10 Can't-Miss Toronto Film Festivals

Photos courtesy of Dania Majid, Programmer, Festival Liaison
Picture of Alix Hall
Updated: 28 December 2016
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Torontonians who consider themselves film connoisseurs are already familiar with the Toronto International Film Festival, which takes over the city (in the best way possible) every September. Not to downplay the prestige this annual event has brought to Toronto’s film scene, but the true Torontonian film buffs know the city has far more to offer. If you think that TIFF is the be-all and end-all of the city’s film festivals, think again. The Culture Trip has compiled a list of Toronto’s film festivals that should be on your list, if they aren’t already.
Bloor Hot Docs
Photo courtesy of Patrycia Cieniewicz, Publicity & Promotions Coordinator

Hot Docs

Cinema, Movie Theater
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The documentary genre may not be as well-embraced as the full-length feature film genre. Hot Docs, however, has been showcasing well-crafted documentary films to the masses with its budget-friendly tickets and even free screenings for students and seniors since 2011. Located in the city’s exciting Annex neighborhood, the century-old but recently renovated Hot Docs Cinema is indeed a fitting location for North America’s largest documentary film festival as it continues to screen high-caliber documentaries. This well-attended annual film festival takes place in late April to early May, the perfect time to enjoy the lovely spring weather in the city.
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Regent Park Film Festival

The Regent Park Film Festival, which just celebrated its 13 year, showcases the works of promising local and independent filmmakers that appeal to inner-city communities. Some of the best things in life are free, and that adage certainly rings true with this free-of-charge film festival. A standout from this year is the reality TV-esque Meet the Patels, which enjoyed a small commercial release through the film company Alchemy in the USA in early fall.

The Regent Park Film Festival is held annually, typically in the month of November.

Toronto Reel Asian Film Festival

Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival

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Belgium's 'Offline'
Belgium's 'Offline' | Image courtesy of European Union Film Festival
Toronto holds the distinction of being one of the world’s most multicultural cities. Therefore, it is not surprising that the city hosts the Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival, a film festival solely dedicated to showing off gems from the fast-growing contemporary Asian cinema. Mina Walking, which was screened at the festival, recently nabbed the Inaugural Discovery Award at the 2016 Canadian Screen Awards. The festival is held yearly in early to mid-November.
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European Union Film Festival

Cinephiles who have grown tired of the usual fare that Hollywood serves can definitely look into the European Union Film Festival to rekindle their amour with cinema. Showcasing the best contemporary films that Europe has to offer, there is no more suitable location than the historic Royal. This film festival is the epitome of joie de vivre for film junkies.

You can see the crème de la crème of European cinema in mid-November every year.

Toronto After Dark

Just like the name suggests, Toronto After Dark showcases films that work to their full cinematic effect when the sun sets and the darkness closes in. It’s a must-visit event for any fan of cult sci-fi and horror films — those who crave films stranger than the usual mainstream fare. This film festival screened the now-infamous The Human Centipede a few years ago, and everyone knows it is not exactly for the fainthearted.

The film festival is held annually in mid-October, just in time to help you get into Halloween mode.

Inside Out Toronto LGBT Film Festival

Inside Out Toronto LGBT Film Festival is the largest of its kind in Canada, celebrating films from Canada and around the world geared towards the LGBT community. While the works are LGBT-centered, Inside Out attracts a horde of film buffs who embrace talent in diversity.

While the festival usually takes place during June, known the world over as Pride month, this year it will start May 26 through June 5, 2016.

Toronto Jewish Film Festival

Documentary and full-length and short feature films that touch on Jewish culture and community are showcased at the Toronto Jewish Film Festival. Last year, TJFF screened 118 films and paid tribute to Rod Serling (of the Twilight Zone fame) and Al Waxman (an actor best known for the sitcom King of Kensington).

Next year’s event, to be held in May, is a milestone as the festival marks its 24th year at multiple venues across the city.

Toronto Student Film Festival (Take 21)

A number of today’s lauded auteurs learned their craft as film students before mastering the art of filmmaking. The Toronto Student Film Festival, also known as ‘Take 21,’ celebrates the works of promising talents who may one day become fixtures at prestifious film festivals. The TSFF accepts entries from aspiring filmmakers from all over the globe, age 12-21.

If you are interested in this film festival, mark your calendar in late May, just as students ready for summer after the school year.

Toronto Palestine Film Festival

The Toronto Palestinian Film Festival has managed to create a lot of buzz in a relatively short amount of time. TPFF promotes the vibrancy of Palestinian culture through films and other visual arts. You can’t get any greater taste of socially relevant film than one of this year’s notable documentary entries, On the Bride’s Side, about Syrian and Palestinian refugees who disguise themselves as part of a wedding entourage to enter Sweden.

TPFF happens annually toward the end of September.

Planet in Focus

The award-winning 2006 documentary An Inconvenient Truth, based on former Vice President Al Gore’s campaign to shed light on the issue of global warming, may have succeeded in bringing environmental awareness to the fore, but Planet in Focus has been making a huge effort toward achieving the same goal since 1999. Planet in Focus showcases films that present staggering truths about the state of the planet.

You can put your green on in late October every year.

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