"The nation’s leading documentary festival." –The Washington Post
"The preeminent U.S. documentary festival." –Screen International
"The premier showcase for documentary film." –The Hollywood Reporter
Now in its 19th year, AFI DOCS will be held June 22-27, 2021. The festival program presents the very best of contemporary non-fiction filmmaking from across the globe, including world and international premieres and works by master and emerging filmmakers alike. The AFI Festivals team is committed to achieve the same high standard of programming and engagement that has defined AFI DOCS over the years, while planning a virtual and/or hybrid in-person festival experience for 2021.
During the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, AFI DOCS presented a successful virtual event with over 55 films from 11 countries – 61% directed by women – with a lineup that explored social and political issues in the US and across the world. A national audience of 20,000 attended the festival safely from home.
2020 program highlights included Special Presentation of Apple and A24’s award-winning film BOYS STATE, Ron Howard’s REBUILDING PARADISE and world premieres of 9TO5: THE STORY OF A MOVEMENT, WHITE NOISE and MIRACLE FISHING. The virtual experience also included over 50 intimate conversations with subjects from around the world such as Philippine Journalist Maria Ressa, who was convicted by a Manila court days before A THOUSAND CUTS screened at the festival, to a live Q&A of THE FIGHT with the ACLU’s lawyers focused on protecting civil rights and a call from President Carter during the live Q&A for Closing Night film JIMMY CARTER ROCK & ROLL PRESIDENT.
Since its inception in 2003, the leading documentary storytellers of our day have embraced AFI DOCS as the place for nonfiction films to catalyze a national conversation. The AFI DOCS Advisory Board includes Ken Burns, Davis Guggenheim, Chris Hegedus, Werner Herzog, Rory Kennedy, Barbara Kopple, Spike Lee, Errol Morris, Stanley Nelson, and Frederick Wiseman.
Contemporary documentaries from around the world - more than 40 minutes long - that demonstrate a bold commitment to subject matter, excellence in cinematic craft, and innovation in storytelling.
Contemporary documentaries from around the world - 40 minutes in length or less - that demonstrate a bold commitment to subject matter, excellence in cinematic craft, and innovation in storytelling.
Episodic Documentary Series
Thought-provoking and highly engaging documentary series that offer in-depth, original perspectives on history, contemporary issues or culture, with a sharply focused cinematic lens. To be considered, series must contain at least two episodes and must submit at least two episodes for consideration (or one episode if a two-part series).
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences recognizes AFI DOCS as a qualifying festival for the Documentary Short Film category of the annual Academy Awards.
Each year, AFI DOCS audiences select winners for Best Feature and Best Short.
AFI DOCS official selections have consistently been nominated for Academy Awards®, Emmy Awards® and other major recognitions.
In 2020 the festival’s Audience Award for Best Feature went to TRANSHOOD, directed by Sharon Liese. The Audience Award for Best Short went to BLACKFEET BOXING: NOT INVISIBLE, directed by Kristen Lappas and Tom Rinaldi.
Features and shorts are contemporary documentaries from around the world that demonstrate a bold commitment to subject matter, excellence in cinematic craft and innovation in storytelling.
Feature documentaries are 41 minutes or longer.
Shorts are 40 minutes or less, including all credits.
Feature documentaries must have been completed on or after February 28, 2020.
Features must not be available online as a DVD or digital download/link for purchase. They also must not have been broadcast on television in the United States or screened theatrically in the United States prior to June 22, 2021.
All feature length films must be Washington DC region (including nearby Maryland and Virginia) premieres. Features screening at virtual festivals or online platforms widely available to audiences throughout the US market prior to June 22, 2021 are eligible to submit, but films that have not played multiple virtual festivals available throughout the US may be given priority consideration. If you have any concerns or questions about this please email docsprogramming@AFI.com.
Short documentaries (40 minutes and under) are eligible to apply regardless of television broadcast history and online availability. However, short documentaries that have not screened previously in the region may be given priority.
Shorts must have been completed on or after February 28, 2020.
If the documentary is in a language other than English, it must be subtitled in English.
Documentaries submitted to previous AFI DOCS festivals will not be accepted, unless the film has undergone significant content changes (60% or more) and meets all other submission requirements. Permission to reapply is required.
Promotional, instructional or industrial films, and raw documentation of performances are not eligible.
The entry fee is nonrefundable.
All film entries selected for the festival grant AFI DOCS the rights to use footage, stills and/or titles and information from the film for promotional purposes.
All films submitted must be free from any legal disputes and the filmmaker must have cleared all rights for music and exhibition.
AFI DOCS reserves the right to change any information contained in this document (including festival dates, venues, events, awards and eligibility requirements) without further notice.
Filmmakers may submit more than one documentary. Each documentary must be accompanied by its own entry form and fee.
Please submit a secure online screener.
All filmmakers will be notified of their status by mid-May 2021 via the submission contact email address. Please keep us informed of any changes regarding your contact information by emailing docsprogramming@AFI.com.
Due to the number of submissions, AFI DOCS cannot provide feedback on any entries.
Questions regarding submissions? E-mail docsprogramming@AFI.com with "ENTRIES" in the subject line.
If your documentary is selected to screen in the festival, you will need to provide the following:
• A DCP or final film file upload by the required deadline. Each filmmaker is responsible for any delivery costs of DCP, including any applicable customs fees. AFI DOCS only return shipping costs after the Festival
• Press kits, trailers, promotional materials and additional screeners for preview
Note: AFI DOCS reserves the right to change any of this information (including festival dates, venues, events, awards and eligibility requirements) without further notice.
TERMS OF ENTRY:
You hereby grant AFI DOCS 2021 (“festival”) all rights necessary to exhibit and promote the submitted film at the 2021 festival. You represent that such exhibition will not violate or infringe upon any rights whatsoever (including copyright, trademark, musical or contract right) of any person or entity. You further represent that you are authorized to submit the submitted film and, if selected, will deliver the DCP or film file to the festival office no later than May 11, 2021. Additionally, you indemnify the festival from any and all claims, demands, losses, costs, damages, and attorney's fee arising out of or in connection with third parties in regards to the screening of said film. Further, you hereby agree that you have read and agree to the General Rules and Regulations for submissions to AFI DOCS 2021.