by Steve Dollar | August 23, 2017

Sunshine Screenings

Florida has dozens of annual film festivals, big and small, each nurturing the next Barry Jenkins. Here are five worth making a road trip to attend. 

Key West Film Festival

Now in its sixth year, this emerging festival makes the most of its tropical locale, with beach screenings and fancy cocktail parties under the palm trees at iconic sites such as the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum and President Harry S. Truman’s Little White House. Previous guests of honor have included Burt Reynolds and Elle director Paul Verhoeven, but the fest also invites leading North American film critics to host seminars and share their favorite new films. Its unique vibe blends rum-soaked hedonism with ardent cinephilia.

Nov. 15–19, 2017
kwfilmfest.com

Billy Crudup answers questions at the Florida Film Festival. Photography by Michael Liesch

Florida Film Festival

This Orlando festival, launched 27 years ago, overlaps with its Sarasota neighbor, but it certainly doesn’t suffer by comparison. Films that win the festival’s award for best narrative short or its accolade for best animated short become eligible for an Academy Award, which makes this event Florida’s only Oscar-qualifying film festival. The festival also boasts first-rate independent features and a roster of noteworthy special guests, such as actor Billy Crudup and Airplane! writer-director David Zucker. The 10-day festival is centered around Maitland’s Enzian Theater, where patrons can also enjoy drinks from an outdoor bar while sitting around a courtyard fountain.

Late April 2018
floridafilmfestival.com

Miami Film Festival 2017. Photography by Miami Dade College

Miami Film Festival

With screenings staged at theaters in South Beach, Little Havana, the Wynwood Arts District and Coral Gables, this festival, organized by Miami Dade College, shows off the city’s vibrant cultural landscape as surely as it spotlights international cinema. The lineup focuses on Latin American and Spanish-language cinema, as well as documentaries.

March 9–18, 2018
miamifilmfestival.com

Tally Shorts Film Festival

Short films are a tall order at this recent addition to the Florida film-fest scene. Heading into its sixth year, the festival plays out in downtown Tallahassee’s Challenger Learning Center, famous for its Digital Dome Theatre and planetarium programs. Over the course of two days, filmmakers from around the world experience themed screenings and parties taking place around Tally at the Florida State University campus, the state capitol and Cascades Park.

Jan. 26–27, 2018
tallyshorts.com

Former NBA basketball player Kenny Anderson, Sarasota film festival president and chairman Mark Famiglio, director/actress Aisha Tyler, actor Stanley Tucci, and actress Diane Lane arrive to the closing night ceremony and screening of Paris Can Wait during the 2017 Sarasota Film Festival. Photography by John Parra/Getty Images

Sarasota Film Festival

Want to meet the next hot indie film sensation? You don’t have to pull on your snow boots and hike through the thin air at Sundance in the middle of January. The sharp-eyed programmers of this springtime cinematic spree corral the most promising young talent into sun-drenched settings perfect for mingling. Independent dramas and comedies are the Sarasota festival’s mainstay, but be sure to keep an eye out for thoughtful documentaries on a wide range of issues.

April 13–22, 2018
sarasotafilmfestival.com

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