Since Slovenia’s first screening of a motion picture in 1896 in Maribor, and the shooting of the country’s first movie in Ljubljana Castle two years later, Slovenians have developed a huge passion for cinema and films. If you are a movie lover, Slovenia and its impressive offer of high-quality international film festivals will surprise and entertain you. You will also find many multidisciplinary festivals that feature many film screenings, such as the City of Women.
Slovenia proposes a dozen major film festivals that can please everyone. In the capital but also all around the country, you will have the chance to discover themed festivals on many subjects, from the Slovenian annual production to the international LGBT film festival, passing by events about fantastic films AND wine.
Let’s discover Slovenia’s abundant offer in terms of amazing national and international festivals that will showcase the world’s best latest movies, highlight the issues faced by several communities, promote the Slovenian film culture, or even make you learn more about independent films, documentaries, and even animation movies.
The Festival of Slovenian Film
This festival organized each year in the beautiful seaside town of Portorož is the only festival in the country that exclusively features the best of domestic television and film production. Every September or October, this 4 to 5 days festival attracts the fine European film connoisseurs on the Adriatic coast.
Hundreds of people are eager to assist in the many film screenings and in the main award ceremonies: the most prestigious recompense is the Vesna Award, which rewards 17 different categories.
The most recent Slovenian films that were awarded as Best Film are the following ones: Stories from the Chestnut Woods by Gregor Božič and Marina Gumzi in 2019, My Last Year as a Looser, directed by Urša Menart in 2018, and in 2017 The Family, made by Rok Biček.
The festivities also include a wide offer of specific conferences about a large variety of subjects, such as acting, film production, or even screenwriting. There is also a dedicated time, every day, for press conferences with actors, directors, and producers can answer the question of the public and the journalists.
This festival is made possible by the organization of the Slovenian Film Centre, which replicates the magic every year since 1991. This national festival was then implemented when the country gained its independence, precedently under the name of the Slovene Film Marathon, but its tracks go back up to 1973: the city of Celje organized this year the first Slovene Film Week.
Ljubljana International Film Festival (LIFFe)
This amazing festival, first launched as the Film Art Festival of Ljubljana in 1990, takes place at different cultural centers in the city, in order to make you discover the town’s greatest cinema hotspots. It is organized every year by the Cankarjev dom Cultural and Congress Centre.
You will have the chance to assist in screenings at different movie halls in Ljubljana, such as the Kinodvor cinema, the Komuna Cinema, and the Bežigrad Cinema, but also in several places all around the country, like in Maribor (Maribox Cinema), Celje (Metropol Cinema), or Novo Mesto (APT Cinema).
The programming of this festival is both eclectic and specialized. This is a competitive festival, with an award ceremony, that features the very best of the current World film production, the new contemporary trends, and at the same time emerging and star directors. Indeed, the most impressive prize rewards an entire career of directing.
Thanks to this festival, you will discover more than mainstream Hollywoodian blockbusters. the programming is less and less commercial each year since it benefits from the cinephile eye of its new program director, Simon Popek: and it now attracts even more tourists and locals!
This festival is definitely one of the main highlights of Ljubljana’s and Slovenia’s cultural scenes. It indeed represents Cankarjev Dom’s biggest annual event, and sells around 50,000 tickets every year! The visitors are particularly interested in meeting the popular personalities invited to LIFFe every year, which are more and more famous.
The Ljubljana Gay and Lesbian Film Festival
Ljubljana’s LGBT Festival is one of the most politically committed yearly event in the country. This festival was originally launched in 1984, under the name of the Magnus Festival, referring to the name of the Students cultural center’s gay section. That makes this festival the oldest LGBT one in Europe and the oldest film festival ever in Slovenia.
Nowadays, it is organized by the Roza Club of Ljubljana, which is also part of the same student, association ŠKUC. It receives some financial support from the ŠKUC-Magnus section, the British Council of Slovenia, the Slovene Office of Youth Affairs, and more substantially from the Municipality of Ljubljana.
The events include films screenings, projected at the Slovenian Cinematheque, and a full agenda of accompanying program that takes place in the Metelkova area (especially at Klub Tiffany) and other clubs like Klub K4, but also in various galleries (ŠKUC and Match), and even in the Ljubljana University’s Faculty of Arts.
