Public List

The DOCUMENTARY Film Festival List

Dedicated to the genre in which authenticity and controversy play the main role. In addition to our own festival experience, an extensive research and hints from generous filmmaker colleagues, we have applied following criteria whether to include a festival or not:

- dedicated exclusively to documentaries or a clearly defined focus on documentaries,
- a respectable international or at least national reputation,
- a special degree of commitment to and active promotion of the genre.

Moreover we tried to cover all continents and as many regions as possible. As usual, we have created handy shortlists for the must have festivals, the important ones and those you should keep on the radar.

The list isn’t exhaustive; lots more interesting festivals have documentaries in their programmes, e. g., the big players Cannes, Sundance or Berlinale – which we didn’t include, as obvious targets. We tried to compile a cross section of those festivals which sole or main focus is the documentary film; festivals you definitely shouldn’t be missing as a documentary filmmaker. Feel free to help us complete the list pointing out any missing festival.

FilmFestivalLife’s special thanks go to Ilse van Velzen from IFPRODUCTIONS for reviewing and approving the list.
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43 Festivals
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Olomouc, Czech Republic |  Full length, Mid-length, Short |  Documentary
TO KEEP ON THE RADAR: Founded in 1966 – Academia Film is an international film festival for popular science films and documentaries. The festival is a joint initiative of the Krátký Film Prague, Palacky University in Olomouc and the Czech Academy of Sciences. It is therefore the oldest festival of its kind in the country. Presently it ranks among the most significant festivals of science film. It interconnects the university world with the world of documentary film and presents up-to-date information from the fields of humanities, social and natural sciences through audiovisual works.
0.0 / 5
Washington, DC, United States |  Full length, Mid-length, Short |  Docu-feature, Documentary
MUST HAVE: 7 days, 14 Academy Award nominated films, 27,000 festival attendees. Silverdocs is the most important documentary festival in the US. The festival has a good balanced program that features both premieres and “best of the fests” titles and is strong in programming of international docs. Probably one of the most industry-heavy US-based events.
5.0 / 5
Sydney , Australia |  Full length, Short |  
0.0 / 5
Missoula, Montana, United States |  Full length, Short |  Documentary
TO KEEP ON THE RADAR: The 10-day event is centered in historic Wilma Theatre, the 1100-seat venue that houses Montana’s largest screen, and plays host to the visual immersion into a world where reality plays itself. Special Events include nightly parties with great music, panel discussions, informal gatherings and the Big Sky in Schools Educational Outreach Program.
4.0 / 5
Paris, France |  Full length, Mid-length, Short |  Documentary
DOCUMENTARY ONLY FESTIVAL: Founded in 1978 the festival presents about 200 films each year in several sections by experienced documentary directors as well as first timers. The Cinéma du Réel has developed into one of the major documentary film festivals, where a public of 17,000 views hundreds of documentaries. It also includes workshops seminars and a retrospective program highlighting the best of documentary cinema history.
0.0 / 5
Copenhagen, Denmark |  Full length, Mid-length, Short |  Documentary, Experimental
MUST HAVE: Copenhagen International Documentary Film Festival, is the largest documentary film festival in Scandinavia. More than 200 films from around the world present the latest tendencies in non-fiction, art cinema and experimental film. CPH:DOX also presents art exhibitions, concerts, professional seminars, a screening market and an international financing and co-production event CPH:FORUM.
5.0 / 5
Tel Aviv, Israel |  Mid-length, Short |  Documentary
DOCUMENTARY ONLY FESTIVAL: Founded in 1998 the aim of Docaviv is to promote and develop culture, art, quality of life in Israel, and to promote the Israeli documentary film in Israel and around the world. The festival has a social agenda, and intentionally presents a wide range of subjects and voices the opinions of those populations who are not in mainstream society.
0.0 / 5
Lisbon, Portugal |  Full length, Short |  
DOCUMENTARY ONLY FESTIVALS: Organised in the second half of October every year DocLisboa presents previews of the best documentaries of the latest season bringing together a series of out of competition programmes, and includes retrospectives of internationally acclaimed filmmakers. The festival’s master classes are open to the public and free of charge. Informal get togethers with the directors stimulate dialogue between professionals and the public. This fest is starting to make waves for its strong programming and excellent hospitality.
