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Exotic Venues & Unique Themes: These 7 Film Festivals Celebrate Cinema with a Difference!

Amidst the plethora of film festivals in India, some offer a unique insight into the world of cinema- by focusing on specific themes, or by catering to a niche audience. Here is a list of seven such film festivals that need to be on any film buff’s ‘must-visit’ list!

Cinema gives a voice to the unheard and film festivals give voice to cinema.

Amidst the plethora of film festivals that take place across India, there are some that celebrate cinema with a difference.

Photo source: by Montclair Film Festival, via Flickr

Here, there are niche windows for every kind of cinema, and that’s the beauty of the Indian festival landscape. These festivals are unique in different ways: some focus on certain themes like women’s issues or environment; some explore the filmmaking space by inviting filmmakers and organising workshops; some cater to a certain section of the society like the LGBTQ community or children or women and some showcase a particular format of cinema, like documentaries or animation films. The idea behind all these niche festivals is one: to celebrate cinema, but with a difference!

The Better India has compiled a list of seven such unique film festivals across India.

1. KASHISH Mumbai International Queer Film Festival

Where: Mumbai, Maharashtra

When: May

Source: Facebook

KASHISH is the first ever LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer) film festival in India to be held in a mainstream theatre. Held in the heart of Mumbai, KASHISH brings to its audience a wide variety of queer cinema from across the globe. Incidentally, it was also the first LGBTQ film festival to get the nod of the I&B Ministry.

Started in 2010 by filmmaker Sridhar Rangayan and a group of his close friends, the festival has grown in multitude over the years and screens around 200 films to attract a footfall close to 8,500.

The festival’s founder-director Sridhar Rangayan says, “Having an LGBT film festival at such a large scale was a way of throwing away the shame and guilt surrounding the topic. It also meant offering an exposure to the audience and familiarising them with queer cinema of the world. I feel that festivals help in removing barriers and help in clearing a lot of misunderstandings.”

Know more about the festival here.

2. Bring Your Own Film Festival (BYOFF)

Where: Puri, Odisha

When: February

Source: Facebook

Known mainly for its pristine beaches and a thriving spiritual environment, Puri is also home to another very interesting, and lesser known phenomenon: a film festival that takes place in tents erected on a beach, and where filmmakers can simply bring their films to showcase.


Also read: Last Year, Tanmay Shah Took up a Challenge to Make 52 Films in a Year & He’s All Set to Do It Again!


BYOFF is a quirky concept that celebrates cinema in a carnival-like fashion on the beaches of Puri. The festival has no tedious registration processes or a strict protocol; all one needs to do is carry their film with them and register on the spot to showcase the work.

With screens installed across the beach and screenings continuing till late night, this festival is all about sea, sun and cinema!

Know more about the festival here.

3. Kirloskar Vasundhara International Film Festival (KVIFF)

Where: Pune (replicated in other towns across Maharashtra)

When: January

Source: Facebook

A cinematic treat for environment enthusiasts, wildlife conservation activists and nature lovers, KVIFF celebrates cinema that speaks for nature. The festival combines its film screenings with different allied activities related to environment, wildlife, energy, air, and water, allowing the delegates to work on the ground. The festival showcases films that explore nature and analyze topical issues related to the environment.

The idea behind this unique festival is to develop a common platform to provide effective and meaningful communication material for the preservation of natural heritage.

The festival has grown since its inception and now takes place at different venues in Maharashtra like Nashik, Solapur, Kolhapur and Dhule.

Know more about the festival here.


Also read: Meet the Director of Aaba, the Only Award-Winning Indian Short Film at Berlin International Festival


4. Docedge Kolkata

Where: Kolkata, West Bengal

When: February- March

Source: Facebook

Documentary is one format of cinema that sees comparatively lesser engagement in India. While most of the film festivals have a section for documentaries, there are close to no festivals dedicated to this intriguing and vibrant format.

The DocedgeKolkata, Asian Forum for Documentary, is one such festival that focuses entirely on documentaries. Aside from the film festival, there’s also intensive training and pitching initiatives for Asian documentary filmmakers at Docedge. It’s a platform for filmmakers, where they can prepare and pitch their ideas to a panel of international broadcasters.

This international documentary event is well-known for the presence of various noted documentary filmmakers from all over the world.

Know more about the festival here.

5. Jagran Film Festival

Where: Across cities

When: Different

Source: Facebook

Started by one of the leading media houses in the country, Jagran Film Festival is one of the few travelling film festivals. Held across 16 towns in India since the last six years, Jagran celebrates the happiness of the human spirit, which is in line with the philosophy of the group.

With a huge reach of over 50,000 people across the country, the festival offers everything on its platter from mainstream Bollywood films to lesser-known hidden gems.

In its last edition, the festival took place in 16 towns and offered 400+ screenings and 16 cinema appreciation workshops.

Know more about the festival here.

6. VIBGYOR International Film Festival

Where: Thrissur, Kerala

When: April

Source: Facebook

Dedicated only to short form films, VIBGYOR calls itself an alternative film movement. Built around the annual film festival, VIBGYOR offers many associated activities throughout the year.

The central theme of the festival is ‘celebrating identities and diversity’, through which a broad spectrum of different topics ranging from politics, sexuality, nationalism and many more is explored at the festival.

The six-day festival showcases over 100 documentaries, short fiction films, music videos, experimental films, spots, and animation films from across India as well as the world.

Know more about the festival here.

7. The Golden Elephant or International Children’s Film Festival India (ICFFI)

Where: Hyderabad

When: November

Source: Facebook

Organized by Children’s Film Society India, an autonomous body under the I&B Ministry, The Golden Elephant is a biennial festival that brings the most delightful and imaginative children’s cinema to the younger audiences.

With a special focus on the little viewers, the festival offers many outstanding features, shorts, live action and animation films from across the globe.

The motto of the festival is to nurture a dynamic children’s film culture in the country. Since its inception in 1955, the festival has been instrumental in exhibiting exclusive, entertaining and enriching content for children.

Know more about the festival here.

Featured image source: by waferboard, via Flickr


Also read: ‘Pinky Beauty Parlour’ Is a Film That Asks All the Right Questions about Colour Bias


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