The celebrations and screenings, that usually last for a week in December, are also hosted in other areas of the country, like at Idrija’s Film Theatre, the Ptuj City Cinema, Koper’s MKSMC Botegin, and Maribor’s Intimate Cinema.
The significance of this festival is huge for Slovenia, as the country still has some progress to make regarding the living conditions of its LGBTI citizens.
The Migrant Film Festival
Every 20th June since 2010, Slovenia celebrates World Refugee Day with the organization of the Festival of Migrant Film. The Slovene Philanthropy organization wished to dedicate these events to refugees and migrants from all around the world through the featuring films that showcase migrations, refugees, and asylum related topics.
The genres are always very diverse, so the festival’s wide film collection is divided into three categories, no matter if they are animation films or documentaries. The first section presents portraits of individual migrants, with their path and experiences. The second one focuses on the effects of policies, borders, and road experiences and how they affected them.
The last section deals with the particular living conditions of the migrants that are also LGBTI minorities and face even more specific issues. The festival is also accompanied by thematic round tables, that allows everyone to speak in order to progress as a society on these topics.
This festival is also mainly organized in Ljubljana, in places such as the Kindovor Cinema, the City Museum of Ljubljana, and the Slovenian Cinematheque, but you can assist in some events in other cities.
Indeed, some screenings take place in Novo Mesto (at the Museum Gardens of the Lokal Patriot Institute), in Cerknica’s Culture House, and in Maribor’s Intimate Cinema. They come with other events in Vipava, Žalec, Metlika, Logatec, Velenje, Murska Sobota, Ljutomer, and Črnomelj.
International Documentary Film Festival
In 1998, this both specialized and competitive festival was established with the aim of focusing on the world’s contemporary documentary film production. The events are organized every year around March on a period of eight days, and take place in the most iconic cinema centers of Ljubljana, the Kinodvor Cinema, the Slovenian Cinematheque, but also the Cankarjev dom, Cultural and Congress Centre.
The birth of this festival originates with the creation of a documentary section at Ljubljana’s LIFFe in 1994. The organizers noticed that the public was extremely receptive to this kind of production, so when the category was discontinued from LIFFe’s program in 1996, it made no surprise that the Documentary Film Festival would be created two years later.
The documentary films that are selected are usually focusing on social issues and social phenomena. Indeed, you can notice that Amnesty annually prizes one of the documentaries with the Amnesty International Slovenia Award since 2019. The festival, however, remains specialized but allows the public to get an extensive overview of the documentary’s current film production.
The Kino Otok – Isola Cinema Festival
This festival organized every year on the Slovenian Adriatic coast is a specialised and non-competitive festival willing to focus on making more accessible a contemporary and aesthetically very eclectic film production coming from all around the world. Since 2004, the Kino Otok festival takes place in the seaside resort of Izola during the first half of June.
The main venues of the events are all in this small town, whereas it is at the city’s art cinema, the Odeon Izola, or in the Cultural Center. Some open-air screenings are also organized in the evening at Manzioli Square, while Izola’s lighthouse is turned into a camp for gatherings.
Thanks to the contribution of major Slovenian cultural actors such as the Slovenian Cinematheque and the Kinodvor Cinema, this small festival is a success each year since it attracts famous international guests and interest, but also locals, even if some movies can be relatively hard-to-see.
Indeed, the screenings are not necessarily the most popular events, often beat to the punch by the festival’s great musical program, and mostly various lectures and workshops organized by production companies or personalities, on topics such as scriptwriting and how to create your own film. The most famous workshop is held by Kino!, a Cinema magazine that organizes a young critics workshop that usually lasts four days.
The Grossmann Fantastic Film and Wine Festival
This surprising festival, mostly focused on fantasy and horror films, is probably one of the most unique film festivals of the country, and even of the world. It was created in 2005 by Prlekija’s Development Agency and Filmska praksa PLAN 9 to celebrate the centenary of the Slovenian cinema and the oeuvre of Dr. Karol Grossmann, one of its pioneers.
