Things to Do

11 Film Festivals to Watch in the DC Area This Fall

Immigration Film Fest and Double Exposure Investigative Film Festival return to DC this fall.

Film Finlandia showing at Reel Affirmations.

Happy Thursday, DC!

Here’s a good reason to pause the home Netflix stream, and head to your local theater or community center: There are a number of multi-day film festivals coming to the Washington, DC, area this fall featuring a ton of shorts and full-length movies to binge. These are a few to add to your movie calendar:

1. Middleburg Film Festival

Various Middleburg locations | October 19-22

New motion picture dramas Rustin, The Holdovers, and Saltburn are feature films in this festival’s star-studded screening schedule. The popular festival is back for its 11th year, bringing top directors, film creators, and actors to Virginia for four days of narrative and documentary showings, Q&A conversations, awards ceremonies, and a concert performed by the Loudoun Symphony Orchestra ($18 for single pass).


2. Noir City DC

AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center | through October 26

If you are a fan of classic Hollywood crime and detective dramas, this cinematic nod to the past is for you. Writer and film historian Eddie Muller and the Film Noir Foundation return to AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center this month with a curated selection of more than 15 films noir for admirers of the vintage movie style ($200 pass).


3. Immigration Film Fest

Various DC locations and virtual | October 20-22

This weekend Immigration Film Fest is celebrating its tenth year. In commemoration, the longtime showcase—dedicated to spotlighting the stories and experiences of refugees, asylum seekers, and immigrants—plans to screen shorts, documentaries, and feature films centered around the theme “Resilient Together.” There are a few productions with local connections to be on the lookout for: the short documentary Allies Welcome, the new feature documentary Nurse Unseen, and the local history documentary Park Regent ($50+ pass).


4. Utopia Film Festival

Various Greenbelt locations | October 20-22

Since 2005, Greenbelt’s neighborhood film festival has presented movies and thematic programs that explore the topics of cultural diversity, community building, environmental issues, and politics. This weekend’s selections include animations for youth, experimental films, independent features, and locally produced films playing at Greenbelt Cinema, New Deal Cafe, and Greenbelt Municipal Building ($20 pass).


5. Sprout Film Festival

Virtual | through October 31

Here’s a festival that you can leisurely view and replay throughout the month. Sprout Film Festival is free and completely virtual. All of the films are 6 minutes or less in length, and focus on celebrating the lives of people from around the world with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Short music videos, poetry readings, and first-person narratives encourage awareness and acceptance of everyone’s differences and abilities (free).


6. Reel Affirmations

Eaton DC and virtual | October 20-29

Reel Affirmations is the DC LGBTQ+ Community Center’s international film festival. For its 30th annual celebration, the lineup will boast 58 films from 22 countries, shown over a span of nine days. There will be live screenings of thrillers, comedies, sci-fi flicks, and more at Eaton Hotel, followed by a six-day virtual streaming showcase. Also, guests can snag tickets to this Saturday’s Reel Gleeful 30th anniversary party to sip drinks and dance to live music ($25+ pass).


7. Romanian Film Festival

Landmark E Street Cinema | November 2-5

“Reinventing Realism—New Cinema from Romania” is the motto behind the Romanian Film Festival arriving in DC next month. Curated by Romanian film critic Mihai Fulger, the program will highlight six original productions accompanied by post-screening Q&A discussions with audiences and conversations with award-winning directors (free).


8. Double Exposure Investigative Film Festival

MLK Memorial Library and Cafritz Hall | November 2-5

Investigative reporting and visual storytelling come together at this film festival for journalists and filmmakers. The opening night film selection is the DC premiere of Locked Out—an investigative documentary exploring the racial gap in homeownership. Most of the screenings will take place at MLK Memorial Library; there will also be symposiums led by industry experts on the topics of voting rights, AI, storytelling, and more ($85+ pass).


9. HBCU First LOOK Film Festival

Howard University | November 10-12

Films from HBCU First LOOK student filmmaker challenge finalists and HBCU alumni will be shown on Howard University’s big screen this fall. The inaugural three-day festival also includes panel discussions, keynote addresses, and master classes with industry professionals such as Academy Award-winning costume designer Ruth E. Carter, media mogul Cathy Hughes, and actress Terri J. Vaughn ($15+ pass).


10. Alexandria Film Festival

Various Alexandria locations | November 10-12

Producers, actors, composers, and directors will attend this local event geared toward moviegoers and filmmakers. A popular Family Showcase presents youth productions, while a “Salute to Service Members” showcase in honor of Veteran’s Day gives complimentary admission to active and retired service members ($80 pass).


11. Wheaton Film Festival

Wheaton Volunteer Rescue Squad  | November 11

This community program specializes in spotlighting short films, creating a space for industry networking, and leading educational talks. The 9th annual festival will highlight video projects from indie Montgomery County filmmakers and international producers. At the end of the event, three awards will be presented for Best Overall Film, Best Community Story, and Best Student Film ($14+ pass).


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Briana A. Thomas is a local journalist, historian, and tour guide who specializes in the research of D.C. history and culture. She is the author of the Black history book, Black Broadway in Washington, D.C., a story that was first published in Washingtonian in 2016.