Top 38 VR Film Festivals to Attend in 2018
As virtual reality continues to rise in popularity, more film festivals, both up-and-coming ones and established ones, are opening up virtual reality competitions. Here we selected 37 film festivals dedicated to virtual reality or with VR programs for your reference. Check them out and visit some in 2018!
If you’re interested in producing and submitting your own films to these festivals, besides checking on their individual website, also check out Film Freeway and Withoutabox, which is a convenient information hub for all major film submission portals.
Held annually in Las Vegas, Virtual Reality Festival is one of the first virtual reality film festivals, which also opened world’s first VR Lounge. Besides virtual reality, VR Fest has also introduced 3D Film Festival, AR Fest and XR Fest.
Date: January 9 - 12
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Date: January 19 - 29
Sundance Film Festival committee encourages to submit inventive, independently produced works of fiction, documentary, and interactive Virtual Reality projects. Projects must be viewable via Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Samsung Gear VR, or Google Cardboard.
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Date: February 22 - 25
The Boulder International Film Festival (BIFF), sponsored by the Colorado Film Society, is held annually on Presidents Day Weekend in Boulder, Colorado USA, and has developed a reputation as one of the most compelling young film festivals in the U.S., exhibiting a number of new-but-unknown feature films, documentaries, animations, and shorts that have gone on to significant box-office success and multiple Oscar nominations.
BIFF introduced a VR/360 film component named Virtual Reality Pavilion at the 2017 Festival, to present to attendees and the Boulder community with a new kind of storytelling experience.
The first BIFF virtual reality pavilion contained 12-15 stations utilizing various VR equipment, giving attendees a wide variety of curated short VR experiences from around the world.
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Date: February 27 - March 11
The Cinequest Film Festival is an annual independent film festival held each March in San Jose, California. The international festival combines the cinematic arts with Silicon Valley’s innovation. The next festival will be held February 27, 2018 – March 11, 2018.
It is produced by Cinequest, a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization that is also responsible for Picture The Possibilities and the distribution label Cinequest Mavericks Studio LLC. Cinequest awards the annual Maverick Spirit Awards. In addition to the over 130 World or U.S. premieres from over 30 countries, it hosts writer’s events which includes screenwriting competitions, a shorts programs, technology and artistic forums and workshops, student programs, and a theatre organ accompanied silent film. In 2017 the festival was rebranded as the Cinequest Film & VR Festival and expanded beyond downtown San Jose to Redwood City, California.
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Date: March 9 - 18
Founded in 1987 in Austin, Texas, South by Southwest (SXSW) is an annual event featuring a cohort of conferences and festivals that highlight the convergence of film, interactive media and music industries.
The SXSW Virtual Cinema provides an opportunity to launch Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, and Mixed Reality projects to its unique audiences built out of Film, Tech and Music industry leaders, as well as lovers of all things entertainment and tech. VR/AR/MR films, games, and interactive projects include a total runtime or viewing time of 40 minutes or less.
Accepted projects will be exhibited in the JW Marriott on the 4th floor Tuesday, March 13 – Thursday, March 15, 2018.
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Date: April 3 - 8
The 2017 Lichter Filmfest launched a new international competition on virtual reality storytelling. The festival mainly focuses on VR narratives and documentaries. Fictional and non-fictional, live-action cinematography and CGI are all acceptable as long as they are compatible with mobile HMD’s such as Samsung Gear VR.
An independent jury will decide on five finalists out of all submissions, which will be screened publicly and awarded during the festival.
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Date: April 13 - 22
Now in its fourth decade, the Atlanta Film Festival—one of only two-dozen Academy Award® qualifying festivals in the U.S.—is the area’s preeminent celebration of cinema. The Atlanta Film Festival is one of the largest and longest-running festival in the country, welcoming an audience of nearly 25,000 to discover hundreds of new independent, international, animated, documentary, and short films, selected from 3000+ submissions from all over the world.
The Atlanta Film Festival is a membership-based 501(c)(3) arts non-profit with a mission to lead the community in creative and cultural discovery through the moving image. ATLFF presents a diverse slate of year-round offerings for film-lovers, filmmakers, and industry professionals. Year round programs —screenings, parties, panels, workshops, and other educational events –provide a forum for building the community of film lovers and film supporters. By bringing audiences and filmmakers together, the Festival has the opportunity to broaden the perspective of both artists and moviegoers.
The 2016 Atlanta Film Festival was first open for virtual reality.
