Founded in 2005 and recognized as one of the top documentary film festivals in the world, the Camden International Film Festival (CIFF) gathers the world's most boundary pushing storytellers and industry leaders for a four day celebration of non-fiction cinema.

CIFF is an experience just as unique as the films we exhibit. Hosted on the rugged coast of Maine, the Festival Weekend is packed with a hearty roster of filmmaker Q&As, interactive installations and networking sessions - with plenty of opportunity for surprise and discovery. At CIFF, the emphasis is on building relationships - between filmmakers, industry, and audiences.

In CIFF’s program, you’ll find films, performances, and installations that move the documentary artform’s conversations two steps forward. We’re interested in films that are curious about cinema’s potential, engaged in urgent conversations, and rooted in the perspectives of thoughtful, unique creators.

CIFF is a program of the Points North Institute, the launching pad for the next generation of nonfiction storytellers. Points North is the home to a number of artists programs, including the Points North Fellowship and Pitch, the Points North Forums, and 1-on-1 meetings between industry professionals and exciting new creators. We provide emerging filmmakers with opportunities for professional development and creative inspiration. If you have a documentary feature or short in development, consider applying for one of the Points North Artists Programs: https://pointsnorthinstitute.org/artist-programs/

To receive updates on submissions timelines and applications, sign up for our email list at pointsnorthinstitute.org/newsletter


CIFF is a filmmaker-first festival that seeks to celebrate the myriad possibilities in the contemporary conversation around non-fiction cinema. Our programming team cherishes the urgent yet nuanced possibilities of the documentary form; its ability to connect audiences to the wider world through heartfelt stories, and the ways it engages provocative questions through exciting and innovative forms. With each year’s slate, CIFF creates multiple entry points for the exploration of what nonfiction cinema can be. This is a festival for risk takers, heart warmers, and stories that are both, neither, and something new.

We’re interested in films that tune into the sensory, radical, and tender. Conscious of the value of the diversity of approaches, we swim in these ideas while engaging with current cultural shifts, actively positioning CIFF as a place of interrogation and discovery. We’re looking for bold artists, unexpected themes, and radical reimaginings of well-tread stories.

In an increasingly complicated environment, the Points North Institute is committed to examining how power and resources are distributed in the documentary film world. Festivals like CIFF can stand in solidarity with filmmakers to create more equitable, sustainable conditions for independent filmmaking - particularly for filmmakers that have been marginalized or excluded by the industry.

CIFF’s Filmmaker Solidarity Fund is part of our ongoing commitment to creating a more equitable reality for independent filmmakers. Established in 2020, the fund initially provided 50% of net proceeds from our virtual pass and ticket sales directly to feature and short filmmakers selected for CIFF. In its current iteration, the fund provides a flat honorarium to all feature and short films programmed. In total, we have distributed nearly $60,000 to filmmakers over the past three years. The 2023 Filmamker Solidarity Fund was made possible by the generous support from Bright West Entertainment.

If you have a documentary feature or short in development, consider applying for one of the Points North Artists Programs: https://pointsnorthinstitute.org/artist-programs/

To receive updates on submissions timelines and applications, sign up for our email list at pointsnorthinstitute.org/newsletter

The films in the Harrell Award stand out as some of the most significant documentaries of the year. These works astonish us with their integrity and power, as well as a very particular assertiveness on behalf of the film directors, who find unforgettable ways of inserting unbridled creativity into the ways they document the world around them.

The Cinematic Vision Competition acknowledges bold cinematic practices from filmmakers that are actively, courageously, creatively reshaping our definition of non-fiction. The films eligible for this award articulate their own ideas of form via sensible directorial visions, sparking conversations beyond the screen.

This year, the Camden International Film Festival will reward one filmmaker or filmmaking team for the creation of an outstanding short film. The Camden shorts program showcases the possibilities resting at the furthest corners of the nonfiction form; Films that integrate and innovate between the polarities of form and story, political and personal, the imagined and material. This award will recognize the ways in which shorts filmmakers are pioneers in shaping cinematic futures.

Rules of entry:
The Camden International Film Festival is open to all documentary films of all styles, subjects and lengths. We also encourage submissions that push the boundaries of the form.

Works-in-progress are accepted at all deadlines and will be considered for screening at the Camden International Film Festival. The festival is open for discussion on this topic. If you have questions, please contact us.

The filmmaker agrees to be responsible for all shipping and insurance costs for shipping submission materials to the festival office. The submission will not be returned to the entrants unless a stamped, self-addressed envelope is included for return.

Films and videos are submitted complete with English commentary and/or English dialogue or in the original version with English subtitles.

All submitting filmmakers and distributors will be notified of the official selections prior to the festival.

The festival has the right to use the publicity material (press books, posters, stills etc.) from selected films to promote the festival.

By submitting this documentary, I understand that I am agreeing to the following:

I own or control the copyright in and to, and am duly authorized to submit this documentary film to the Camden International Film Festival and to the best of my knowledge, all statements on this document are true;

This documentary contains no material which could result in tort claims, royalty claims, claims for breach of contract, or claims of any sort whatsoever;

Filmmakers give permission to the festival to use press kits for marketing purposes, and a 60-second or less clip from film in highlight reel for box office and online festival trailer.

Overall Rating
  • Bea Hesselbart

    Incredible experience all around! Very special honor to premiere my film at CIFF in 2023. Grateful for all of the people who make this festival possible. Thank you.

    November 2023
  • Sonia Ben Slama

    One of the best festivals ever! We're very happy to have shown our film there. A top-quality selection, a very warm welcome, friendly encounters and, above all, a dedicated and extraordinary team. Thank you all for an unforgettable experience!

    October 2023
  • It is no secret that CIFF has become one of the most respected documentary festivals in the world. To have it hosted in Midcoast Maine makes it feel all the more unique. It maintains a level of professionalism while also embedding itself seamlessly into the local community. It was an honor to premiere my short, ELEPHANT, at CIFF in 2023. I saw some truly wild films, met some fine folk, and left feeling inspired. Also, the staff that you encounter on a regular basis totally keep it real.

    September 2023
  • Screening at CIFF was such a dream! The film curation, the ease of communication, and the opportunities for networking made it feel like a community of filmmakers for filmmakers. The beautiful setting doesn't hurt either. It's clear that the CIFF team works really hard to make the festival such a welcoming event. Can't wait to go back!

    September 2023
  • River Finlay

    I absolutely loved screening my film at CIFF! A critical fest for documentary film! Thoughtful programming, incredible artist and industry programs, gorgeous setting, fun parties. A perfect place to meet the best of the best in the doc industry - emerging and seasoned alike. They take such good care of their filmmakers and create the perfect spaces for connection. We love you CIFF!

    September 2023