Every year on the fourth weekend of April, West Chester hosts its very own international film festival.

This post has been updated Feb. 10, 2023.

If you have never been to the West Chester Film Festival, start with the opening night party, advises Victoria Rose, WCFF Sponsorship coordinator. There’s the step-and-repeat wall for social sharing, the swag, and the red carpet of a Hollywood event but executed West Chester-style, aka jeans are acceptable.

“The filmmakers are coming in. Have a drink. Grab some food and see some of the films that will be shown throughout the weekend,” Victoria suggests. “You’ll get an idea of the festival and still have a weekend’s worth of events to enjoy.” 

Plus, you can ask questions, find the events that suit your interests, and game plan the next two days with neighbors, visitors, film enthusiasts, and novices alike. This fits with the overall feel of a festival that started “guerilla-style” – grabbing space and setting up projectors in back rooms or empty downtown storefronts – nearly two decades ago. 

Volunteers screen hundreds of entries from countries around the world before settling on the final 70 or so films. Unlike the festival’s judging panel which is made up strictly of professionals, the screening panel is made up of movie lovers of all types, ages, and sophistication levels. They are tasked with ranking the films by enjoyability. The judges will find the best entries. The goal of the screeners, and the festival organizers in general, is to ensure everyone has a good time.

“I think what keeps people coming back is it is a very dynamic event,” Victoria says about the selections.  

The movies, shown in one- or two-hour blocks throughout the weekend, span genres and styles, from Oscar-nominated animated shorts to the first efforts of up-and-coming young filmmakers. “A lot of people think the submissions are all local,” says Victoria, but dozens of countries are represented every year. “You’ll see actors you recognize,” she says. They are, however, all short (30 minutes or less). This means you’ll get a chance to see several entries per block spanning a variety of material from intense dramas to comedies, animation, sci-fi, and of course, art-experimental. If something isn’t your style, take a break to grab a drink and come back in for the next one. There is always someone around to chat with about the films throughout the weekend, whether in the lobby or as you walk around town and see fellow Fest attendees.

Because remember, this event is all about having fun.

Things to do

Pop-up film events are scheduled at various locations around town.

Learn something new: Each year the festival hosts a free Filmmaking Workshop. 

Dip your toe: Take in a Pop-up Film Block. Located at venues around town, these hour-long viewing sessions include 5-7 films centered around a specific genre. Tickets are only $5/person. Buy ahead of time or at the door (room permitting.) 

See and be seen: Come to the Closing Night Party. Enjoy food from a selection of local restaurants and celebrate with filmmakers as they wait to see if they won a Chester Award. Plus, all winning selections will be re-aired. A film festival victory lap, if you will.

This year the West Chester Film Festival will be held from April 28-30. Check back for more details about this year’s event as we get closer to showtime.

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