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San Francisco Film Festivals 2021: Explore the Talent and Creativity of Today's Independent Filmmakers

If you enjoy movies, you will love the diversity of films at this year's San Francisco film festivals. Each year, you will find almost fifty festivals that range from the large International Film Festival in April to the smaller Dance Film Festival in November.

Many dedicate their festival to features created by or about a specific culture. Some examples include the Irish Film Festival in September, the Arab Film Festival in October and the American Indian Festival in November.

Graphic with SF Film Festivals Calendar

Others showcase works based on educating the public about a specific issue. These festivals range from the Ocean Film Festival in March to the Human Rights Festival in April.

Since the number of qualified entries drives their calendar, many do not post their exact festival dates or schedule until a few months before the event. However, each festival runs in the same month year after year.

This year's San Francisco film festivals show their masterpieces at theaters throughout the city. However, you will find a large number at either the Roxie Theater in the Mission or the Castro Theater in the Castro.

Disclaimer: I receive a small commission from some of the links on this page.

March 2021

Berlin and Beyond

This year marks the 23rd Anniversary for this popular SF event. All productions are from Germany, Austria and Switzerland. This one showcases the amazing talent from this part of the world.

Event Dates: 3/8 - 3/14

Full Schedule: Visit their Website

Ocean Film Festival

This year marks the 14th anniversary for the Ocean Film Festival. Over the course of five days, you get the chance to see more than 50 works that celebrate the oceans around it. They include pieces on our oceans' fragile ecosystem, stories about those that explore its depths and surfers that use it to make a living.

Event Dates: 3/12 - 3/15

Human Rights

The University of San Francisco is the setting for the 17th annual Human Rights Film Festival. All features explore human rights abuses in locations such as the U.S., El Salvador, Indonesia, North Korea, Argentina and Mexico. Films highlight issues from political repression to torture and killings. The festival opens with a series of shorts produced by USF students. All events are free and open to the public.

Event Dates: 3/26 - 3/28

April 2021

San Francisco International Film Festival

This is one of the largest San Francisco film festivals. It's also the longest running film festival in the Americas. For two weeks in the spring, it features more than a hundred and fifty films from more than 50 countries.

Event Dates: 4/10 - 4/23

Full Schedule: Schedule

San Francisco Greek Film Festival

All pieces shown during this festival showcase works from Greek filmmakers. All 20 productions include English subtitles. In addition, producers from Greece will be on hand to interact and answer questions about the Greek film industry.

Event Dates: TBD

Learn More

May 2021

Silent Film Festival

This unique festival celebrates silent movies as an art form. For four days, you get the chance to see 18 beautiful pieces set to music. All films show at the gorgeous Castro Theater near the corner of Castro and Market Streets.

Event Dates: 4/29 - 5/3

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CAAM Fest

Presented by the Center for Asian American Media, CAAM Fest (formerly the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival) presents works by the world's most innovative Asian and Asian American artists. The 120 pieces for this year celebrate film, music, food and digital media.

Event Dates: 5/14 - 5/24

June 2021

SF Doc Fest

This annual event dedicates itself to documentaries. It started in 2001. This two week event showcases real live stories that give us a look inside the beautiful and chaotic world we live in.

Event Dates: 6/3 - 6/20 

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Black Film Festival

This event brings out the positive aspects of this community. It presents pictures with a different perspective and stories that are often overlooked by the mainstream media. During the four days, you will watch productions by both emerging and established filmmakers.

Event Dates: 6/17 - 6/20

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FRAMELINE

Frameline is SF's International LGBT Film Festival. Pieces include documentaries that capture the spirit of the community, world cinema with international themes and shorts that provide a quick look at stories about this community.

Event Dates: 6/10 - 6/27

Queer Women of Color

This year's Queer Women of Color Festival heads into its 15th year. See more than 50 shorts dedicated to educating the community about this diverse and sometimes misunderstood community.

Event Dates: 6/11 - 6/13

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July 2021

SF Frozen Film Festival

This is one of the San Francisco film festivals that offers the chance for independent filmmakers, youth, and artists in under served communities to showcase their creations. All films play at the Roxie Theater in the heart of SF's Mission District.

Event Dates: 7/14 - 7/18

San Francisco Jewish Film Festival

This event introduces you to documentaries, feature films and narrative shorts produced by members of the Jewish community. All entries are from independent filmmakers that create pieces reflecting the traditions, history and thoughts of this community.

