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Satisfy Your Indie Movie Appetite With Internet Film Festivals

by John Moore on February 22, 2013

Internet film festivalsFilm festivals are no longer bound to movie houses, or any fixed location for that matter. Thanks to the web, attending a film festival takes no more effort than a couple of mouse clicks. Convenience aside, Internet film festivals are also usually more interactive and social than traditional film festivals, as many sites let the viewers decide their favorites in real time and integrate social networks like Facebook into the experience.


Not surprisingly, the biggest online video platform hosts its own Internet film festival. Last year, YouTube launched Your Film Festival. Audiences selected 10 finalists from the 50 semifinalists designated by YouTube’s judges. The finalists’ work was screened at the Venice Film Festival, with the grand prize selected by a jury that included director Ridley Scott and actor Michael Fassbender.

Last year’s winner was The Guilt, a 13-minute tale about a man obsessed with avenging his wife’s murder. Spanish filmmaker David Victori received a $500,000 grant to create original work for his YouTube channel. Currently, there’s no word on when or if YouTube will host another Your Film Festival, but all 50 films from last year’s semifinalists are available for viewing.

YouTube is an obvious player in Internet film festivals, but even an “old media” company has gotten in on the fun. PBS will host its second Online Film Festival from March 4, 2013, through March 22, 2013. PBS will present 25 short films from independent filmmakers. Viewers can vote for their favorite by “liking” it on the PBS Festival page or on PBS’ YouTube channel. Take a look below at last year’s winner, Horse You See, from Melissa Henry and Alfredo Perez.


Annual film festivals are great, but the Internet also frees such events from time constraints. Several sites offer ongoing Internet film festivals.

The Short of the Week is just what it says. Each week the site’s editors choose the best submissions to showcase. The quality of films is often astonishing, as evidenced by the recently announced Short of the Year: The Eagleman Stag, Mikey Please’s beautiful stop-motion animated tale concerning the nature of time.

In a similar vein, the Once a Week Online Film Festival presents films 30 minutes or less. All submissions receive their own page. Every Wednesday, the film receiving the highest rating from the site’s judges is awarded an Official Selection honor, giving the movie a week-long slot on the site’s homepage. All submissions also compete for the Audience Award. The film with the most social media shares will also earn a spot on the homepage with the Official Selection winner.

If you like more of a bloodsport feel to your film festivals, FilmFights hosts a series of battles that pit several short films against each other. Each film in a fight must adhere to the rules established on the subjects title, genre, and time limit. Viewers pick their choices for “heavyweight” and “middleweight” movies. The heavyweights then face off to find a winner. For the current fight, “Fortune Cookie,” films must be one minute or less and find a way to include the post-dinner snack commonly found in Chinese restaurants.

Shortsnonstop is a quarterly festival devoted to films 10 minutes or less. A program of the Canadian Film Centre, Shortsnonstop awards a cash prize of $1,500 for its competitions. There are well over 1,000 films currently archived on the site, so binge viewers: you’re welcome.


Because the web caters to all tastes, you’ll find Internet film festivals that serve niche audiences. For the socially conscious, Culture Unplugged Studios has hosted an online film festival since 2008. The site features documentaries that explore topics such as hunger and poverty, war, human trafficking, and globalization. Each year’s festival focuses on a specific theme, such as Humanity Explored or Spirit Enlightened. This year’s theme, Green Unplugged — which includes films on climate change, farming, and other issues dealing with nature — will launch in June. The site also offers iPhone and iPad apps that let you watch the documentaries on those devices.

On the slightly less socially conscious scale, cat litter maker Fresh Step is hosting the Catdance Film Festival. Viewers select their favorites, with the most popular entry winning $10,000. Voting ends February 28, 2013. Surprisingly — refreshingly — the finalists’ entries are well-made, story-driven shorts, not just a parade of, well, funny cats dancing. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Do you watch any Internet film festivals? Would you like to see more film festivals made available online? Let us know in the comments section.

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