4.6 / 5
Boca Rotan, United States |  Full length, Mid-length, Short |  Documentary, Experimental
FESTIVAL WITH DOCUMENTARY FOCUS: The festival seeks to provide filmmakers a forum which promotes their unique contributions to the evolution of the cultural arts within South Florida and within the entertainment industry as a whole. The event strives to promote the art form of up and coming documentary filmmakers at a local, national and international level; hosts a film expo highlighting global film organizations and professionals, provides educational outreach programs for young filmmakers grades 6-12.
0.0 / 5
Helsinki, Finland |  Full length, Mid-length |  Documentary
DOCUMENTARY ONLY FESTIVAL: DocPoint is the biggest documentary festival in the Nordic countries: around 30,000 festival-goers; approx. 140 films. Established in 2001 – it is the only festival in Finland dedicated to doc films. The festival offers a national and an international selection of the best brand new movies, celebrated classics, and a special selection of documentary films for children. In addition, a wide range of seminars, lectures and a Masterclass is organised.
4.0 / 5
Auckland & Wellington, New Zealand |   |  
DOCUMENTARY ONLY FESTIVAL: New Zealand´s only competitive documentary film festival. The festival embraces the latest trends in documentary film-making and seeks to expose New Zealand audiences to these developments – looking to increase access for communities that do not already have access to films eg. the deaf and hearing impaired, the physically challenged, the disadvantaged youth, senior citizens, ethnic communities that are not familiar with documentary films.
4.0 / 5
Munich, Germany |  Full length, Mid-length |  Docu-feature, Documentary
DOCUMENTARY ONLY FESTIVAL: The DOK.FEST Munich has developed over the past 25 years to a prestigious public film festival. The festival offers a review of the most important films of the year, accompanied filmography renowned filmmakers, supporting film makers from so-called “low production countries”, provides for the sustainable connections between established and junior – and is working on a particular shared widely for artistic documentary.
5.0 / 5
Prizren, Kosovo |  Full length, Short |  Animation, Documentary, Experimental, Narrative fiction
FESTIVAL WITH DOCUMENTARY FOCUS: DOKUFEST is the largest film event in Kosova. Held in August in the picturesque and historical town of Prizren which attracts numerous international and regional artists. In this annually organized festival the films are screened twice a day in three open air cinemas as well as in two regular cinemas. The festival is also well-known for lively nights after the screening. Various events happen within the scope of the festival: workshops, DokuPhoto exhibitions, festival camping, concerts, which altogether turn the city into a charming place to be.
4.5 / 5
Damascus - Aleppo - Homs - Tartous, Syria |  Full length, Mid-length, Short |  Documentary
TO KEEP ON THE RADAR: This festival started as an initiative of independent filmmakers, back in 2007 as the first non-profit and open-to-public creative documentary film festival in Syria. The main mission is to be a platform for both the Arab and the International filmmaking individuals and institutions to meet with the general public and see some of the world’s best creative documentaries. DOX BOX runs annually in Damascus, Tartous and Homs during the first two weeks of March and also tours in other Arab cities as part of a Pan-Arab Cultural Network. All film-screenings and public activities are completely free of charge.
0.0 / 5
Vancouver, Canada |  Full length, Mid-length, Short |  Documentary
DOCUMENTARY ONLY FESTIVAL: DOXA is presented by the Documentary Media Society, a Vancouver based non-profit, charitable society devoted to presenting independent and innovative. The society exists to educate the public about documentary film as an art form, a curated and juried festival comprised of public screenings, panel discussions, public forums and educational programs.
5.0 / 5
Eberswalde, Germany |  Mid-length, Short |  Animation, Documentary, Narrative fiction
TO KEEP ON THE RADAR: t´s an international festival for documentaries, short feature films and animations with a focus on documentaries about the province. “Films for the province – Films about the province”. On one side the filmfest shows films from all over the world, which the interested audience would never have had the opportunity to see. On the other side the province should thematically be in the documentary film section impregnated. The festival is interested in the life perspectives from people beyond the most desired settlement areas; their hopes and worries, their daily bread and the community esteem that they experience. This questions are answered very differently all around the world.
4.0 / 5
Cape Town, Johannesburg, South Africa |  Full length, Mid-length, Short |  Documentary
DOCUMENTARY ONLY FESTIVAL: Encounters is held each year in late June through early July. The purpose of the festival is to provide South Africans an opportunity to see some of the world’s best documentary films and a forum wherein the filmmakers and public meet and discuss the films.
