8 upcoming Houston film festivals to mark on your calendar

Film is one of the most powerful mediums to showcase cultural diversity, and Houston hosts a myriad of independent film festivals each year. Most of our festivals are local and aim to showcase films rich in cultural and geographic significance, from places like Palestine and Iran to India and across the Latin Diaspora.

If you’re running out of things to binge-watch, consider going out and attending a festival for a fresh look at movies before they hit streaming services. Here are our top film festival picks to keep on your radar. (If you’re a filmmaker, take a chance and submit your work!)

Houston Indian Film Festival

October 15 | Asia Society Central Texas | $20-50

The IFHH highlights the creations of filmmakers from across the Indian diaspora. This year’s program is light, spanning only one day, but will highlight the work of filmmaker and multifaceted artist Satyajit Ray (1921-1992). The one-day program includes a screening of Ray’s 1964 romantic drama Charulata (The Lonely Woman) and Shatranj Ke Khilari (The Chess Players) from 1977.

Next International Film Festival

October 19-22 | Next Actor Studio | To be determined

Produced by the local theater school Next Actor Studio, this festival presents a great line-up of independent films and is back for its eighth year. It is unique because it features script readings by actors from the drama school as well as a host of documentaries and films.

Houston Film Arts Festival

10–17 November | To be determined | $200

Dubbed one of the 25 coolest film festivals in the worldthe Houston Cinema Arts Festival returns for its 14th year. In collaboration with NASA, CineSpace will make a comeback alongside the new Borders | No Borders short contest and a host of in-person and online programs. Stay tuned for the mid-October rollout of the entire movie and event schedule.

La Vida Es Cortos/Life Is Shorts Film Festival

2–4 December | To be determined

Short films and plays by local Latinx filmmakers are the focus of the La Vida Es Cortos film festival. It’s organized by the small but mighty team at the Houston-based theater arts organization, TEATRX. For its fourth year, the lineup will expand beyond official films and feature dance and theater performances.

Houston Jewish Film Festival

March 18–29, 2023 | Evelyn Rubenstein JCC | To be determined

Stories centered around Jewish and Israeli culture take center stage at this 18-year-old festival. It takes place in multiple locations across Houston and features a virtual component that allows fans to connect online. Events can only be followed with subscription access and require ticket reservations.

Houston World Festival

April 25 to 30, 2023 | Cinemark Memorial City | To be determined

As the third oldest independent film festival in the world, yes you read that right, WorldFest has helped showcase world-class talent in the film industry. Over the festival’s 56-year history, filmmakers like Steven Spielberg, the Coen brothers, David Lynch and many more have been honored. Although the 2022 festival has passed, mark your calendar for next year to sit in the audience of what could be the next big blockbuster.

Houston Underwater Film Festival

April 29 and 30, 2023 | MATCH | To be determined

Underwater videography is a unique profession that requires immense skill and dedication. Although this festival is only two years old, its mission to promote films made under water has made a big splash. The Houston Underwater Photographic Society (aka HUPS) also offers classes and workshop opportunities for budding underwater artists throughout the year.

National Black Film Festival

June 7 to 10, 2023 | AMC 8 | To be determined

For the past six years, this festival has worked to establish Houston as a major site for filmmaking by showcasing high-quality projects by black filmmakers and producers. Each year, the NBFF kicks off with a mixer and hosts a series of workshops for film professionals to connect and engage.

There are several annual festivals that have yet to set dates for 2023. Keep an eye out for announcements on their official websites:

About Debra D. Johnson

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