Since then, the municipality of Ljutomer hosts every July one of the world’s “30 Bloody Best Genre Fests in the World”, as it was described by MovieMaker Magazine. The festival is quite successful, notably thanks to the collaboration of the European Structural Fund, and is now run by the organization of the Lujtomer’s KTD Festival.
It is the perfect spot for fantasy and horror lovers that wish to discover a wide production coming from all around the world and especially the Balkanic area. Far from the usual blockbusters, fans and professionals will find in Lujtomer the very best of low budget and independent films. The aim of the festival is actually to refuse the mass culture.
This mix and ambition could seem surprising and unique enough, but it also comes with the idea of promoting the Prlejija region’s local wines. Thus, many other events are organized, from culinary tastings to concerts, exhibitions, and workshops. The masterclasses are surely unconventional and will make you live a memorable experience.
Sometimes, you can spot even more special events like the “Zombie Walk” is organized through the streets of Ljutomer, as well as a traditional festival of wine that includes wine tours, presentations, and wine tastings. It allows you to take a complete and extensive visit to the area and to dive into large spans of the Slovenian culture.
Animateka International Animated Film Festival
This competition is meant to highlight the wide animated film offer produced every year in Eastern and Central Europe. Since 2004, the Slovenian Cinematheque and the Kinodvor Cinema house this seven days festival in the capital, during the second week of December. The organizer association, 2 Reels, usually calls for eligible animated films from May to September.
Animetika is a festival that continually evolves throughout the different editions, but always fascinates visitors with its many conferences, retrospectives, exhibitions, and workshops among many other events.
The festival’s selection is divided in many sections depending on the year, but only three are competitive. The first one, the competition program, is directed towards contemporary production from Eastern and Central Europe, which allows the contesters to be put on the map.
The Elephant section focuses on animated films for younger publics and is also a wide international success. The last one is the European Young Talents Competition. However, the most popular events are often part of the large accompanying program, such as animation workshops, Virtual Reality animations, concerts, exhibitions in collaboration with the Kinodvor and Ljubljana’s International Centre of Graphic Arts, and way more.
The Kinodvor Café also hosts the majority of events that include working breakfasts, midnight gatherings, and public talks.
The Stoptrik International Film Festival
Slovenia is now one of the only four countries worldwide that houses a stop-motion animation festival since 2011, thanks to the Pekarna Magdalena Network. Stoprtrik (the name of a stop-motion video technique in Serbo-Croatian) is indeed dedicated to retrospectives and recent productions screenings of stop-motion animation, which is very rare.
If you are passionate yourself, a discovery of this festival can justify by itself a visit to Slovenia. It takes place annually both in Maribor, Slovenia’s second-biggest city and in Lodz, a small Polish city. Indeed, it was extended to Poland since the second edition, since the two creators were coming from this country.
This festival is a fantastic upside for the city of Maribor and definitely added up to the decision of making this town the 2012 European Capital of Culture. It was also made possible by the implication of many cultural institutes and embassies, and of the Slovenian Film Centre.
More than simply raising concern about this discipline, the program of panel discussions and workshops allows the visitors to discover and try new approaches to this animation technique.
Film Mixer Independent Film Festival
The Film Mixer Independent Film Festival takes place every year in Kranj, in the north of Ljubljana, since its quite recent launch in 2014. The creation of this festival gives a new and necessary fresh boost to the cultural and artistic life of this small regional capital deprived of cinema venue.
The main venues for the screenings and other events are now the Layer House for the open-air events, and the multimedia center Škrlovec Tower, but we can also count other places in city like the Khislstein Castle, the Vovkov vrt park, and the Kranj City Library.
This festival is meant to promote the richness of the not-mainstream contemporary film production that cannot be projected in big multiplexes or to the TV and make it accessible to every public. It is the perfect place to assist in the screenings of regional and local films or scenes. It can be a real springboard for unknown artists.
The program also includes workshops about round discussions on various topics such as finding funding techniques or acquiring particular skills. You can also assist in various concerts or music video presentations.
To conclude, you have plenty of choices if you wish to impregnate the Slovenian (international) film culture. Considering that there are three main film festival seasons in the country every year, you can even plan your trip according to your wants and assist in several different events.
Discovering those Slovenian festivals is also a great opportunity to learn more about Slovenian history and habits, and even to visit the country as most festivals organize events in various places in the country.