0.0 / 5
Monte Faito, Italy |  Full length, Mid-length, Short |  Documentary
DOCUMENTARY ONLY FESTIVAL: The natural park of Monte Faito, embracing from one side the Sorrentine peninsula, the Bay of Naples and the volcano Vesuvius and from the other side the Amalfitana Cost, will host in the summer a new meeting place for the documentary cinema. The festival acts as a privileged platform for intercultural exchanges, thinking and dialogue. Space is also given to photography, painting and music.
5.0 / 5
Florence, Italy |  Full length, Mid-length, Short |  Docu-feature, Documentary
DOCUMENTARY ONLY FESTIVAL: Founded in 1959 – Festival Dei Popoli is an established and traditional doc festival. The guiding principal is to think of the festival as a permanent lab experiment, focused primarily on young filmmakers and discovering original work. While maintaining its essential engagement with international documentary cinema, ample space will be given to experimentation which redefines the very precepts of non fiction– and other kinds of cinema.
0.0 / 5
Durham, North Carolina, United States |  Full length, Short |  Documentary
DOCUMENTARY ONLY FESTIVAL: This festival is an annual international event dedicated to the theatrical exhibition of non-fiction cinema. Each spring Full Frame welcomes filmmakers and film lovers from around the world for a four-day, morning to midnight array of over 100 films as well as discussions, panels, and southern hospitality. Set within a four-block radius, the intimate festival landscape fosters community and conversation between filmmakers, film professionals and the public.
5.0 / 5
Toronto, Canada |  Full length, Mid-length, Short |  Documentary
MUST HAVE: A competitive festival, held in early May in Toronto, featuring Canadian as well as International documentaries. It´s North America’s largest documentary festival, conference and market. The Festival presents a selection of more than 150 cutting-edge documentaries. Through its industry programs, Hot Docs also provides a full range of professional development, market and networking opportunities for documentary professionals.
4.5 / 5
Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina |  Full length, Mid-length, Short |  Documentary, Experimental
TO KEEP ON THE RADAR: The festival has established itself as a platform promoting socially engaged non-fictional audiovisual artworks, dedicated to the development of critical spectatorship through socially engaged documentaries and independent art cinema in general.
0.0 / 5
Amsterdam, Netherlands |  Full length, Mid-length, Short |  Documentary
MUST HAVE: Founded in 1988 – IDFA is unique for its international film program, the variety of genres, its politically committed program and the many European and world premieres featured each year. Add to that the presence of many filmmakers, sizeable audiences, all the discussions and debates, workshops, masterclasses and the experienced staff, and it’s no wonder IDFA is the pre-eminent festival for creative documentaries.
4.8 / 5
Leipzig, Germany |  Full length, Mid-length, Short |  Animation, Documentary, Hybrids
MUST HAVE: DOK Leipzig is the oldest documentary film festival in the world and the second largest in Europe. It is one of the leading festivals for artistic documentary and animated film. DOK Leipzig has a training program for young doc filmmakers, established the DOK Industry and the DOK Market Digital. More than 30,000 attendees and a prize money of around 40,000 Euros.
4.7 / 5
Istanbul, Turkey |  Full length, Mid-length, Short |  Documentary
DOCUMENTARY ONLY FESTIVAL: Organized by the Association of Documentary Filmmakers it´s the oldest and largest documentary exclusive festival in Turkey. The festival has created an atmosphere that allows different societies to know and understand each other through documentary films by utillizing the universal language of cinema. The films to be screened are determined not just by the powerful styles used in the films, but also by the humanitarian values expressed. Defending the coexistence of different cultures, supporting values that contribute to the future of mankind, and presenting different points of view are the basic criteria taken into account.
5.0 / 5
Jackson Hole, United States |  Full length, Mid-length, Short |  Any type
DOCUMENTARY ONLY FESTIVAL: The festival is dedicated to promote public awareness and stewardship of wildlife and wildlife habitat through the innovative use of media, encouraging the production of natural history programming around the world by providing non-fiction media industry stakeholders with an international film forum to conduct business, test new equipment, refine production techniques and celebrate the world’s finest nature and science programming.