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Date: April 18 - 29
The Tribeca Film Festival was founded in 2002 by Jane Rosenthal, Robert De Niro and Craig Hatkoff, reportedly in response to the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the consequent loss of vitality in the Tribeca neighborhood in Lower Manhattan, although there are reports that its founding was underway prior to the events of 9/11.
In 2006 and 2007, the Festival received over 8600 film submissions and held 1,500 screenings. The Festival’s program line-up includes a variety of independent films including documentaries, narrative features and shorts, as well as a program of family-friendly films. The Festival also features panel discussions with personalities in the entertainment world and a music lounge produced with ASCAP to showcase artists. One of the more distinctive components of the Festival is its Artists Awards program in which emerging and renowned artists celebrate filmmakers by providing original works of art that are given to the filmmakers’ competition winners.
The festival now draws an estimated three million people—including often-elusive celebrities from the worlds of art, film, and music—and generates $600 million annually.
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Cannes Film Festival
Date: May 8 - 19
Cannes has been selectively showing virtual reality films such as CARNE y ARENA, which is adapted from true accounts. The movie is a virtual reality installation in three acts where the superficial lines between subject and bystander are blurred and bound together, allowing individuals to walk in a vast space and thoroughly live a fragment of the immigrant’s personal border crossings.
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Date: May 10 -19
NaFF is one of the first film festivals to initiate VR & 360 film competitions, and is now accepting global entries for 360 film, VR & AR experiences and more.
Submissions must be uploaded to the NashFilm cloud drive or, if the content is released, a download code, to be considered complete and eligible in competition. Contestants will also need to provide their Withoutabox or Film Freeway tracking number when uploading their entry to NashFilm’s cloud drive.
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Date: May 12 - 14
VR Scientific Festival is the main event organized by IMMERSIVE SCIENCE, which includes the number of Workshops, VR Sci Hackathon, VR Sci Festival and presenting VR Sci showcase around the top scientific festivals and conferences.
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Date: May 18 - 20
YVRFF is the premier VR film festival in Western Canada, cultivating a strong community of VR filmmakers and enthusiasts from across the globe. YVRFF aims to make VR accessible to anyone with an interest or passion in virtual reality. Within a world class festival setting in beautiful Vancouver, BC, we’re dedicated to providing an inclusive environment for VR filmmakers, developers and audience members alike as we return for our second season.
Featuring the most cutting edge technology and providing guests the opportunity to fully experience and engage in VR movies, the 2018 season for YVRFF has expanded to include a gala opening night party, and two full days of VR programming selected by our festival Programming Committee.
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Date: May 17 - June 10
The Seattle International Film Festival is the largest film festival in the United States, with more than 155,000 people attending each year. The 25-day event held each May is renowned for presenting over 400 features, short films, and documentaries gathered from more than 85 countries. We receive over 4,000 independent film submissions annually, and screen debut discoveries alongside established master filmmakers and arthouse cinema hits. More than 70% of the films screened at Festival will not return to theaters, making SIFF an amazing place to discover and celebrate new work from around the world.
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Date: May 25 - 28
Held every Memorial Day weekend, Mountainfilm is a documentary film festival that showcases nonfiction stories about environmental, cultural, climbing, political and social justice issues that matter. Along with exceptional documentaries, the festival goes beyond the film medium by bringing together world-class athletes, change makers and visionary artists for a multi-dimensional celebration of indomitable spirit. Mountainfilm, which includes interactive talks, free community events, a gallery walk, outdoor programming and presentations, aims to inspire audiences to action on worthy causes.
Back in 2016, Mountainfilm expanded its film offerings into foreign territory with the festival’s first-ever Virtual Reality Studio, which became a recurring event. The studio, which is free and open all weekend, features a library of VR headsets loaded with immersive and powerful experiential films.
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Date: June 6 - 17
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Date: June 7 - 12
Sheffield Doc/Fest is UK’s premier documentary festival, celebrating the art and business of documentary and all non-fiction storytelling with over 32,700 festival-goers and over 3,500 industry delegates from over 60 countries.
The festival admits content ranging from feature length to shorts, and including interactive, augmented reality, and virtual reality projects.
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Sunset Film Festival
Date: June 9
Sunset Film Festival is a film event for seeking the “hidden gems bigger fests often overlook”. Aimed at giving more exposure to independent filmmakers, Sunset Film Festival programmers are looking for visionary filmmakers with fresh voices to share with an audience hungry for independent films.
