A Film Festival Rooted in Community

Salem Film Fest image by John Andrews, Creative Collective

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The Salem Film Fest is back for its 16th year with a lineup of inspiring films from around the globe with in-person showings Thursday, March 23Sunday, March 26 in Salem at the Peabody Essex Museum (PEM), Cinema Salem, and the National Park Service Visitor Center and in Beverly at The Cabot, followed by streaming of films Monday, March 27 – Sunday, April 2. Salem Film Fest is Massachusetts’ largest all-documentary film festival, which includes the screening of 28 feature films, most of which will be seen in state for the first time. 


Salem Film Fest is a way to explore an eclectic mix of poignant and relevant topics with films touching upon issues of war, gender issues, environmental struggle, and community connection to name a few. Salem Film Fest encourages local businesses, many of whom Sponsor Salem Film Fest year after year, to engage with the audience that is in town for the packed schedule of films being shown. The revenue that is generated from both locals and visitors alike, multiplies back into the community with the support of local businesses and the stimulation of the local market. Through the purchase of goods, overnight stays, and food and beverage while in town, festival goers are directly giving back to the community that is hosting them, and creating a sustainable and long lasting community partnership. This capturing of revenue within the economy is extremely important to local businesses, and highlights the important message of the film festival which is the empowerment of community.

 LAGUNARIA directed by Giovanni Pellegrine


Salem Film Fest will host a selection of world premiere screenings this year, including the world premiere of Director George Gittoes’ UKRAINISTAN ARTIST WAR, which shows the power of art during war in Ukraine and Afghanistan; The North American premieres of CALL ME MULE, directed by John McDonald and Nina Schwanse, which presents an intimate look at a man’s choice to live in the outdoors with his three mules; the myths and realities surrounding the city of Venice, Italy in LAGUNARIA directed by Giovanni Pellegrine; and the daring UrbEx and Parkour stunts performed by young British YouTubers and their subsequent trauma featured in OFF THE RAILS, directed by Peter Day. 


ITHAKA directed by Ben Lawrence 


The 2023 festival program consists of more than 70 documentaries, filmmaker Q&As, student film competitions, panel discussions and parties. The audience is encouraged to engage with the filmmakers and understand the grass roots production efforts that went on behind the scenes of all of the featured films. Deb Linehan, one of the hard working staff members with Salem Film Fest, describes the festival as a way to share an experience deepening the connection between the community through conversation and understanding. The festival, in a sense, is like a big family style meal, a meeting of the minds where everyone involved has an open seat at the table. Through films, event goers are able to see the world and engage in meaningful stories all from the comfort of their own backyard. Daily events throughout town engage with community spaces, and local small businesses as a way to holistically give back to the community.


Salem Film Fest image by John Andrews, Creative Collective

At its core, Salem Film Fest is a way to support creativity through storytelling and cinematography. Seven awards with trophies created by local artists will be presented to filmmakers at Salem Film Fest, including the Special Jury Award and The Michael Sullivan Award for Documentary Journalism which each include a $1,000 cash prize. 


SFF does not charge filmmakers fees to submit their films, and shares ticket revenues with them as a way to support the filmmakers that are involved. The festival is run mostly by volunteers through a non-profit entity, Salem Community Arts Center, Inc.)


Admission to film screenings is $13 for individual tickets and ticket packs, which offer a discount, are available at http://www.salemfilmfest.com. See the full list of films, and events below to plan your Salem Film Fest experience. 


Salem Film Fest image by John Andrews, Creative Collective



SFF Kick-Off Party

Old Town Hall 

March 23rd, 5pm – 7pm

Meet visiting filmmakers and friends on Opening Night for light bites from Bambolina and brews from Ipswich Ale Brewery. Enjoy tunes by Dr. DK.



Filmmaker Happy Hour

East Regiment Beer Co.

Friday March 24th, 4pm – 6pm

Grab a brew with some of our visiting filmmakers.



SFF Social 

Sea Level Oyster Bar 

Friday March 24th, 9pm – 12am

Head to the waterfront with our Fest filmmakers and friends to nibble a selection of appetizers from the fabulous Sea Level kitchen.



