Spring Festival Season

bluebonnetSpring has sprung no question here in the heart of Texas, but, also around the world, where April seems to be the month where film festivals are blooming just like our bluebonnets. Why is April a prime month for a film festival? Many reasons could be a factor; IMO, the yearly festival cycle starts over every year when Cannes Film Festival launches in mid-May, and with some two-dozen festivals in April, they might still be premiering films in there city or state from the 2015 Cannes festival slate. Another major festival in September, Toronto Int’l Film Festival hosts some 300+ films and many of the films do not find American theatrical distribution or find a VOD home, and continue to play festivals throughout the year. So again like Cannes, many of the TIFF films are just now coming to a city or state for the first time, this spring.
Once a new calendar year hits, you have the likes of the Sundance Film Festival kicking things off in January, followed by Rotterdam in the Netherlands, Sweden’s Goteborg, Berlinale, True/False in Columbia, Missouri, New Directors/New Films in New York and Austin’s very own, SXSW. All these festivals leave their mark on every festival throughout the world. To have a film, which premiered or played at one of these festivals is a major score, if you are able to screen films from these festivals, given the accolades and prestige these festivals carry, they are respected and programmers at these festivals, seem to find a little bit of everything in the films they select.
So why is April a crazy busy month on the festival circuit? After all these festivals are over, many of the April festivals “cherry-pick” select films from these various festivals and bring them to their festival. Some undoubtedly, probably do not want to host a festival during the winter months. (I know that was the case, when I worked at the Minneapolis/St. Paul Int’l Festival, or MSPIFF, where you only a have a couple of nice months of weather and outdoors.) They have also seen the programs from earlier festivals and can reach out to obtain these films, as films premiering at Sundance and Berlinale are considered “newer “ films on the festival circuit.
As aGLIFF approaches this September, I’ll be keeping a close eye on these April festivals, for any and all LGBTQIA titles screening and/or premiering in hopes of bringing them to aGLIFF as part of our annual festival or perhaps as a monthly screening, later on.
The first to kick-off the “spring” festival bloom, Cleveland Int’l Film Festival starts today and runs for 12 days. CIFF always has a nice LGBTQIA program called, “10% Cinema” and includes a few past aGLIFF titles, “Desert Migration” and “Henry Gamble’s Birthday Party.”

After Cleveland, the floodgates really open up with the following festivals in April: MSPIFF, Wisconsin, Chicago International Music & Movies, RiverRun in Winston-Salem North Carolina, the Florida Film Festival, Sarasota, Full Frame documentary film festival in Dunham, North Carolina, Tribeca, Washington D.C Nashville, Atlanta, Phoenix, Sonoma, Annapolis, Newport Beach, Dallas, San Francisco and the Louisiana Film Festival located in Baton Rouge. And those are only in the United States, and the ones, which I have been following for years, in fact, there could be more. Festivals internationally include Hot Docs in Toronto, Hong Kong International Film Festival, Istanbul and Vision du Reel in Switzerland.

So yes, part of being the program director is watching all of the film submissions that get submitted to aGLIFF, but also keeping track of as many festival program slates as possible, looking for stand out LGBTQIA titles to bring back to Austin for the 29th annual, or to attend the festival(s). In April, I will be traveling to Minneapolis, New York and Newport Beach to attend three different festivals. A huge part of this job is tons and tons of research to know what other festivals are playing and if multiple festivals are playing the same films, or if they are playing only world premieres titles, or if they want to top films from every country and every state. Every programmer(s), taste can vary but there is never a short supply of films out in the festival circuit.
Some festivals may only showcase a few LGBTQIA titles, but sometimes they have some top-tier films, and the films are strong in content, story/subject matter, technically made, and offer a new perspective, or a new voice, it is all the reason to seek the film out to try to include in our program.
So let’s hope this promising spring bloom on the festival circuit carries over to the 29th annual aGLIFF this September.
-Jim Brunzell III