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Date: June 20 - 25
The Nantucket Film Festival was founded by brother and sister team Jill and Jonathan Burkhart in 1996. The Burkharts lived on the island year round, and with their love of movies and the community, they knew it was the perfect place to begin a film festival. In 1997, Mystelle Brabbée joined the team and today serves as the Executive Director, which helped NFF continue to thrive.
Nantucket’s virtual reality program was initially launched in 2016 in its Legacy Lounge, showcasing virtual reality demonstrations and experiences.
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Date: August 2 - 19
MIFF is a not-for-profit organisation that has been running since 1952, making it the leading film festival in Australia and one of the world’s oldest film festivals, alongside Cannes and Berlin.
MIFF plays an important role in contributing to the centre of Melbourne’s cultural life, as well as generating both social and economic capital for Melbourne and Victoria.
Complementing MIFF’s highly anticipated festival program is MIFF’s renowned industry program that includes an investment fund (the Premiere Fund) and the director’s development program (Accelerator). MIFF’s finance market (37°South) brings the national and international screen industry to Melbourne during the festival and celebrates Melbourne as a centre for screen business. MIFF also supports emerging arts and culture writers through its annual Critics Campus program, and takes the film festival experience to regional Victoria through the MIFF Travelling Showcase.
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Date: August 11 - 13
AVRFF is a first-of-its-kind film festival in Australia that is dedicated to virtual reality, organized by Brisbane Powerhouse and Screen Queensland. It is a platform for innovative filmmakers to present their art form in a space that promotes creative development and industry discussion.
Each year, a selection of short films, music videos and documentaries that integrate the use of virtual reality technology will be chosen chosen by an curatorial panel to showcase the work of the next generation of filmmakers.
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Date: August 30 - September 9
Known as Venice Virtual Reality, the competition’s programming—which includes 31 films altogether, 22 world and international premieres and three projects which were developed by the Biennial College Cinema—is wholly impressive. Projects within span from documentary to psychedelia.
Three awards will be given out, namely Best Film VR, VR Jury Grand Prix, and Best Creativity Award VR.
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Date: September 7 - 17
The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) is one of the largest publicly attended film festivals in the world, attracting over 480,000 people annually.
Since its founding in 1976, TIFF has grown to become one of the most prestigious film festivals in the world; the TIFF Bell Lightbox has also matured into a dynamic centre for film culture that offers visitors a presentation that includes new releases, live film events and an interactive gallery.
Date: September 19 - 30
The Raindance Film Festival is the largest and most important independent film festival in the UK. Now in its 25th year, it is based in the heart of London’s buzzing West End film district.
The Raindance VR Arcade is the festival’s home to pioneering Virtual Reality experiences and 360 films, of which many will receive their world, European and UK premieres. Virtual Reality films, of any genre and type, under 45 minutes long are considered for selection. The first 20 VR experiences will be showcased at the VR Arcade while the rest will stay in competition for the Raindance VRX Awards.
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Date: September 28 - October 13
The VIFF VR Day event transports attendees into the new mediums of VR and AR, with key insights from some of the most respected futurists in the world as well as conversations and demos from leading VR creators, companies, technologists and distributors.
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Date: September 28 - October 15
The annual program delves into the world of immersive storytelling via interactive experiences, featuring virtual reality, augmented reality, live labs and demos, and more.
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Date: October 4 - 15
Since its inception in 1971, the Festival du nouveau cinéma in Montreal has put forward rising sound and sights practices from around the world. For its 45th edition, new cinema takes a new dimension inside its programming with the creation of the FNC eXPlore section, a laboratory of visual explorations.
A selection of virtual reality works are offered to the large public from around the world. Festival-goers, guided in this unique discovery by the creators and a team of passionate devotees, will become more familiar with this new technology.
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Date: October 5 - 15
Adelaide Film Festival is a biennial eleven-day celebration and exploration of Australian and international screen culture with a unique program of screenings, forums and special events. The event has rapidly established itself as one of the boldest and most innovative in the country and has made a name for itself internationally as a platform for exciting new talent in the Australian industry.
ADL Film Fest’s VR Lounge is situated in the ADL Film Fest Box Office and upstairs at GU Film House, where virtual reality films’ world and Australian premieres will be scheduled for screening.
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Date: October 12 - 21
Being Asia’s biggest VR event, Busan International Film Festival features the best of Asian and world cinema, with emphasis on the Asian Film Market.
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Date: October 12 - 21
A favorite of filmmakers and film lovers, BBFF fuses artistry, education and innovation, enhancing our worldview and collective social dialogue through the power and storytelling of film.
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Date: October 15 - 21
The Astra Film Festival is a film event local to Romania, where new forms of cinema, such as full-dome and virtual reality, are celebrated by moviegoers.
