Since COVID-19 hit and forced many festivals to postpone or cancel, we are impressed by all the inventive responses in the struggle to adapt and survive in these difficult circumstances. We’re keen to help raise awareness of all those who are now exploring ways to replicate the festival experience online or at least share some of their films with an audience. It’s very challenging to do so on any scale and at short notice but some innovations are emerging, which actually give new audiences the opportunity to check out films that would not have been accessible to them before, perhaps premiering in a festival at the other side of the world.

We Are One: A Global Film Festival

The We Are One Global Film Festival combines the curatorial heft of twenty-one of the leading Film Festivals in the world for an unprecedented online cinema experience. Tribeca Enterprises have brought together Cannes, Toronto, Sundance, Berlin, BFI London, Mumbai, Tokyo, Sydney and many others. All have made exclusive selections for a ten-day online extravaganza hosted by Youtube. Selections range across every category of film festival event including new features, shorts, animation, archive, VR, panels and industry events. Everything is free to all viewers and is designed to benefit the World Health Organization and other relief partners amid the ongoing pandemic. There are plenty of premieres and exclusives and virtual talks with some genuine cinematic heavyweights including Francis Ford Coppola, Bong Joon Ho, Guillermo del Toro, Jane Campion and Claire Denis.

Here are our recommendations from the programme...

Rudeboy: The Story of Trojan Records
Fri 29 May, 8.30pm
Featuring Jamaican reggae and ska legends like Lee “Scratch” Perry and Marcia Griffiths, Rudeboy chronicles a multicultural revolution on the dancefloors of late ’60s and early ’70s Britain.

Annecy Shorts for Families
Fri 29 May, 12pm
Curated by Annecy International Animation Film Festival, the programme features the shorts Bird Karma, Bilby and Marooned.

And Then The Bear 
Fri 29 May, 1pm
A brilliant evocation of childhood rebellion, this vivid animation features as part of The Short Film Selection in Competition at the 72nd Festival de Cannes: Program 2. 

Fri 29 May, 10.40pm 
90-year-old Nonna falls in love with a robot while teaching it how to make spaghetti and her family recipe is erased by a software update. Part of the Tribeca 2020 Shorts Program.

The Distance Between The Sky and Us
Fri 29 May 1.20pm
In this Short Film Palme d’Or winner, two strangers meet one night at a gas station. One is there to refuel; the other is stranded. 

Masterclass with Nadav Lapid
Sat 30 May, 9.45pm
Golden Bear winner Nadav Lapid (Synonyms, The Kindergarten Teacher) gives a special masterclass moderated by actress and screenwriter Romi Aboulafia. 

Mary is Happy, Marry is Happy
Weds 3 June, 7.20pm
A candid coming-of-age story, based on a real-life series of Tweets, blending fantasy with reality into the burgeoning life of a Thai teenager nearing graduation. 

Beautiful Things
Weds 3 June, 11.25pm
Documentary Beautiful Things is a fascinating and gorgeously shot documentary following four workers in extreme environments around the world.

The Epic of Everest 
Thu 4 June, 10pm
A restoration of the 1924 documentary by Captain John Noel, as he follows two adventurers  attempting to scale Mount Everest, filming on a hand-cranked camera in brutally harsh conditions

Adela Has Not Had Supper Yet
Sat 6 June, 11.25pm 
On a visit to Prague from New York, the renowned private detective Nick Carter must solve a mysterious disappearance... and face off against a music-loving, flesh-eating plant.

Sun 7 June, 4.55pm
Mati Diop’s richly textured experimental documentary, a precursor to her Grand Prix–winning feature Atlantics, tells the story of a young boy’s tragic migratory voyage in Senegal.


Previously highlighted Film Festivals online...

BFI Flare

Closer to home, BFI Flare pulled off a full digital edition of their influential LGBTQ+ festival in late March with impressive speed. Kicking off with ‘Five Films for Freedom’, a global short film celebration streaming throughout the festival dates, they went on to screen features, Live Q&As and even a virtual closing party. Another advantage of the online festival is that much of the content is still available after the festival dates and BFI Player are hosting a range of films from the programme alongside their own extensive LGBTQ+ library and key titles from previous editions. Highlights include Chinese-American drama A Dog Barking at the Moon, winner of the Teddy award at Berlin Film Festival and Disclosure, a landmark documentary analysing transgender representations onscreen and led by Orange is the New Black's Laverne Cox. BFI Player requires subscription but is currently free for a 14 day trial and £4.99 a month thereafter.

South by Southwest (SXSW)

Leading American indie film festival South by Southwest (SXSW) was the first major international film event to announce their cancellation and they have led the way exploring online alternatives. The festival organisers decided to go ahead with their competitions, inviting their juries to judge films online and announcing the winners as usual. There are no online facilities as yet for the features but they have teamed up with Mailchimp Presents and Oscilloscope to stream 75 of their short films online, available to anyone to watch for free. Selections include the grand jury award winning films No Crying at the Dinner Table (the Documentary Shorts winner), Regret (Midnight Shorts) and No Just Hold On (Texas Shorts) alongside narrative shorts like Single, which received Special Jury Consideration.

Thessaloniki International Film Festival

Greece’s long-running Thessaloniki International Film Festival (TIFF) was founded in 1960 and has a focus on discovering new directors from all over the world. TIFF has asked 8 Greek directors, all award-nominees of the Hellenic Film Academy, to make short films of up to three minutes shot entirely within their home environments as a commentary on the new reality we live in. These are now available on TIFF’s YouTube Channel, which also hosts a newly uploaded Masterclass with cult cinema legend John Waters, with more Masterclasses to follow from Ruben Östlund (The Square), Alexander Payne (Nebraska) and more. TIFF will also soon launch two new competitions for children and young people, whilst the scale of its online festival archive is impressive. The online archive features rare editions, magazines and books, including letters from festival guests such as Martin Scorsese, and the rare HELLAFI collection, whose giant movie posters adorned the facades of cinemas in Greece and is considered unique in the world.

Upcoming Film Festivals

Looking further ahead, a few other festivals have announced plans for online presentations, which will develop in the coming months. Sheffield Doc/Fest have announced some virtual pitching forums, delaying the film screenings and Q&As to a series of weekends in the Autumn. We’ll all be paying close attention to these developments in the coming months.

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Images from previous festival editions, clockwise from top left: South by Southwest, BFI Flare, International Short Film Festival Oberhausen, Tribeca Film Festival.