Event Dates: 7/16 - 8/2

Learn more

LABORFEST

For over 25 years, this is one of the San Francisco film festivals that showcases the history and culture of working people. It tells the real story of those working hard to make a living including people in unions, unorganized workers and those that support them. It includes films, but also walking tours, talks, and other important events throughout SF.

Event Dates: All month long

August 2021

Nothing scheduled at this time.

September 2021

Latino Film Festival

This annual festival showcases works from both up-and-coming and well known filmmakers from the US, Latin America, Spain, and Portugal. The festival includes documentaries, fiction, and short films. All focus on the Latino culture and communities.

Event Dates: TBD

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Legacy Film Festival on Aging

Features independent films about aging. Movies include topics such as beauty, fashion, and the joys and struggles people face as they age.

Event Dates: TBD

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Iranian Film Festival

All pictures are about or made by Iranians from all over the world. You will see both independent features and full length films during this two day event in September.

Event Dates: 9/18 - 9/19

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Irish Film Festival

SF's Irish Film Festival highlights the best in contemporary Irish cinema. It presents everything from documentaries to original Irish language films (all with English subtitles). It's the chance for the Irish community to showcase their talents and help others learn about their unique culture.

Event Dates: TBD

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October 2021

SF International Festival of Short Films

If you like your movies in bit size chunks, then this is the festival for you. All movies shown during this event are less than 30 minutes. It's one of the best as they offer a diverse range of engaging materials in a short amount of time that will really make you think.

Event Dates: TBD

UNAFF (United Nations Association Film Festival)

For ten days, you get the chance to catch a variety of documentary films dealing with human rights, environmental issues, population, and migrations. Other film topics include women's issues, refugees, homelessness, racism, health and more. Films are from independent film makers from around the world.

Event Dates: 10/21 - 10/31

Japan Film Festival

This event introduces its audience to Japanese live-action and animation film premiers. You will also get the chance to participate in special events including autograph sessions by directors and actors, live Q&As and special giveaways.

Event Dates: TBD

Learn More

November 2021

Arab Film Festival

This is one of the San Francisco film festivals designed to raise the awareness of the Arab community. It features productions with an alternative view of real life Arab people and their culture, history, art and politics.

Event Dates: 11/12 - 11/22

Dance Film Festival

This light-hearted festival showcases interesting dance based films. The large range of dance films shown here highlight the diverse talent and innovations of this talented group of artists.

Event Dates: TBD

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SF International South Asian Film Festival

This fest offers the best independent cinema from South Asia and the Diaspora. It's the oldest South Asian film festival in the US and offers six days of documentaries, shorts and other features about this interesting part of the world.

Event Dates: TBD

American Indian Film Festival

All pictures shown during this event highlight the people, artists and activities of the American Indian community. Works presented are from both Indian and non-Indian filmmakers. Many showings offer a conversation with the director at the end.

Event Dates: 5/5 - 5/13 

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Transgender Film Festival

This is a San Francisco film festival that offers an opportunity for the transgender community to get their story out to the rest of the world. For three days in November, it features award winning flicks by transgender and gender variant artists from around the world.

Event Dates: TBD

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Save the Waves

The Save the Waves Coalition provides support and education about the coastal environment, specifically the surf zone. During their annual festival, they seek to inform others about this issue through shorts and documentary films.

Event Dates: TBD

December 2021

Another Hole in the Head

The annual Another Hole in the Head Genre Film Festival features horror, sci-fi, dark fantasy and exploitation films. It offers you the chance to see engaging pieces that are not typically shown in local theaters.

Event Dates: TBD

Learn More

January 2021

Noir City

Enjoy classic noir creations from around the world at this year's Noir City Film Festival. Most of these works are from the 1940s and 1950s. Each night, you get the chance to see two of the best works from a specific country such as France, Argentina and the United States.

Event Dates: 1/24 - 2/2

Full Schedule: Noir City Website

February 2021

SF Urban Film Fest

We all know San Francisco is a big, beautiful, complex city. But what does that mean? Let yourself delve deeper into this urban world with the 4th annual week-long SF Urban Film Fest, whose film screenings, panel discussions, and storytelling workshops are designed to inspire and awaken civic engagement.

Event Dates: TBD

Full Schedule: Find out more on their website

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