Sundance Film Festival champions independent storytellers. Plan ahead for the January festival.
Forget edited-for-content airplane films or trying to descramble the Spectravision in your hotel room—real movie buffs hit the road for the West's 100-plus annual film festivals. Just pick your season and setting—snowcapped mountain towns, metropolitan movie palaces, even beachside venues—and settle into an aisle seat.
Sundance Film Festival Park City, Utah. Splashy action on-screen and off with bidding wars between Hollywood big shots. January 10-20; (801) 328-3456, www.sundance.org.
Cinequest San Jose, Calif. Spotlights digital filmmaking, but still offers hearty helpings of foreign and domestic features. February 21-March 3; (408) 995-5033, www.cinequest.org.
Film Noir Festival Los Angeles, Calif. The gorgeously restored Egyptian Theatre hosts this annual ode to gangsters, private eyes, and femmes fatales. March 29-April 14; (323) 466-3456, www.egyptiantheatre.com.
San Francisco International Film Festival The country's oldest film fest (established 1957) is still cutting edge. Count on big-name appearances. April 18-May 2; (415) 931-3456, www.sffs.org.
Mountainfilm Telluride, Colo. Action pics for fans of John Muir, not Arnold Schwarzenegger. Outdoor adventure films and nature documentaries. May 24-27; (970) 728-4123, www.mountainfilm.org.
Seattle International Film Festival The best-attended U.S. film festival has a "secret fest": Viewers sign an oath of silence to screen certain films. May 23-June 16; (206) 464-5830, www.seattlefilm.com.
Maui Film Festival Wailea, Maui, Hawaii. Don't miss the SandDance Theater (toes-in-the-sand, late-night screenings). June 12-16; (888) 999-6330, www.mauifilmfestival.com.
AFI Fest Los Angeles, Calif. Heavy doses of shorts, documentaries, and features from new filmmakers, plus the big-gun guest speakers (Spike Jonze, Steve Martin in recent years). November 1-10; (866) 234-3378, www.afifest.com.
Northwest Film and Video Festival Portland, Ore. Featured filmmakers must hail from Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Alaska, or British Columbia. November; call for 2002 dates. (503) 221-1156, www.nwfilm.org.