0.0 / 5
Kathmandu, Nepal |  Full length, Mid-length, Short |  Animation, Documentary, Experimental, Narrative fiction
FESTIVAL WITH DOCUMENTARY FOCUS: Kathmandu City, the cosmopolitan heart of the Himalayan region, is hosting this festival. The festival will screen some of the most recent and exciting films about mountains, mountain environment, mountain cultures and communities from various corners of the world. KIMFF is dedicated to exploring the diverse and complex ways in which human beings relate to mountains; the festival seeks to foster a better understanding of human experiences as well as of the social and cultural realities in the highlands of the world. Filmmakers can choose whether or not to submit their films for competition.
0.0 / 5
Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia |  Mid-length, Short |  Animation, Documentary, Narrative fiction
TO KEEP ON THE RADAR: The KOMAS Freedom Film Festival (FFF) is the first film event of its kind in Malaysia. FFF adopts the themes encompassed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) which express our aspirations for genuine justice, peace, equality and democracy. Through an annual film contest, workshops and screenings, FFF creates an annual showcase of outstanding films and documentaries focusing on social issues that affect ordinary people like HIV/AIDS, human rights, poverty and the environment; alternative films which, due to a lack of commercial backing and because of the tyranny of popular mainstream media, are out of the reach of most Malaysians.
0.0 / 5
Sydney, Australia |  Short |  Documentary
DOCUMENTARY ONLY FESTIVALS: Billed as the world's first lesbian & gay documentary film festival when it started in 1998, it has continued to host an annual festival dedicated entirely to documentaries that are about, of interest to, or made by queers: transsexual, transgender, bisexual, lesbian or gay. The festival is held in early September.
0.0 / 5
New York, United States |  Full length, Short |  Animation, Documentary, Experimental, Multimedia
TO KEEP ON THE RADAR: No restriction on subject matter, length, or year of production. Each year a selection of titles from that year’s Mead Festival travels to independent film and community centers, museums, and universities throughout the nation. Since 1997, the Traveling Festival has been featured at international sites as well. Held by the American Museum of Natural History. No entry fee.
0.0 / 5
Montreal, Canada |  Full length, Mid-length, Short |  Documentary
DOCUEMNTARY ONLY FESTIVAL: Founded in 1998 the Montreal International Documentary Festival (Rencontres internationales du documentaire de Montréal / RIDM) promotes the emergence of new points of view and the presentation of unique perspectives. Every November the festival shows more than 100 documentaries to almost 29,000 viewers. Furthermore, Montreal is an interesting spot for professionals, broadcasters and foreign distributors to check out the Quebec-made documentary film productions. Therefore, RIDM founded Doc Circuit Montreal, Quebec’s documentary market, with the mission of supporting and stimulating independent documentary filmmaking. In addition, the festival offers a variety of workshops, roundtables, master classes, tributes, kids’ screenings, receptions and parties.
0.0 / 5
Den Haag, Netherlands |   |  Documentary, Narrative fiction
FESTIVAL WITH DOCUMENTARY FOCUS: The festival offers a stage for feature films, documentaries, animated films and shorts that have their premiere as well as numerous films that will make their unique appearance in the Netherlands during this festival. Special theme-based programmes and ‘the best of IDFA’ programme.
2.0 / 5
Prague, Czech Republic |  Full length, Mid-length |  
DOCUMENTARY ONLY FESTIVAL: People in Need Foundation, a relief and humanitarian organization, puts on the first and largest Central European human rights international documentary film event. The One World festival is widely regarded as one of Prague’s most important cultural and media events. It takes place in early April. More than 100,000 viewers attend it every year. The festival demonstrates how effective a tool documentary film can be, if it is used strategically for increasing awareness, education, advocating human rights, stimulating debate, and promoting social integration.
0.0 / 5
Palm Beach, United States |  Full length, Mid-length, Short |  Animation, Documentary, Music video, Narrative fiction
TO KEEP ON THE RADAR: The Palm Beach International Film Festival is committed to supporting emerging filmmakers of today and tomorrow. It´s a celebration of independent cinema from around the world, with first-class parties, seminars and panels including the Production Finance Conference centered in one of the most idyllic locations in the world.
