Liz Harkman, Executive Director of Bristol Festivals, looks at some of the film festivals and one-off events helping movies break out of their traditional setting and reach audiences in the city.

Once upon a time, the big screen experience was restricted to the plush seats and surround sound of your cinema, but that’s no longer the case. Outdoor film events, big screens in pubs, projections onto cliff faces – there are now many thrilling ways to experience the movies, and Bristol in particular is a haven for fans of film to enjoy unique events. There is now a growing community of film festivals in the city which cater for all tastes.

Encounters Film Festival

This short film and animation festival returns in September (19th-24th), bringing its huge programme of diverse screenings and special events. For the film-makers, it’s a gateway to leading European film accolades such as the BAFTAs, European Film Awards and Cartoon D’Or. For the public it’s a chance to support the next generation of filmmakers and enjoy an eclectic range of short films.

Encounters Film Festival

Image - Encounters Film Festival, credit Jon Craig

Bristol Slapstick Festival

An annual celebration of some true comedy classics, the dates for Slapstick 2018 are already out so put them in your diary! Mixing old-school gems like Laurel and Hardy and Charlie Chaplin with British comedy stars such as Rory Bremner, it’s become a well-established festival which draws people from far and wide to Bristol.

Laurel and Hardy

Image - Laurel & Hardy, Slapstick Festival

Cinema Rediscovered

In the same spirit of the Slapstick Festival (but with fewer custard pies and banana skins) Cinema Rediscovered brings digital restorations, contemporary classics and some rarities from the archive and shows them again, often to audiences who’ve never seen them before in their full film glory on the big screen.


Image - Watershed


Watch any BBC wildlife documentary and chances are you’ll see Bristol in the credits as our city is a focal point for nature documentaries. With that in mind, it’s only fitting that Wildscreen - one of the world’s biggest and best wildlife film festivals - takes place here. Scheduled every other year, you’ll have to wait until 2018 for the next one, but it’s worth it!

Cary Grant Festival

This biannual festival celebrates Hollywood legend Cary Grant’s Bristol roots, developing new audiences for his films and recreating the golden age of cinema-going. Cary Grant Festival hosts screenings of his best-loved films throughout the year, and associated events such as theatre tours.

Afrika Eye

Afrika Eye brings the best in African cinema and music to the city centre for a weekend of one-off screenings and events.  Returning in November this year (10th-12th), if 2016’s programme of workshops, films, documentaries and outreach events is anything to go by, it should be a cracker. If you can’t wait that long, look out for their new African Cinema Club at Bristol’s Commonwealth Centre.

Bristol Radical Film Festival

Run by volunteers with all revenue ploughed back into staging screenings, The Bristol Radical Film Festival champions political films that have the power to make waves and stimulate discussion. The event also helps peel back the surface and look at what different communities are doing in Bristol as regards issues such as trade unions, support for sex workers, radical bookshops and social centres.

Bristol Film Festival

Image - screening at Avery's Wine Merchants, Bristol Film Festival

Bristol Palestinian Film Festival

Now in its sixth year, the Bristol Palestine Film Festival brings cinema, art and culture from Palestine to audiences across the UK from its base in Bristol. The films are accompanied by a thoughtfully put-together programme of documentaries, talks and art.

Sunset Cinema

Brought to you by the same people behind Bristol Bad Film Club (see below for more on them), Sunset Cinema (mainstream movies shown as the sun goes down) is a relatively recent arrival on the scene, but such was their early success that last year’s outdoor screenings - all in Ashton Court - were extended to six nights. Keep an eye on their Facebook page for this year’s event.

Bristol Film Festival

This year’s clever programming sees movies matched with Bristol settings. Bond classic, Goldfinger was shown in the Aston Martin showroom at Cribbs Causeway, Casablanca will screen at Avery’s Wine Cellars on 26th May along with wines associated with locations in the movie. Tickets can go quickly so keep an eye out for future events.

Bristol Film Festival

Image - silent comedy Buster Keaton at Bristol Cathedral, Bristol Film Festival

Bristol Bad Film Club

An event dedicated to films that are so bad, they’re good. Every so often a daft plot collides with some breathtakingly bad special effects and produces something genuinely awful. Those are the sorts of films that the Bristol Bad Film Club team unearth, dust off and show to people who can marvel at how some films ever got released (while having a good laugh in the process).

Pub screenings

Fancy watching a film? In some parts of Bristol you don’t have to find a parking space at the nearest multiplex or wait for a pop-up event, all you have to do is stroll into the local boozer. More and more pubs are installing a big screen and projector and taking advantage of peoples’ desire to see films in unusual locations. The Windmill, Lazy Dog and Horts are three examples of places where you can combine a movie with a swift half.

Bristol Festivals supports the development of festivals and events of all kinds across the city and wider area. To find out more about becoming a member of the organisation and enjoying the benefits that come with it contact


Encounters Film Festival
Participatory Event
Encounters Film Festival

Bristol’s largest international film festival celebrates its 25th edition this year with a handpicked programme of film, animation and virtual reality.

Slapstick Festival
Slapstick 2024- festival graphic -  a day without laughter is a day wasted - Charlie Chaplin Quote - 14 - 18 Feb 2024

Slapstick Festival will be returning to Bristol venues for its 19th edition from 14 - 18 February 2024!

Averys Wine Merchants
Averys Wine Merchants

Discover new and exciting wines in the historic vaulted cellar of Bristol’s oldest wine merchants, Averys.