International film festivals have long been out of the reach of the average American moviegoer. And yet, while this streaming era has been challenging for those for whom dinner and a movie has been central to their weekly routine, there is a silver lining. For avid movie watchers, the collateral benefit is that many domestic festivals have responded to the pandemic by migrating large parts of their programs online for the very first time. Home viewers have new access to elite and far-flung film festivals from their television consoles. Movie lovers can now access, for the price of admission, links to film offerings that might not have made it to their local cineplexes or art houses until deep into the fall prestige film season, if ever.
Here’s how to connect to five fantastic fall festivals in the U.S.:
New York Film Festival (Sept. 25 to Oct. 11)
Now in its 58th season, and boasting a vividly colored, irony-drenched film poster by the legendary John Waters, 74, the prestigious Gotham-based event has taken the lead in streamlining programming and migrating much of its content online for this social distancing era.
How to fest: General public tickets for virtual screenings are on sale. For a set fee, festival film links will be available to those in the United States and its territories for a specific time window. There’s even a detailed support page with FAQs and an email help line.
AFI Latin American Film Festival (Sept. 25 to Oct. 7)
Now in its 31st year, the American Film Institute’s annual celebration of Latin American cinema has gone entirely virtual, presenting 26 films from 20 nations and seven U.S. premieres. How to fest: Access to festival films is currently available here. Viewers have two options: a full festival pass at $150 for general admission or individual title links. While all films will be available via links, a minority will be available only to residents of Washington, D.C., Virginia and Maryland, where the festival is based.
Woodstock Film Festival (Sept. 30 to Oct. 4)
The self-described “fiercely independent” upstate New York event is a hipster destination for movie mavens — its annual prize is called the Maverick Award, and honorees have included Frida and The Glorias director Julie Taymor, 67, who brought Th e Lion King to Broadway. How to fest: Th e festival has long played by its own rules and, rather than offering links to specific movies, has chosen to off er packages that can be purchased here. For $150, access is provided to the entire festival, available virtually; $125 purchases fi lms only, while just panels of speakers are $50.
The Hamptons International Film Festival (Oct. 10-14)
In recent years the Hamptons festival has developed a reputation as a desirable destination on the awards circuit, with a history of programming the best picture Oscar winner (Th e Shape of Water, Green Book, Parasite) months before it receives the statuette. (Full disclosure: I’m on the advisory board and have been attending since 1996.) Th is year, the festival has expanded to a seven-day virtual edition — fewer parties but more public access. How to fest: For a fee, ticket purchasers will have access to a 48-hour window in which to watch the lion’s share of the festival’s features and shorts, as well as celebrity and filmmaker Q&A’s. Individual tickets for virtual links to the general public will go on sale at the end of September. Keep an eye on things and make your plans, here.
Montclair Film Festival (Oct. 16-25)
Now in its ninth year, the Montclair Film Festival in New Jersey postponed its March event due to COVID-19 and is repositioning itself in the packed fall season with virtual off erings. How to fest: Th e full program will be announced Oct. 2. Montclair Film members will get first dibs on Oct. 5, and the general public can purchase access to links on Oct. 8.