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Bay Area Film Fests

The Mill Valley Film Festival isn’t the only one that’s made a name for itself.


It’s no secret that the Bay Area is a hotbed of creative energy, and if you need proof, look no further than the selection of top-rated film fests that pepper the region we call home. From San Jose’s Cinequest (named Best Film Festival by USA Today readers) to Sonoma’s International Film Fest, the events are as varied in location as they are in subject. Here are a few worth checking out.

Berlin & Beyond Film Festival

When: January

Details: This deutsch-centric festival has been bringing new cinema from Germany, Austria and Switzerland to San Francisco and beyond since 1996 and creating a cultural window in the process. (facebook.com/berlinbeyond)

Cinequest San Jose Film Festival

When: Late February/Early March

Details: It makes sense that Silicon Valley’s top festival would highlight technological advances, and Cinequest does just that plus more. Not only does it draw attention to new filmmaking techniques, it also serves as one of the top discovery festivals for international artists. (cinequest.org)

Sonoma International Film Festival

When: March

Details: This festival brings high-caliber international talent to an intimate locale with more than 90 documentaries, films and shorts that are screened every year at various venues, all within walking distance of downtown. (sonomafilmfest.org)

Tiburon International Film Festival

When: April

Details: From its motto (“Under standing the World Through Film”) to its goal of enhancing tolerance between people of all backgrounds through cultural enrichment and heightened cultural awareness, this festival is all about inclusion. (tiburonfilmfestival.com)

Oakland International Film Festival

When: April

Details: For the past 13 years Oakland’s International Film Festival has been trying to improve the mental, physical and spiritual health of the diverse populations of the East Bay through inspiring film, and it aims to grow each year. (oiff.org)

San Francisco International Film Festival

When: Late April/Early May

Details: Going into its 59th year, the SFIFF is one of the oldest film festivals in the Americas, and the festival’s breadth is indicative of its age. Every year, about 200 films from more than 50 countries are presented, with organizers specifically emphasizing work that hasn’t secured U.S. distribution yet. (sffs.org)

San Francisco Silent Film Festival

When: Last weekend of May

Details: Despite the lack of talking, the San Francisco Silent Film Festival generates quite the buzz. The largest silent film festival in the United States, the SFSFF has become an internationally renowned destination for filmmakers and audiences. (silentfilm.org)

San Francisco Jewish Film Festival

When: Late July/Early August

Details: In its 36th year, the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival was the first and is now the largest Jewish film festival in the world. While the main event takes place during the summer, the SFJFF is active all year round, with screenings, events and shorts available to view online. (sfjff.org)

American Indian Film Festival

When: November

Details: The American Indian Film Festival is the world’s longest-running showcase for independent films depicting U.S. American Indians and First Nations peoples of Canada. It will be celebrating its 40th year this November and is not to be missed. (facebook.com/aifisf)

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