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20 Fantastic LGBTQ+ Film Festivals, Presented by Film Freeway

20 Fantastic LGBTQ+ Film Festivals, Presented by Film Freeway

LGBTQ Film 20 Fantastic LGBTQ+ Film Festivals From Around the Globe

LGBTQ Film Festivals

What’s queerness without community? We queers—we noble trans and gender-nonconforming folks, we lesbian, gay, pan, and bisexual babes, we non-binary, intersex, asexual and aromantic individuals have had to learn time and time again: next to nothing.

With the closure of bars, clubs, bookstores, community centers, gyms, and yes *winces* movie theaters due to the COVID-19 pandemic’s quarantine orders, LGBTQ folk around the world are hurting. Since it became legal to congregate without fear of abuse or entrapment, queers have used art, and particularly film, to speak across cultural, economic, and moral divides of our common dreams and fears. That dialogue is indispensable, and — in an increasingly atomized world — more important than ever.

The late, influential queer theorist Jose Esteban Munoz noted that queerness has always been synonymous with futurity — creating aesthetics, schemes, and survival plans that are just one step ahead of everyone else. This year, on the film festival circuit, it has been no different. LGBTQ film festivals of all different affiliations and specializations, all across the world have had to adapt to the gauntlet thrown down by the coronavirus like everyone else. But that undaunted spirit of survival and inclusivity shines through with particular brilliance among this bunch.

Festival organizers ran the gamut from going fully virtual, to holding in-person and streaming events in tandem, to taking intentional hiatuses to focus on mutual aid and community development.

Here are 20 of the best, brightest, and queerest film festivals around the globe to keep your eye on for 2021.


Mexico City, Mexico  / TBD 2021

MICGénero, or Mexico City’s International Film Festival with a Gender Perspective, taps into and makes excellent use of a resource that its home city has in an impossibly high abundance — colleges. This erudite festival focuses more on the activist and educational possibilities of film, rather than their formal qualities or market potential, as showcased in their signature program, the 100 Hours of Activism, in which “public officials, NGO professionals, activists and postgraduate students donate an hour of their time and participate in lectures related to the official selections of MICGénero, generating discussion spaces and possible solutions on gender issues and human rights.” In 2020, they expanded their mission to “democratize knowledge” by taking the whole program, including all public lectures, online.

Oslo/Fusion International Film Festival

Oslo, Norway  /  September 24-October 3, 2021

Sudden orders last year to disperse all planned public gatherings weren’t welcome news to executive director Bard Ydén and the rest of the programming team at Oslo/Fusion, who’d been planning the beloved Scandinavian LGBTQ fest’s 30th anniversary for months. But like everyone else, they adapted, opting for a unique double festival format. In September 2020, they held a traditional, irl fest (though with a drastically diminished indoor capacity) at longtime Fusion home Cinemateket, at the Norwegian Film Institute. And in October they held a virtual repeat. Oslo/Fusion is like the queer TIFF—if you want to take in the big, buzzy festival darlings, like Isabel Sandoval’s Lingua Franca and Pablo Larrain’s EMA, in a gorgeous, urbane locale, this is your fest.

OutSouth Queer Film Festival

Durham, North Carolina  /  August 12-19, 2021

Durham has a long queer history, rich with generations of lesbian and feminist community organizing. That spirit has been captured and thrown onto the big screen every year since 1996 at the North Carolina Gay + Lesbian Film Festival, held at the historic Carolina Theater in the heart of downtown Durham. Last year, NCGLFF went fully virtual and rebranded as OutSouth, preserving its Southern charm but repackaging its rebellious spirit for a widely expanded audience.

Ljubljana LGBT Film Festival

Ljubljana, Slovenia  /  December 12-20, 2021

France, Italy, Spain, eat your heart out: the Slovenian LGBT Film Festival, held every year since 1984 in the metropolitan oasis of Ljubljana, is Europe’s oldest continuously running queer film festival. The past 35 years have boiled the festivities down to a science: This non-competitive showcase kicks off at the Slovenian Cinematheque in downtown Ljubljana before traveling to smaller outposts like the coastal Koper, and Idrija in the Western hills. In 2020 guests could catch the whole, pan-Eurasian program online at Cinesquare.

Click on for more of our 20 Fantastic LGBTQ+ Film Festivals Around the Globe…

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  1. Avatar John Wildman says:

    While I am happy to see the celebration and attention brought to any and all LGBTQIA+ film festivals, I have to admit a little confusion as to why some festivals were left off this list as well as some curiosity as to what inspired the inclusion of others.

    In fact, one of those film festivals included here was a client of mine – The Outstream Film Festival – and while it made a successful debut and was innovative in its approach, it will not be returning in 2021. So, yes, it deserved a nod for taking on the challenge of launching during a pandemic, but not as part of a list of fests to look forward to in 2021.

    And yet, another client of mine, Atlanta’s stellar Out on Film continued its growth and upward arc for its 33rd edition that it has seen in the past few years leading up to 2020. That is despite the trend for so many regional film festivals which have been shaving days off their schedules, screens and films offered, etc., and certainly despite the challenges presented by the pandemic.

    While it has long been a favorite destination film festival for years, Out on Film made that pivot to virtual without a beat. Out on Film Festival Director, Jim Farmer, said, “While we missed the live aspect of our festival including hosting filmmakers and patrons, the virtual component allowed us to reach an audience literally throughout the state of Georgia and in some cases throughout the country. It also gave us the opportunity to host three dozen conversations with filmmakers across the world. The virtual element will have to be a part of Out On Film moving forward.” He added, “Our live conversations with Margaret Cho and Kevin Williamson were highlights as was our 40th anniversary drive-in screening of FAME which included conversations with Irene Cara and Paul McCrane.” Let’s list those names again, Margaret Cho, Kevin Williamson, Irene Cara, and Paul McCrane, and that was just from three events.

    Out on Film also got the news last year that they had become an Oscar® qualifying film festival. So, with that head of steam, they presented 139 films and one drive-in screening in 2020. That included 35 Q&As from around the world, some pre-recorded, but most live. I could name other fests that deserve to be highlighted, like Inside Out, NewFest, and even Sidewalk’s Shout component that I would’ve included, but Atlanta’s Out on Film Fest is not only one of the longest running LGBTQIA+ film fests out there, but one that clearly hasn’t been resting on its laurels either.

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