5.0 / 5
Sheffield, United Kingdom |  Full length, Mid-length, Short |  Documentary
DOCUMENTARY ONLY FESTIVAL: This festival is the only place in the world where you will meet all the British documentary industry under one roof. It is the perfect place to launch your latest documentary, pitch new ideas, meet future co-production partners and get insider tips from some of the world’s best documentary makers. It is a relaxed and friendly place to have meetings with producers, commissioners and distributors, to learn about the latest trends in production and discover new innovations and emerging talent.
0.0 / 5
Edinboro, United States |  Full length, Mid-length, Short |  Any type
TO KEEP ON THE RADAR: The Spirit Quest Film Festival is an annual celebration of inspirational and thought provoking independent films from around the world shown over three days. Focusing on the human experience, from day to day relationships to matters of life and death, war and peace, science and spirituality, the festival´s founders hope to challenge their audiences with an impressive and diverse line-up of film selections.
0.0 / 5
Austin, United States |  Full length, Short |  Animation, Documentary, Experimental, Music video, Narrative fiction
FESTIVAL WITH DOCUMENTARY FOCUS: It´s one of the few US festivals to attract such a huge industry component. It´s a uniquely creative environment featuring the dynamic convergence of talent, smart audiences and industry heavyweights. Simultaneously, the internationally acclaimed, nine-day Festival celebrates raw innovation and emerging talent, featuring a truly diverse program that includes provocative documentaries, subversive comedies, DIY narratives, genre standouts and more.
4.3 / 5
Thessaloniki, Greece |  Full length, Short |  Documentary
DOCUMENTARY ONLY FESTIVAL: Annual film festival founded in 1999 it screens films from around the world with an obviously large number of Greek filmmakers represented. The festival draws a large audience, and a real effort is made to get as many people as possible to see the documentaries presented.
5.0 / 5
Columbia, Missouri, United States |  Full length, Short |  Docu-feature, Documentary
FESTIVAL WITH DOCUMENTARY FOCUS: One of the most universally-beloved festivals on the circuit draws filmmakers to the middle of Missouri where appreciative sold out crowds and lovingly homemade activities await. True/False is one of the very few American festivals that pays for everything. Its reputation amongst filmmakers is nearly unmatched: without the pressure of deals being made or competition status, filmmakers are able to spend quality time together. T/F is also one of the more innovative fests on the circuit, constantly re-imagining what panels and parties can be. There’s enough press and other programmers attending that it’s also a place where a film can burst on the scene and leap into the national documentary conversation.
0.0 / 5
Palo Alto, San Francisco, United States |  Full length, Mid-length, Short |  Documentary
DOCUMENTARY ONLY FESTIVAL: 60 documentaries ,60 countries; International festival focusing on issues important to the UN. UNAFF celebrates the power of films dealing with human rights, environmental themes, population, migration, women’s issues, refugees, homelessness, racism, health, universal education, war and peace.
0.0 / 5
Nyon, Switzerland |  Full length, Mid-length, Short |  Documentary
MUST HAVE: Established in 1969 – the week-long festival Visions du Reel is one of the most important international festivals for documentary films. At its inception, the festival promoted Swiss films and films that were otherwise inaccessible — that is, those created in the Eastern Bloc countries behind the Iron Curtain.
5.0 / 5
Warsaw, Poland |  Full length, Mid-length |  Documentary
DOCUMENTARY ONLY FESTIVAL: Festival focused on docs, which combines important messages with cinematic quality. It´s the world’s second largest human rights film festival and the third biggest film festival in Poland, garnering an annual audience of over 70,000 viewers in the whole country; it is also Warsaw’s oldest documentary film festival.
0.0 / 5
Yamagata, Japan |  Full length, Mid-length, Short |  Docu-feature, Documentary, Experimental
MUST HAVE: In addition to IDFA, DOK Leipzig or NYON the biennial held festival is one of the largest documentary film festivals in the world. YIDFF has strived to achieve the following goals: To illustrate the current state of documentary cinema, by collecting radical documentary works from around the world and focusing on this genre. To impart the appeal of documentary, by allowing as many people as possible to see the world’s best documentary cinema in Japan, where opportunities for viewing are few and far between. To present new realms and possibilities for expression through cinema, which is generally recognized as mass entertainment. To explore new concepts in the field of documentary, which is building a niche for itself while converging with various media in our high-tech information society. To uncover new talent and expand spheres of interaction, by actively encouraging the works of young filmmakers.
0.0 / 5