity of Latin America. The upcoming film (starting October 1) is Jose Manuel Cravioto's Olimpia, which tells the story of two members of the Mexican National University brigade during the 1968 student movement in Mexico.


These film festivals are produced by our colleagues at Index Media.


15th Annual Hump Film Fest - Encore Presentation
Our colleagues, the creators of HUMP!, were crushed to cancel their originally planned fall tour. But after receiving enthusiastic support and permission from the filmmakers to show their films online, they knew that the show must go on! Even if we can’t watch together in movie theaters, we can still watch the 16 sexy short films, curated by Dan Savage, in the privacy and safety of our homes. Dan will introduce the show and then take you straight to the great dirty movies that showcase an amazing range of shapes, colors, sexualities, kinks, and fetishes!


From the freaks who brought you the HUMP! and SPLIFF Film Festivals comes something new, fun, and totally terrifying: SLAY! SLAY calls for filmmakers to send in homemade short horror films‚ÄĒeight minutes or less‚ÄĒcapturing what scares them most. From classic ghost stories and slasher films to dystopian cults and political nightmares, SLAY dares you to show us your darkest fears. We know reality is scarier than fiction right now. Let‚Äôs purge our fears together. WM. STEVEN HUMPHREY



Atlanta Film Festival
There are a few more days to catch the Atlanta Film Festival's lineup of virtual screenings (like Curtis, about a former basketball player struggling with schizophrenia who suffers a mental breakdown when he learns that his championship ring is missing, and the documentary Fandango at the Wall, about the music and dance festival Fandango Fronterizo, which takes place on the border of the US and Mexico). You have 48 hours to watch your selections. 


Comedy of Horrors Film Festival
The hosts of the horror-focused podcast The BoneBat Show are taking their annual film festival, now in its 10th year, online for two evenings of "giggles and gore," plus live music and prize-winning opportunities.


New York Film Festival
If you've always wanted to attend the Film Society of Lincoln Center's prestigious annual film festival in New York, good news: they've made tons of premieres and revived features available to rent nationwide. We're very excited for a free talk with director Joyce Chopra, actress Laura Dern, and author Joyce Carol Oates on Dern's first leading role as Connie Wyatt in the 1985 adaptation of Oates's short story "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" (which is available to stream through September 24) on September 23.


Chicago International Film Festival
Chicago's 56th annual film festival has a slew of on-demand screenings (in addition to drive-ins, which you should absolutely check out if you happen to be in the Windy City) of shorts and features available to stream. Check out I'm Your Woman, wherein Rachel Brosnahan (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel) plays a suburban housewife who's forced to go on the run when her dirty-dealing husband betrays his partners.


AFI Fest
This 34th annual Los Angeles film festival will show films from across the world. While the lineup is still unannounced, we know that the closing-night film is the world premiere of Academy Award-winning director Errol Morris's My Psychedelic Love Story, which explores why Timothy Leary, the "High Priest of LSD," became a narc in 1974. 


Austin Film Festival
The virtual edition of Texas's most quirky town's annual film festival will feature over 150 films and Q&As, including Anne Rapp’s latest film Horton Foote: The Road to Home, chronicling the life and work of the legendary Academy Award-winning screenwriter of To Kill a Mockingbird, and Paul Kowalski's directorial debut Paper Tiger. The festival will also dedicate some attention to Texas filmmakers with the premiere of Blinders, directed by former Terrence Malick collaborator Tyler Savage, as well as the US Premiere of Fugitive Dreams, written and directed by Jason Neulander.


HollyShorts Film Festival
Less is more in this film festival highlighting 40-minute-and-under shorts from around the globe, which are organized into animation, live-action, documentary, music video, webisode, commercial, youth, and microbudget blocks.


Touting itself as "America's largest documentary film festival," the online edition of this NYC-based, celebrity-packed annual event (whose special guests from previous years have ranged from Hillary Clinton to Itzhak Perlman to Martin Scorsese to Big Bird) will move online for all to enjoy.