Pointing Hand
Join the altPhilly membership program for exclusive content and awesome perks. Become a Member

Popcorn ready programming: Your guide to the slew of film festivals to hit Philly this fall

Philadelphia has become a town that hosts film festivals all year round. There's QFlix, PFS Springfest, the Philadelphia Latin Film Festival. There’s Cinedelphia in the spring and BlackStar in the summer. 

Philadelphia has become a town that hosts film festivals all year round. There’s QFlix, PFS Springfest, the Philadelphia Latin Film Festival. 

There’s Cinedelphia in the spring and BlackStar in the summer. 

There are separate festivals called PIFF and PUFF, with the “I” and “U” standing for Independent and Unnamed, respectively, along with “Philadelphia” and “Film Festival. We’d be remiss if we neglected to mention the summer 48-Hour Film Festival. 

But the most dense film festival season of the year is nearly upon us, with four big festivals in October and November. If you look at the timing of it all, the fall film festival season continues virtually uninterrupted for a five-week period. 

Over that span, here’s what you can expect to see: 

First Glance Film Festival 

Next up, after the calendar turns to November, is the 22nd annual First Glance Film Festival, which is set to take place at the Film Center from Nov. 1-3. 

The indie-focused festival will screen four feature films, seven documentaries, 13 shorts and even web series and music videos. 

The feature films include Philadelphia-area filmmaker Phillip G. Carroll’s horror movie, “The Honeymoon Phase”; director David Vincent Bobb’s drama “Right Before Your Eyes,” which is about a man on a train ride to visit his son; Temple alum Bill Crossland’s Kickstarter-funded “Catching Up,” about a man with muscular dystrophy who “grapples with love, sex, and masculinity”; and Tom Morash’s “1/2 New Year,” about a group of friends who annually celebrate the half year on the last Saturday in June. That last film stars native Philadelphia actress Brooke Lewis. 

See the full First Glance schedule here. 

Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival 

Also in November, it’s the Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival (PAAAF), which runs from Nov. 7-17, at venues that include the Lightbox Film Center in University City and the Asian Arts Initiative on Vine Street. 

PAAFF will kick off its first night at the Lightbox with writer/director Emily Ting’s “Go Back to China,” a film about an aspiring fashion designer (Anna Akana) who is forced by her father to work at her father’s factory in Shenzhen. This will be followed by an opening night reception in the lobby at International House. 

The festival will close at Asian Arts Initiative with the documentary “Chinatown Rising,” taken from footage shot over the course of four decades by Harry Chuck and assembled by his son, director Josh Chuck. 

In between, the festival will include over 90 events, including films, concerts and live theater, in addition to a three-day conference at Penn’s Institute for Contemporary Art, on the theme of “Has Asian American Studies Failed?”

The full PAAFF lineup and program book will be revealed at a preview party Thursday, Oct. 3 at the Asian Arts Initiative (1219 Vine Street). The event will feature snacks from Chinatown’s Sang Kee Peking Duck House 

Gershman Philadelphia Jewish Film Festival Fall Fest

And finally, the Gershman Philadelphia Jewish Film Festival Fall Fest runs for two weeks, from Nov. 9-23, at a variety of locations in and out of the city. 

The festival gets underway Nov. 9, with “Picture of His Life,” directed by Dani Menkin and Yonatan Nir. The documentary, showing at the Philadelphia Film Center, looks at Israeli wildlife photographer Amos Nachoum and his mission to photograph a rare polar bear in the Canadian Arctic.

On Nov. 10, it’s Ryan S. Porush’s “The Passengers,” a documentary about the community of 9,000 Jews who live in Ethiopia, wishing to emigrate to Israel. That’s showing at the Ambler Theater. Inside the Suzanne Roberts Theater on Nov. 16, it’s “Latter Day Jew,” Aliza Rosen’s documentary about H. Alan Scott, a gay former Mormon — and stand-up comedian — who decides to convert to Judaism and travel to Israel. 

On Nov. 17, at the National Museum of American Jewish History, it’s comedians’ Eli Batalion and Jamie Elman’s “Chewdaism: A Taste of Jewish Montreal.” Arrive hungry, because the 11 a.m. screening is preceded by a bagel buffet. 

The festival wraps up Nov. 23 at the Film Center with “Standing Up, Falling Down,” a feature film directed by Matt Ratner. It stars Ben Schwartz as a failed comedian who returns to Long Island, where he befriends a dermatologist (Billy Crystal). 

Philadelphia Film Festival 

The city’s largest film festival, conducted by the Philadelphia Film Society at the Philadelphia Film Center and other local venues, is scheduled to run from Oct. 17-27 and consist of over 100 films. 

The lineup announcement for PFF’s 28th annual event was scheduled to be announced on Oct. 4, unfortunately a day after after this issue’s press time, so we don’t yet know which films will be featured. We do know that tickets go on sale that same day for Film Society members, and then on Oct. 7 to the general public.

Also on Oct. 7 at the Film Center, a Programmers Panel is scheduled at 6:30 p.m., where the programming team will go over this year’s lineup. 

Each of the last several years, most of the major Oscar contenders have been part of the PFF lineup as centerpieces — both “La La Land” and “Moonlight in 2016,”  “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” “Lady Bird” and “Darkest Hour” in 2017, and last year’s Oscar winners “The Green Book” and “Roma.” Local cinephiles are hoping for a glimpse of some of the major movies set for the end of the year. 

For movie buffs out there, it’s truly the most wonderful time of the year. 


If you read this story and liked it, consider joining altPhilly, our membership program that offers exclusive content, instant access to the editor and awesome perks for like-minded Philadelphians. At PW, our coverage goes against the grain of the local mainstream media.

Join altPhilly Now
Learn More
Enjoying Philly Weekly?Consider joining altPhilly, an exclusive community with access to members-only content and more. Learn More