Now going into its 12th year, Breakthroughs Film Festival is devoted exclusively to showcasing short films in any genre by emerging women & non-binary directors.

"Breakthroughs" refers to the struggles that emerging artists continue to face in an industry where they must work even harder than men to make their voices heard.

Breakthroughs Film Festival also features panel discussions and networking opportunities with participating directors, giving the audience a chance to learn more about their creative process and future projects!

Please note: We are anticipating an in-person festival for 2023. Films will be screened at a local Toronto theatre. More detailed information about the festival will be available in Spring 2023.

Breakthroughs Film Festival awards films in the following categories:

Jury Award

Best Canadian Film

Audience Choice Award

Rules & Terms

The 2023 Programming Theme is “FUTURESELVES” - For this year’s submissions, we’re looking for stories that question who we are when our surroundings and context is completely different from what we know now. How does our future reflect our past and what importance do we give it? What do we assume to be true about ourselves—traits that echo through generations and that will echo forward to the next generations? We ask submitters to consider what our communities may look like living beyond and outside of colonizing powers, the impacts of climate change, censorship, surveillance and sustainability. Moreover, when looking towards our Futureselves, we’re also interested in stories that cultivate and celebrate joy. What hopes do we place in our Futureselves and how do we see that growth play out?

Consider this theme when submitting your film but don’t be discouraged from submitting if you feel it doesn’t fit. We are looking for broad interpretations of this theme and may include strong work outside of this theme as well. Optional: Feel free to include a note about how your film might fit this theme broadly, if you feel inclined to do so.

• The director must identify as emerging talent. This can mean one or a combination of the following: they have not yet directed a feature length-film at the time of the festival in June 2023, they have made several films but with very limited distribution, most of their films were made in school and none have received any significant funding, festival life, or further distribution. Optional: Feel free to include a note describing your level of experience.

• The director must self-identify as a woman or non-binary person.
• Films in a language other than English must have English subtitles.
• We are mandated to program majority Canadian content but we accept and screen international works every year as well.
• Films with potentially triggering content should include a brief note in their film description indicating the themes that might be triggering to viewers e.g. any form of violence, hate speech, self-harm amongst other forms.
Please Note: BFF prioritizes the work, expressions, and experiences of folks who identify as Indigenous, Black, People of Colour, trans, non-binary, working class, neurodiverse, or people with disabilities. We encourage filmmakers to self-identify in their bios if they feel comfortable doing so.


Do you pay screening fees?
Yes, we pay every artist a screening fee in CAD as per the 2023 Independent Media Arts Alliance (IMAA) screening fee schedule. Screening Fees are disbursed 3-4 weeks after the festival.

What is the maximum runtime BFF will accept?
Your short film cannot be more than 20 minutes in length, credits included.

How old can my film be?
All films presented at BFF must be completed after January 2021.

How does BFF accept submissions?
We accept submissions via FilmFreeway only.

What formats do you accept film submissions?
Films must be submitted as online screeners only.

Do all submissions get viewed?
Yes, every single film submitted to BFF gets at least two views.

Do you accept rough cuts?
Yes. Just be sure to mark the submission as a rough cut, let us know which elements are incomplete (music, sound mix, colour, missing scenes) and give us a firm deadline by which the final film will be completed.

Does BFF hand out submission waivers?
As a non-profit organization, we rely upon submission fees to help cover some of the costs of running the festival. However, each year we offer a limited number of submission waivers to emerging filmmakers who self-identify as Black, Indigenous, People of Colour, and/or people with disabilities. To request a waiver, please visit our website and complete the submission waiver form:

If the film is co-directed by someone who identifies as a man, can we still submit?
Yes, if one co-director identifies as a woman or non-binary person, you are welcome to submit.

Do you offer feedback on unselected films?
No, unfortunately BFF is a volunteer-run organization and we do not yet have the capacity to offer feedback to filmmakers.

I submitted last year and wasn’t accepted. Can I resubmit?
Yes, as long as your submission is still within our eligibility window (completed after January 1, 2021).

Overall Rating
  • What a great festival! Everyone worked so hard to put everything together and the program was cohesive and engaging.

    July 2021
  • I was really honoured to be included in their diverse and thoughtful 2020 program. Great communication and put a real effort into creating a great online experience for audience and filmmakers alike. Thank you!

    June 2021
  • Margarita Valderrama

    We had an amazing time and all the staff at this festival is so organized. We were in great company with exceptional films. Highly recommend it!

    July 2020