Films are a testament to the human imagination but more importantly, they have a profound impact on us individually and collectively. Particularly, independent films can shape our beliefs, attitudes and perspectives and can spark conversations about different socio-cultural issues. Just like that, attending a film festival is a magical experience, one that offers a myriad of delights to the senses and the soul. Toronto is certainly known around the world for its widely televised International Film Festival. However, the vibrant city offers a great number of lesser known film festivals, with a dazzling array of films from around the world.
Each festival provides an opportunity to discover new genres, cultures and styles of cinema that may not be readily available elsewhere, perhaps not in your local cinema and definitely not on your favourite streaming platforms. It is a chance to engage with film culture and immerse oneself in an atmosphere that is electric with creativity and inspiration. So, if you’d like to support independent filmmakers and contribute to the vibrant world of cinema, we’ve rounded up ten film festivals in Toronto this year to broaden your minds.
1. Toronto Black Film Festival
The Toronto Black Film Festival is a dynamic and engaging event that celebrates the best of black filmmaking around the world. With a focus on exploring the complexities and richness of black culture, history and contemporary life, the festival orders a diverse range of films that inspire, challenge and engage audiences, from feature-length dramas and documentaries to short films and animation.
🗓️ TBFF has already run its course, but keep an eye out for next year’s festival program.
2. Toronto Queer Film Festival
The Toronto Queer Film Fest is not just a festival, it’s also a platform for queer filmmakers to showcase their work and connect with audiences who may not have had the chance to see their stories before. It’s a collectively-run festival creating and fostering a safe space and network for 2Spirit/Queer/Trans communities.
This year’s theme is Queer Wonderlands, where you can immerse yourself in wondrous realms of joy, love and imagination. In a world where queer voices are often silenced, at TQFF attendees can expect to see a diverse range of films from both established and emerging queer filmmakers. The festival has gained a reputation for showcasing cutting-edge and boundary-pushing films that might not be seen in your average film festival.
🗓️ Mar 28 – Apr 23
3. Toronto Indie Horror Fest
This festival was started in 2016 to present independent horror movies from all over the world. This spring you can escape from the mundane realities of everyday life and transport yourself to a different realm, one of dark mystery and terror. You can catch Murder, Madness and Mayhem, The Overkill, Bunnygirls Meet The Void, and many more, and become lost in the intricate web of the story.
🗓️ Apr 5 – 8
4. Images Festival
Are you a lover of avant-garde cinema, experimental art and boundary-pushing storytelling? Then the Images Festival in Toronto is an event you simply can’t miss. For over 30 years, Images has been pushing the boundaries of traditional filmmaking and showcasing thought-provoking works from around the world.
From film screenings to installations and performances, through a range of curated programs, the festival explores themes of social justice, identity, politics and more, presenting a global perspective on contemporary art and film. Whether you’re a seasoned film buff or just starting the journey into the world of experimental art, you’re sure to find something that speaks to you and challenges your perceptions.
🗓️ Apr 12 – 26
See Also: 5 Immersive Experiences In Toronto For Stepping Into Your Favorite Movies And Shows
5. Hot Docs Festival
Are you a documentary film nerd? Then you won’t want to miss the Hot Docs Festival in Toronto this spring, the largest documentary film festival in North America and a true celebration of the power of non-fiction cinema.
Hot Docs is celebrating its 30th anniversary with over 200 films to choose from, making it an unparalleled opportunity to explore new worlds, discover new perspectives, and connect with people from all walks of life. The festival will feature powerful and emotional stories like Against The Tide, 5 Seasons Of Revolution, Cynara, The Eternal Memory, and more.
🗓️ Apr 27 – May 7
6. Inside Out Festival
For more than three decades, Inside Out has been showcasing the most innovative and riveting works from around the world, offering a global perspective on queer experiences. But what sets Inside Out apart is its commitment to inclusivity and accessibility. The festival is dedicated to creating a safe and welcoming space for people of all genders, races, and abilities, with a range of programming designed to reflect the diverse experiences of queer folk.
From documentaries to feature films, shorts and experimental works, the festival showcases an array of voices and perspectives, with a focus on underrepresented and emerging artists. This is an amazing festival for all film buffs, LGBTQ+ activists, or simply people who are passionate about storytelling and creative expression.
🗓️ May 25 – Jun 4
7. Toronto Jewish Film Fest
The Toronto Jewish Film Festival is a unique and exciting event that explores Jewish identity and history. Its commitment to showcasing films that explore the diversity and complexity of Jewish culture and experience. From films that examine the legacy of the Holocaust to those that explore contemporary Jewish life and interreligious relationships. TJFF also provides a range of opportunities for audiences to engage with filmmakers and industry professionals. From Q&A sessions and panel discussions to master classes and workshops, these events offer a unique insight into the craft of filmmaking.
🗓️ Jun 1 – 11
8. imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival
If you’re looking for a unique and exciting film festival that is all about exploring and celebrating the rich and diverse cultures of Indigenous peoples across the world. From film screenings to live performances, there is something for everyone at this festival. ImagineNATIVE is more than just entertainment, it’s also a space for education and engagement. Attendees can participate in workshops, panels and artist talks to learn more about indigenous cultures, traditions and contemporary issues.
🗓️ Oct 17 – 29
9. Toronto After Dark Film Fest
The flickering glow of the screen illuminates the darkened room as the audience holds their breath in anticipation. Gripped by a sense of both terror and excitement, people are often held captive by such macabre tales.
Whether it’s the thrill of the unknown, or the tantalising possibility of something lurking beyond the veil of perception, through the lens of a horror movie we can confront our deepest fears in a safe and controlled environment, experiencing a sense of exhilaration at the rush of adrenaline it provides—but without any consequences. At Toronto After Dark Film Fest you can experience all these factors and more through five nights of new horror, sci-fi and action movies.
🗓️ Oct 18 – 22
10. Toronto Reel Asian Film Festival
The Toronto Reel Asian Film Festival is an exciting and unique event that offers a series of cinematic experiences that explore the culture, love stories, history, family life and identity of the Asian diaspora. With its focus on showcasing Asian-Canadian stories, the festival provides an important platform for emerging and established filmmakers to share their stories with a global audience. With a mix of narrative features, documentaries and shorts, the festival offers something for everyone, from seasoned cinephiles to casual movie-goers.
🗓️ Nov 8 – 19