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7 Film Festivals You Can Actually Afford

SPOILER ALERT: Tribeca, Telluride and Sundance aren’t just for the stars. If you’ve been repressing film fest fantasies out of financial prudence–think again. Here are the top fests you didn’t know were totally affordable.

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Tribeca Film Festival

Founded by Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal in 2002, TFF is considered one of the world’s best contemporary film festivals. Known for spotlighting documentary, feature-length and animation projects that tackle pressing contemporary issues like the globalization and climate change, the festival offers plenty of forward-looking programming for cinephiles strapped for cash. Ticket prices for individual film screenings range from just $9-17, while the Tribeca Talks (panel discussions between celebrities, directors, journalists and industry professionals) run a bit pricier at $30/talk. Still out of budget? Check out screenings of both classic films and premiers under the stars at Tribeca’s Drive-In series, free of charge.

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Telluride Film Festival

Don’t let its sleepy mountain town vibe fool you: The Telluride Film Festival is one of the festival circuit’s heaviest hitter. Having premiered such iconic films as David Lynch’s Blue Velvet and Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain, Telluride has attracted some of the world’s most fervent festivalgoers to its San Juan peaks. But thanks to its affordable lineup of films and events, your passion ≠ paycheck in order to attend. With plenty of reasonably priced campsites and food options in the area, you’ll have more than enough leftover cash to buy popcorn. And if you opt for the Late Show Pass in place of buying individual tickets (each $30), you’ll be able to catch the last film of all four days of the festival for just $75.

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Toronto International Film Festival

With lavish parties, killer programming and some of the best celebrity turnout around, TIFF is fast becoming a film event as exclusive as Festival de Cannes. Sounds amazing, right? Not if you're pinching pennies. In the past few years, all but those on a blockbuster budget could afford to take part, with premium adult tickets selling for $48 a pop and ticket prices as high as $1,808 for a 100-ticket package. Luckily for students and low-income patrons, TIFF’s volunteer program has beefed-up its benefits, and now offers a comprehensive list of perks for those willing to take on some shifts. (Think: free regular and premium screenings plus tickets to sought-after press and industry events.)

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Sundance Film Festival

Often labeled the granddaddy of US film festivals, the Robert Redford-founded Sundance Film Festival brings some of Hollywood’s biggest players to Park City, Utah every January. And because so many of its films go on to win Oscars, getting in on the action often requires a big budget or even bigger industry connections. Sure, nothing beats being on location, but bed down in the small mountain town and you’ll end up dropping thousands on accommodation alone. Budget-savvy travelers stay at nearby Salt Lake City (a 40-minute drive away), which offers a wider array of hotels at a fraction of the price. And to save money on tickets, forego the festival’s most buzzed-about releases (many of which are sold as part of expensive package bundles months in advance) for cheaper, lesser-known cinematic gems. We promise you won't be disappointed.

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Dubai International Film Festival

So, you blew $1k on airfare to get from mainland USA to Dubai. Now the question becomes how to curb your spending so that you’ll be able to see the main attraction. Thankfully, the UAE’s 12-year-old festival, held every December, offers a wide selection of international and Arab-film screenings that are free of cost (and held on a beach, no less). And since the festival provides free transportation to and from events, you won’t have to shell out your life savings just to get air-conditional transportation (you’re in the desert, after all.) As for eats, dining in Dubai is notoriously expensive, but that just means you’ll have to sneak into the high-rollin' after-parties, where food is yours for the taking.

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Edinburgh International Film Festival

A student city, Edinburgh is one of the best places to soak in film festival culture without burning a hole in your pocket. Individual movie tickets are super affordable, and since there are no red carpets, neither high-profile juries nor prizes, the low-key festival won’t incite any budget-derailing FOMO. As for the films, the festival has historically premiered indie darlings like Frances Ha and Little Miss Sunshine. But if you find yourself in the mood for something other than award-winning independent cinema (if that's even possible), the festival also throws fun events like the free “dance along” screenings of Wizard of Oz and Grease.

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Los Cabos International Film Festival

While we wouldn’t fault you for assuming that a film festival held on the Resort Corridor – the 20-mile stretch of all inclusives lying between San José Del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas – would break the bank, full day passes cost only $32 to $55. Not only do passes give you access to all daily screenings and the special night gala–they also get you into VIP after-parties (hello, free margs and mezcal.) The fledgling fest may only be in its fifth year, but its had no problems attracting big names or films. Last year, gala showings included award-winning dramas like Todd Haynes’ Carol and Danny Boyle’s Steve Jobs, and festival goers rubbed elbows with honored guests like Jared Leto, Liam Neeson, and Ewan McGregor.