Filmmaker Forum 

National Park Service Visitor Center

Saturday March 25th, 10:30am – 11:30am 

Join us for a panel discussion regarding the “trust” required between filmmakers and film subjects when making a documentary.


Keeping It Real 

National Park Service Visitor Center 

Saturday March 25th, 12:30pm – 1:30pm

Our doc shorts showcase for Massachusetts high school students. Prizes awarded by Boris FX.



Mass Reality Check 

National Park Service Visitor Center

Saturday March 25th, 2:30am – 4:30am 

Our doc shorts showcase for Massachusetts college and university students and recent graduates. A jury of film industry sponsors bestows the MRC Award with prizes provided by Boris FX and Talamas. Programming staff from SFF and representatives from Documentary Educational Resources and Women in Film and Video New England will meet with the winner to give career advice. FILMMAKERS Q&A.



SFF Soiree

Colonial Hall at Rockafellas 

Saturday March 25th, 9pm – 12am 

Join fellow Fest goers, filmmakers, and organizers for some chill tunes provided by Calling for Heathcliff and light appetizers from the kitchen at Colonial Hall at Rockafellas.



The Doc-a-chusetts Pitch

Peabody Essex Museum 

Sunday March 26th, 10am – 11:30am 

Massachusetts has a long and storied tradition of documentary filmmaking. Are you curious about what documentaries are currently in production in the Bay State? Join us for a spirited discussion with local filmmakers as they pitch their upcoming documentary films to a panel of industry and media members in a competition before a live audience, in which you have a vote!



Coffee Time with Salem Film Fest

Live Streaming 

Sunday April 2nd, 11am – 12pm 

Grab a digital coffee—and a yummy pastry—as a crew of Fest Organizers chat with superstars of the Fest, visiting filmmakers, and more. Discover this year’s winner of our coveted Salem Film Fest Audience Award.




Thursday, March 23rd

7:30 pm ITHAKA, Cinema Salem 


Friday, March 24th

11:00 am Finding Her Beat, Peabody Essex Museum 


2:45 pm Shorts Block 1, Peabody Essex Museum 


3:30 pm Razzouk Tattoo, Cinema Salem 


5:30 pm Overcoming the Darkness, Cinema Salem  


5:30 pm Town Destroyer, Peabody Essex Museum 


7:45 pm The Grab, Cinema Salem 


7:45 pm An Accidental Life, National Park Service Visitor Center 


Saturday, March 25th 

10:00 am Shorts Block 2, Cinema Salem 


10:30 am American Express Presents RUTHLESS: Monopoly’s Secret History, Peabody Essex Museum 


12:20 pm No Time to Fail, Cinema Salem


12:30 pm Photographic Justice: Corky Lee Story, Peabody Essex Museum 


2:45 pm ART AND PEP, Cinema Salem 


2:45 pm Cabin Music, Peabody Essex Museum 

5:05 pm Lagunaria, Peabody Essex Museum 


5:10 pm Shorts Block 3, National Park Service Visitor Center 


5:30 pm Off the Rails, Cinema Salem 


7:45 pm Call Me Mule, National Park Service Visitor Center 


8:00 pm A Story of Bones, Cinema Salem 


Sunday, March 26th 

10 am Cowboy Poets, Cinema Salem 


12:00 pm To Kill A Tiger, Cinema Salem .


12:00 pm Ukrainistan Artists War, Peabody Essex Museum 


12:00 pm North Circular, The Cabot (Beverly, MA) 


2:30 pm The Kaiser of Atlantis, The Cabot (Beverly, MA)


2:40 pm Pleistocene Park, Peabody Essex Museum 


3:00 pm 1946: The Mistranslation That Shifted A Culture, Cinema Salem 


5:00 pm FANTASTIC NEGRITO: Have You Lost Your Mind Yet?, The Cabot (Beverly, MA) 


730 pm Still Working 9 to 5, The Cabot (Beverly, MA) 


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