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Niche Events Take Over Film Festival Season

Niche film festivals abound in Southern Nevada. There are the Las Vegas Jewish and Black Film Festivals, ClexaCon for LGBTQ+ women, Sin City Horror Fest for slasher lovers … even one for the addiction recovery community

Film critic and film music composer David Rosen said Nevada isn't the only place where smaller film festivals are being held.

“I think film festivals in every state are just popping up left and right and it just seems to be a growing thing where there’s just fests everywhere," he said.

Film critic Josh Bell said some of the film festivals are legitimate, offering a well-curated selection of films, but others are not.

“Some of these events… exist more to collect submission fees then they do to really showcase films," he said, "There are certain festivals that will program everything that is submitted and the programs are completely haphazard.”

He said some festivals exist to help promote the organizer's own work or they don't respect filmmakers and give them the tools to promote their films.

But the legitimate film festivals can give people in a niche community a chance to see something for them. 

“The most successful way some of these events work is that they can market to their specific community and maybe give a voice to filmmakers or content from that community that isn’t always getting a voice in a general event,” Bell said.

That doesn't mean, for example, people who aren't Jewish shouldn't go to the Jewish Film Festival. In fact, Bell said, such events they give a general audience a chance to see something new.

Rosen said more general interest festivals like the Las Vegas Film Festival often aim to fill as many seats in as many screenings as possible, while smaller, more specialized festivals will give local artists a chance.

“There’s a thing where people love to say that they don’t make anything original anymore. You’re going to see something original at one of these festivals,” he said.

But the production level for the films often run the gamut from Hollywood caliber to the student level. 

Rosen saw one short film that featured 10 minutes of a walk - don't walk street sign flashing on and off.

Bell was able to see "The Student Nurses" at a recent Nevada Women's Film Festival. It's a 1970 film directed by Stephanie Rothman that Bell described as a "fascinating lost classic." 

Bell said the festival made Rothman its centerpiece honoree, which would be unlikely at a larger, general interest festival. 

“If you like movies, go to these film festivals. You’ll see… things that you wouldn’t see ... in a mainstream or general interest film festival,” he said.

Other Film Festivals:

Dam Short Film Festival

Nevada Women’s Film Festival





Josh Bell, film critic; David Rosen, film music composer, podcast producer

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Desert Companion welcomed Heidi Kyser as staff writer in January 2014. In 2018, she was promoted to senior writer and producer, working for both DC and State of Nevada. She produced KNPR’s first podcast, the Edward R. Murrow Regional Award-winning Native Nevada, in 2020. The following year, she returned her focus full-time to Desert Companion, becoming Deputy Editor, which meant she was next in line to take over when longtime editor Andrew Kiraly left in July 2022.