Top Northwest Film Festivals

by Heather Larson Powell | Photo © Seattle Film Festival

The lights dim. A hush falls over the audience. Everyone collectively wonders… Will they witness the next blockbuster? Will this be the big break for a rising star? Could this be the next trend in motion pictures? Film festivals give audiences an insider’s perspective and a chance to interact with the filmmakers and, sometimes, the writers.

Moviegoing doesn’t get anymore personal than this. Northwest Travel’s preview of the region’s film fests will help you decide which ones to put on your travel agenda.

Powell River Film Festival (PRFF):
Powell River, British Columbia; February 11-16;

See a mix of dramas and documentaries, international and Canadian, at the north end of the Sunshine Coast. Festival co-director Jan Padgett says you should consider spending a week there and alternate your movie going with hiking and snowshoeing.

In its 13th year, this festival provides a forum for students and adults to view, discuss and learn from films of the highest aesthetic quality.

During the event, the local arts community also showcases artists, craftspeople and musicians. For more information about visiting Powell River, go to

Big Sky Documentary Film Festival (BSDFF):
Missoula, Montana; February 14-23;

In its eleventh year, the Big Sky Fest has grown into the biggest film event in the state and the largest documentary film festival in the American West.

“Due to the numerous workshops, panels and parties, attendees have ample opportunity to meet and have meaningful conversations with visiting filmmakers from all over the world,” says Travis Morss, director of programming.

You can gain great insight into the world of documentaries by attending the free Big Sky Doc Shop, which is held each year. To plan your Missoula visit, go to

Portland International Film Festival:
Portland, Oregon; February 6-22;

More than 140 films from around the world will be screened at venues throughout Portland, with Whitsell Auditorium in the Portland Art Museum serving as the home-base theater. Mark your program for the features, shorts and documentaries you want to see. Also on the agenda will be parties and other events with visiting artists.

As the largest event dedicated to film in Oregon, it usually draws a crowd of more than 38,000 fans. For more about visiting Portland, go to

Eastern Oregon Film Festival (EOFF):
LaGrande, Oregon; February 20-22;

In 2009, this celebration of movies began humbly with a few filmmakers and their creations at a local pub. Now, five years later, Skype technology is used to serve up Q&A’s with filmmakers when they can’t actually attend in person.

“Film director Terence Nance Skyped with EOFF while walking the streets of New York City,” says Christopher Jennings, festival director.

Jennings also noted that the festival teams up with local businesses to give pass holders additional perks, such as ski lift tickets; watch the website for deals. For information about visiting LaGrande to attend in person, go to

Sun Valley Film Festival (SVFF):
Sun Valley, Idaho; March 13-16;

During SVFF, the streets of Ketchum buzz with excitement. Those arriving early at the NexStage Theatre search the crowd for celebrities in attendance as they wait for the auditorium to open.

Guests can attend screenings of more than 50 curated films, filmmakers’ Q&As, intimate coffee talks and an Awards Bash in this third annual celebration of film.

New happenings include a Works in Progress Workshop that allows filmmakers to share their almost completed films for audience feedback. To visit Sun Valley, consult

Canadian International Film Festival:
Vancouver, British Columbia; March 20-21;

In their seventh year, the festival brings the best of world cinema to Canada from more than 90 countries. Held at the Edgewater Casino in downtown Vancouver, this year’s program will showcase a wide variety of thought-provoking shorts, documentaries, music videos, animations, experimental films, student films and more.

The 2014 event opens with a filmmaker reception where these creators mingle with each other and with festival goers. Then the parties, gatherings and films commence for what staff says will be the biggest and best festival yet. To plan a stay in Vancouver, B.C., visit

Seattle International Film Festival:
Seattle, WA and surrounding area; May 5-June 8;

SIFF plans to dazzle audiences in this year’s 40th anniversary celebration. Carl Spence, artistic director, promises more galas, parties, well-known industry professionals,\ big-name celebrities and, of course, films during their 25-day run.

“This festival is more audience oriented, not industry-based like many others,” says Spence. “Our focus is to create amazing experiences for our audiences.”

SIFF is the largest film festival in North America in terms of number of attendees and number of films shown. Festival passes and ticket packages are on sale now through mid-January at more than 40% off. For a visit to Seattle, go to

Watch for Northwest Travel’s July/August 2014 issue for film festivals to attend during the second half of the year