The Best Under-the-Radar Film Festivals in America

This weekend, your film editor was invited to cover the tenth annual Tallgrass Film Festival; it’s an invitation I was inclined to accept, since it’s held in my hometown. But the fabulous time that I had there got me thinking about film festival culture — there are, after all, literally hundreds of film festivals held in America now, several a week, but casual observers and even true-believer film fans only hear about a handful of them. Sundance, Toronto, SXSW, NYFF, Telluride, and other “name brand” festivals boast big premieres, red carpets, and marquee names. The smaller, under-the-radar fests may not have all of that attention-grabbing stuff, but they’ve got as much (if not more) love for the cinema. So we asked some of our Flavorpill folks across the country to recommend some of their favorite film fests; check out their must-sees after the jump.

Tallgrass Film Festival (Wichita, KS)

When the Tallgrass Film Festival started back in 2003, it was a modest affair: a few films, a handful of venues, a small fest in a medium market. This year’s edition (the festival’s tenth) made a much bigger splash, with nearly 50 features and 140 shorts screening in theaters big and small. The line-up included several domestic premieres — including two wonderful, movie-crazy documentaries, Pablo (profiling title artist Pablo Ferro) and Year of the Living Dead (a look at the context and influence of Night of the Living Dead) — but it also allowed Midwesterners to get a look at several festival and art house favorites (Compliance, Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, Beauty is Embarrassing, Detropia) that would have never seen a movie screen in their market otherwise. And I can tell you, as someone who spent years hungering to see the indies everyone was talking and writing about, that this is valuable indeed.