SCAD Savannah Film Festival - Virtual Reality Showcase
Date: October 27 - November 3
The Savannah Film Festival Virtual Reality Showcase draws upon and underscores the leadership the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) demonstrates in VR technology. In this forum, four separate stations use four different devices to show the many ways VR is being used in film, gaming, tourism, marketing, art and more.
SCAD is a private, nonprofit, accredited institution conferring bachelor’s and master’s degrees at distinctive locations and online to prepare talented students for professional careers.
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Date: November 1 - 12
The Denver Film Society is a 501(c)(3) non-profit dedicated to bringing communities together through film. Its mission is to develop opportunities for diverse audiences to discover film through creative, thought-provoking experiences.
The Denver Film Festival is the largest premier film celebration in the Rocky Mountain Region.
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Date: November 9 - 19
In 2016, the Open Immersion was created as a VR lab convened by the Ford Foundation, National Film Board of Canada and Canadian Film Centre. The results inaugurate a conversation examining how power, aesthetics, perspective and representation operate in the medium of virtual reality.
Open Immersion brought together Canadian Indigenous artists and artists of color from the American South to experiment and create prototypes addressing the medium’s accountability and potential. In this session, the artists present their findings and explore how a critical engagement with the medium can spur artistic innovation and create a more inclusive grammar of VR.
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Date: November 11 - 18
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Date: November 14 - 25
IDFA DocLab is the New Media program of the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA). Since 2007, the program showcases new forms of documentary storytelling and interactive media art, both online and offline.
During the IDFA Festival in November, DocLab presents a competition program for Digital Documentary Storytelling, live cinema events, interactive installations, workshops and industry panels. The program is open to all media that can be used to tell a documentary story.
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Date: November 17 - December 3
The Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival announced in Cannes the launch of Storytek, a three-month accelerator program to support the emergence of alternative storytelling such as virtual reality.
There will be 20 pilot projects selected by an international team of mentors to take part in a three-month program that will link together film-makers with technology developers. Topics selected for discussion among film-makers include how to expand original narratives to digital platforms such as games, online platforms and virtual reality, as well as the monetization of multi-platform content.
At the end of the program, participants will pitch projects to selected European and international financiers with the goal of bringing them to the Black Nights Film Festival within two years.
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Date: December 9 - 16
AFI FEST presented by Audi is the American Film Institute’s annual celebration of international cinema from modern masters and emerging filmmakers. It takes place each fall in Hollywood, CA, and features nightly red-carpet galas, special screenings, conversations and tributes.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences recognizes AFI FEST as a qualifying festival for both Short Films categories of the annual Academy Awards®. AFI FEST remains the first and only festival of its stature that is free to the public, offering the best of current cinema in Hollywood.
The Tech Showcase event is sponsored by Audi, to demonstrate the most cutting-edge technologies in filmmaking.
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Date: December 6 - 13
“DIFF” is a leading film festival in the Arab world. Since its inception in 2004, the festival has served as an influential platform for Arab filmmakers and talent at an international level.
The Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) launched its VR program, DIFFerent REALITY, at the 2016 festival. The DIFFerent REALITY program offers festival goers an international selection of VR films, including fiction, documentary, and animation. There is also a business hub of the festival that includes panels with VR creators, interactive installations, and the chance to network.
On the festival’s website, DIFF’s Chairman, Abdulhamid Juma commented: “We have always been committed to discovering new talent and original storytelling to present exciting content that will entertain, educate and inspire DIFF audiences. VR gives filmmakers a new, immersive medium which is an exciting new direction for cinema and our compelling and engaging line-up of VR films push the technological boundaries of storytelling. We are extremely excited to bring some of the best VR experiences to DIFF this December and invite film fans to experience the future of storytelling firsthand.”
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The Festival of International Virtual and Augmented Reality Stories focuses on curating the best immersive story-driven content from around the world with the aim of exploring and nurturing this platform for new narrative forms. FIVARS is the first Canadian festival of its kind featuring many world premieres and in our preview screenings and events, audience responses are consistently full of contemplation, surprise, delight, controversy and wonder.
FIVARS is a presentation of VRTO – Toronto’s virtual reality meetup group and think tank.
Date: To be announced
Visit this page often for constant updates. If there’s any VR film festivals that you’d like to bring on our radar, let us know in the comments below!
Mina is a digital marketing strategist, content marketer, and editor-in-chief of the VeeR VR Blog. She specializes in feature shorts, tech news and product reviews.
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