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May 15, 2023

The Philadelphia Independent Film Festival is back: here's what's playing and where

More than 80 short films, documentaries, music videos, animated shorts and virtual reality experiences will screen at small venues May 16–20

Film Festivals
Independent Film Festival Geoffrey Moffett/Unsplash

The Philadelphia Independent Film Festival returns for its 16th year from Tuesday, May 16 through Saturday, May 20.

The Philadelphia Independent Film Festival returns this week with more than 80 feature-length movies, short films, documentaries, music videos, animations and virtual reality experiences premiering at small venues throughout the city. 

In its 16th year, the festival will be held Tuesday, May 16 through Saturday, May 20 at the Canal Theater and Purple Light Lounge (both at 924 Canal Street in Northern Liberties), the Holodec's virtual reality center and Lightbox Film Center at the University of the Arts. The full schedule for the festival is available on the organizer's website.

Tickets and festival passes are available for purchase in advance but can also be picked up at the door before screenings. As the venues are smaller than a traditional movie theater, some screenings will sell out before they premiere, organizers said. 

Things kick off Tuesday at 6 p.m. with 10 comedic films, including two from Philly-based filmmaker and Drexel University alum Shayna Davis. Philly actress and producer Kat Ahn directs and stars as Jenny in "Office Ghost," a short film about a group of workers who return to their newly haunted office. 

The festival's second day focuses on documentaries and dramatic films from 11 regional filmmakers, and the Purple Light Lounge will showcase the festival of music videos, which also includes music video production lessons. 

Closing out the second day of the festival is "Keepers of the Way," a short documentary directed by Evan Cohen that explores the journey taken by Lenape leaders in Pennsylvania as they fight to keep their indigenous culture alive. Filmed over the course of a weekend, members of the tribe perform healing ceremonies and reveal the lost history of the Walking Purchase, an agreement tribal leaders made with the Penn family that required them to cede their land for what would become the state of Pennsylvania. 

Thursday will show science fiction and experimental films, a mix of pilots from web series produced throughout the world and a festival of animation with nine shorts. One of Thursday's film screenings is "I Am Danny Torres," a documentary about the Philly-based artist who has painted nearly 30 murals in the city since 1988. 

From 6:30–10 p.m. on Thursday, the Holodec's virtual reality center will explore eight virtual reality experiences. Live screenings will be played on a loop, but attendees should check with the venue for specific times. 

The final film on this year's schedule is "Humanity Stoked," a skateboarding documentary about overcoming fear that features celebrities like Tony Hawk, Neil deGrasse Tyson and Bam Margera. 

Philadelphia Independent Film Festival

Tuesday, May 16 through Saturday, May 20
Times vary | Tickets $15, passes $55
Various small venues in Philadelphia