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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

QFest: Houston International LGBTQ Film Festival

Houston, Texas  /  TBD 2021

Unlike most of the entires on this list, Houston’s annual LGBTQ Film Festival, QFest, wasn’t postponed and streamified due to COVID, or at least not just COVID; the damage wrought by Hurricane Laura in August forced director Kristian Salinas to postpone the festival until late September, and ultimately host the whole affair on the festival streaming platform Cinenso. Though it pales in comparison to home state titans AFF and SXSW, QFest stands out through its unique mix of a strong international slate with distinctly Texan, locally sourced juries. 2021 submissions are currently closed, but the programming continues through a partnership with the Houston Cinema Arts Society. Joint virtual and drive-in presentations have included the historical romance Ammonite and Elegance Bratton’s 2020 QFest contender Pier Kids.

LGBTQ+ Film festivals iris

The 2019 Iris Film Festival jurors, courtesy of the Iris Prize.

Iris Prize LGBT+ Film Festival

Cardiff, Wales  /  October 5, 2021

The Iris Prize LGBT+ Film Festival in Cardiff is perhaps the world’s pre-eminent queer film festival. The coveted £30,000 GBP award conferred by the festival’s top honor, the Iris Prize, is only the tip of the illustrious iceberg of opportunities that await with if you can snag a very competitive seat at the contender’s table — a daunting process that involves competing in and essentially winning an entirely separate, qualifying festival, and being chosen to represent it at Iris. In addition to a litany of other prizes totaling over £20,000 in value, this year, Iris announced a new streaming agreement with Film4 guaranteeing distribution for all shorts in competition for the next three cycles.

Festival MIX Milano

Milan, Italy  /  September 17-20, 2021

In its 34th year, Festival MIX Milano decided to split the difference between retaining the community solidarity that can only be achieved through in-person congregation, and the safety that only quarantined isolation can guarantee. MIX came up with an ingenious hybrid formula, in which physical projections at the Piccolo Teatro Strehler and the Piccolo Teatro Studio Melato were paired with at home screenings via But interestingly, no pair contained identical at home and in-person events, resulting in a series of delightful, queer amuse bouches, like a screening of the Italian premiere of Gentleman Jack at Studio Melato with Peruvian auteur Melina León’s Canción Sin Nombre at home.

OutStream Film Festival

Virtual  /  June 1-7, 2020

It’s all there in the title: unlike every other entry on this list, OUTstream Film Festival didn’t adapt to the remote demands of the pandemic; it was inaugurated as a virtual fest in response to them. Sensing the crisis the pandemic posed to young LGBTQ filmmakers, OUTstream was founded by arts consultant Ben McCarthy and SIFF marketer Megan Garbayo to create dialogue and opportunity out of chaos. The modest program, hopefully to be repeated in 2021, offered a narrative showcase, a documentary showcase, and a rich, international shorts program.

Abhimani Queer Film Festival Sri Lanka

Colombo, Sri Lanka  /  TBD 2021

Colloquially known as “Celluloid Rainbows,” the Abhimani Queer Film Festival in Colombo, Sri Lanka, is the oldest LGBTQ film festival in South Asia. Held each year in conjunction with Colombo Pride and affiliated with same alliance as Honolulu Rainbow (the Asia Pacific Queer Film Festival Alliance), Abhimani is a world of its own — a pan-Asian queer cinema, food, and festivities, in the lush capitol city of Sri Lanka. This year Abhimani downsized its programming and went virtual, but still delivered memorable events, like a screening of Eisha Marjara’s Indo-Canadian, transgender comedy Venus, followed by a talk-back with its director.

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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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