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5 Great Film Festivals for Your Short-Form Documentaries

Jourdan Aldredge

Check out these five great film festivals that are well worth the time for fans and filmmakers of short-form documentaries.

Image via Shutterstock.

For filmmakers and journalists alike, the documentary film has become one of the most important media for those looking to find and share the truth. While documentaries can be one of the last pure ways to investigate and report on events, people, and the world, they are also fundamentally a form of artistic expression. For documentary filmmakers, the sometimes-odd, sometimes-beautiful dichotomy of the two motivations makes documentary filmmaking a rare combination of labor and love.

It also creates quite a need for documentary film festivals to find ways to reward those who excel at the craft — and to spotlight the unique, meaningful, and often-incendiary subjects they uncover. So, if you’re a documentary filmmaker looking to give your film a wider audience, here are some of the best documentary film festivals for short (and even micro) documentaries.


Hot Docs

5 Great Film Festivals for Your Short-Form Documentaries — Hot Docs
Image via Hot Docs.

If we’re talking short films, let’s talk about the biggest festival that showcases them. Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival is the largest documentary film festival in North America. Started in 1993, the festival has screened 230 documentaries from over 50 countries — its most recent festival hosted over 215,000 people. For short documentary filmmakers, their shorts section (1-40 minutes) is one of the best in the world, and the festival is a great way to meet people and network.

  • Location: Toronto, Canada
  • Short Film Submission Fee: $35
  • Short Length: 1-40 minutes
  • Submission Window: November – January
  • Official Website: Hot Docs

True/False Film Festival

5 Great Film Festivals for Your Short-Form Documentaries — True/False
Image via True/False.

Located in the journalistic hotbed of Columbia, Missouri, the True/False Film Festival is one of many documentary festivals that celebrates those filmmakers who bridge the gap between fiction and nonfiction. The festival has become a beacon of documentary filmmaking with short- and long-form projects that span the globe in terms of subjects and viewership.

  • Location: Columbia, Missouri
  • Short Film Submission Fee: $25
  • Short Length: Under 40 minutes
  • Submission Window: September – November
  • Official Website: True/False

International Short Film Festival

5 Great Film Festivals for Your Short-Form Documentaries — International Short Film Festival
Image via International Short Film Festival.

Currently in its 34th year, the Hamburg International Short Film Festival is one of the most prestigious, and most unique, film festivals in the world. While not necessarily a documentary-focused festival, it is short film-centric and accepts submissions of any genre, including an international section, a “3 minute quickie” section, and a “deframed” (a.k.a. No-Budget) section.

  • Location: Hamburg, Germany
  • Short Film Submission Fee: No Submission Fee
  • Short Length: Under 60 minutes
  • Submission Window: Ends February 16, 2018
  • Official Website: Hamburg Fest

Short & Sweet Film Festival

5 Great Film Festivals for Your Short-Form Documentaries — Short & Sweet Film Festival
Image via Short & Sweet Film Festival.

If you’re on your way to Sundance, you may want to take a small detour the week before to Orem, Utah for the Short & Sweet Film Festival. While it’s not quite at the same feature film level, this smaller shorts-focused fest is a great launch pad for up-and-coming filmmakers, both in the narrative and documentary genres. This one is perfect for short documentary filmmakers looking to make some connections and catch some breaks before making it big at Sundance.

  • Location: Orem, Utah
  • Short Film Submission Fee: $10
  • Short Length: Under 40 minutes
  • Submission Window: Ends November 30, 2018
  • Official Website: Short & Sweet

Atlanta Shortsfest


Image via Atlanta Shorts Fest.

In its 9th year in Atlanta, Georgia, the Atlanta Shortsfest is a great venue for filmmakers of all disciplines. Held at the Synchronicity Theatre, this up-and-coming festival aims at growing the short film community for filmmakers and fans alike. Documentaries, narratives, and animations are all welcome.

  • Location: Atlanta, Georgia
  • Short Film Submission Fee: $30
  • Short Length: Under 45 minutes
  • Submission Window: Ends May 31, 2018
  • Official Website: Atlanta Shortsfest

For more film festival advice and info, check out some of these articles:

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