What to know about the film festivals happening in Boston this fall

It's film festival season in the city. Here's how to make the most of it.

Carlo Mirabella-Davis’ “Swallow" will screen at the Boston Women's Film Festival on Sept. 29, 2019. Boston Women's Film Festival

The international film festival season may be winding down, but in Boston, things are just heating up.

Nearly a dozen film festivals will take place in and around the city this fall, each bringing regional premieres, guest speakers, and encore screenings of 2019’s best to the metro area. Many festivals, from the Boston Asian American Film Festival to the Boston Jewish Film Festival, will showcase cinema by and about the experiences from those within its communities.

Now in its 11th year, the Boston Asian American Film Festival (Oct. 24-27) will feature films about the diversity of Asian American experiences, including Sasie Sealy’s “Lucky Grandma,” a dark comedy starring Tufts-educated veteran actress Tsai Chin as a chain-smoking Chinese widow.


Festival director Susan Chinsen hopes that community members will engage with BAAFF’s films both in and out of screenings.

“The rise in Asian representation in media has made it a lot easier for people to understand why a film festival like ours needs to exist,” Chinsen said. “We want to showcase the work of Asian Americans on both sides of the camera, and we want to start conversations within our communities.”

But four days often isn’t enough for festival programmers to feature everything they want, explained Chinsen. That’s why you can catch BAAFF screenings of other films in advance of the festival, including Lulu Wang’s autobiographical hit “The Farewell” showing Oct. 15th and 20th.

Other women-directed films will be the focus of the second annual Boston Women’s Film Festival (Sept. 26-29) taking place at the Museum of Fine Arts and Brattle Theatre. This year’s highlights include the return of “Fast Color,” Julia Hart’s visually stunning superhero film about a young black woman coming to terms with her powers, and “Blowin’ Up,” a Tribeca-favorite legal documentary about sex trafficking cases in Queens.  

“While we try to show a majority of area premieres, “Fast Color,” which debuted earlier this year, deserves to be seen on the big screen,” said Jo-Ann Graziano, director of the Boston Women’s Film Festival (BWFF). “We also want to make clear that women’s film is not a genre, so we’ve included a huge variety of genres by a diverse group of creators.”


Graziano noted that the BWFF will feature films not just by women directors, but also women editors, cinematographers, writers, and producers. “We’ll be showing an Italian film called ‘The Disappearance of My Mother,’ and although it was directed by Beniamino Barrese, he credits his female editor, Valentina Cicogna, with its success,” she said.

For those interested in big-name films already garnering Oscar buzz, the Boston Film Festival (Sept. 19-22) and Boston Palestine Film Festival (Oct. 18-27) won’t disappoint.

The BFF will be showing two buzzworthy films that premiered at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival: “A Hidden Life” from master Terrence Malick, and “Jojo Rabbit,” a star-studded World War II satire from “Thor: Ragnarok” director Taika Waititi. The BPFF will also be showcasing the comedy “It Must Be Heaven,” Palestine’s entry for best foreign language film at next year’s Academy Awards.

Looking for more? Here’s what you need to know about all the festivals coming to Boston this fall.

Boston Film Festival
Sept. 19-22
Boston Public Library and ShowPlace ICON Seaport Picks: “She’s in Portland,” “Jojo Rabbit,” and “A Hidden Life.”

Boston Women’s Film Festival
Sept. 26-29
Brattle Theatre and Museum of Fine Arts Picks: “The Disappearance of My Mother,” “The Awakening of the Ants,” and “Blowin’ Up.”


Boston Latino International Film Festival
Sept. 25-29
Boston Public Library, Harvard University, Museum of Fine Arts, Northeastern University, and Paramount Center Picks: “The Infiltrators,” “The Silence of Others,” and “Divino Amor.”

GlobeDocs Film Festival:
Oct. 2-6
Brattle Theatre, Coolidge Corner Theatre, and ShowPlace ICON Seaport Picks: “For Sama” and “Gay Chorus Deep South.”

Boston Palestine Film Festival:
Oct. 18-27
Brattle Theatre, Northeastern University, Pao Arts Center, and Paramount Center Picks: “It Must Be Heaven” and “The Tower.”

Boston Asian American Film Festival
Oct. 24-27
Brattle Theatre, Pao Arts Center, and Paramount Center Picks: “Lucky Grandma,” “Alternative Facts,” and “Sea Drift.”

Independent Film Festival Boston: Fall Focus
Nov. 1-3
Brattle Theatre
IFF Boston’s fall focus always brings the very best to Cambridge each year—2018 highlights include “The Favourite” and “Roma.” 2019 films to be announced soon.

Boston Jewish Film Festival
Nov. 6-17
Arts at the Armory, Brattle Theatre, Capitol Theatre, Coolidge Corner Theatre, Museum of Fine Arts, West Newton Cinema, and Paramount Center
The 31st BJFF will highlight a diversity of Jewish films still be be announced.

Arlington International Film Festival
Nov. 7-10
Capitol Theatre Picks: “The Best of All Worlds” and “The Most Dangerous Year.”

Boston Drone Film Festival 2019
Nov. 15-16
WGBH Yawkey Theatre
Submissions are still open for this festival celebrating drone cinematography.

Boston International Kids Film Festival
Nov. 15-17
Somerville Theatre
Submissions are still open for the 6th annual BIKFF, which features films by, for, and about children.