Cheltenham International Film Festival 2021

On 23rd March, 2020, the British government introduced a nationwide lockdown. The Cheltenham International Film Festival was cancelled. On 24th March, a decision was taken to move the Festival online. On 8th June, the Festival became the first international film festival in the UK to go online to the British public.

The Festival premiered films in the UK from around the world ( and screened emerging filmmakers, among them: Bartosz Kruhlik (Supernova); In-betweeners actor, Simon Bird’s directorial debut (Days of The Bagnold Summer); and Iranian director, Mahnaz Mohammadi (Son-Mother). Q&A sessions via Zoom were organised with filmmakers from around the world including our own Honrary Patron, Simon Pegg.

Filmmakers coming to Cheltenham the past two years include: Mike Leigh, Steven Berkoff, Josie Rourke (Mary Queen of Scots), Carl Hunter, first-time director of Sometimes Always Never starring Bill Nighy, and celebrated, emerging Polish director, Jan Komasa (nominated for an Oscar in 2020 and winner of Tribeca Best International Narrative Feature).

Cheltenham International Film Festival 2021

The Cheltenham International Film Festival 2021 reverts to a live Festival in 2021. There will also be an online event, reaching out to audiences across the UK. The Festival is growing and taking its place as one of the UK’s most important film festivals, joining the town’s other celebrated festivals – literature, music and jazz, stretching back 75 years.

Film submissions have opened and we invite emerging filmmakers from around the world to submit films – features and shorts, narrative and documentary. Having suspended the awards in 2020, the Festival organisers will re-introduce film awards in 2021 for: Best Feature (narrative), Best Documentary (narrative), Best Short (narrative) and Best Short (Documentary). All films selected by organisers will be screened during the Festival; films of particular merit will be selected for competition.

The competition jury is drawn from all sections of the film industry, the arts and media. We are re-inviting celebrated members of the 2020 jury (suspended) to be on the 2021 jury, including: Ged Doherty, President of the Brit Awards and co-founder of Raindog Films with the Oscar-winning actor, Colin Firth; Sochi International Film Festival Director, Luba Balagova; leading film/tv agent, Sara Putt and popular British entertainer, Dom Joly, among others. We are adding new names, the latest is leading film critic, Anna Smith, chair of the London Critics Circle and we are in discussion with high profile “names”.

Festival Tribute & Country Focus

In line with earlier years, the Festival pays tribute to celebrated filmmakers who, themselves, were once emerging directors, screening their early work. In 2019, it was Mike Leigh. In 2020, the Festival had planned to welcome and pay tribute to Stephen Frears who will be re-invited in 2021. Another section of the film festival is “country focus” which in 2019 was Poland and Italy in 2020.


Education is integral to the Festival. Master classes and workshops in the arts & crafts and business of film constitute an important part of the newly-created Cheltenham Youth International Film Festival. Classes and workshops are taken by leading figures from cinema.


Cheltenham is a Regency town, full of restaurants, bars, cafes, and is home to some of the UK’s most celebrated and long-running festivals in the UK, including literature, music and jazz. And every year welcomes 250,000 people to the Cheltenham Festival, the most prestigious jump racing event, highlighted by the legendary Gold Cup

The brand name “Cheltenham”, associated with high-profile, international arts festivals, brings prestige to the awards handed out by the Festival to Best Feature Narrative, Best Feature Documentary, Best Short Narrative, Best Short Documentary.

Best Feature Film – Narrative
Best Feature Film - Documentary
Best Short Film - Narrative
Best Short Film - Documentary

Awards may be added, including an Audience Award.

Film Submissions:

1. All films must be submitted uploaded directly to FilmFreeway.
2. The CIFF cannot accept films that are on DVD or Blu-ray
3. Each submission must be accompanied by a submission fee, paid in full

Eligibility of Film For Submission:

1. Feature film: Narrative – at least 69 minutes
2. Feature film: Documentary – at least 60 minutes

3. Short film: Narrative – not more than 17 minutes
4. Short film: Documentary – not more than 17 minutes

5. Animation films and experimental are also eligible for entry into the CIFF.

Note: Length of feature and shorts may be adjusted for any single particular film. The final decision rests with the organisers of the CIFF.

7. Films not in the English language should be subtitled in English
8. Film must have been completed after 1st May, 2018
9. Works-in-progress films are accepted as long as they are clearly marked as such or “rough cut”, with reference to missing elements ie VFX or colour correction.

Premiere Status:

1. The CIFF does not operate a premiere status and does not require a premierE in any
category of film
2. Films are eligible and accepted into competition even if they have been screened at
other festivals
3. But, entries may not have been screened theatrically or publicly in the area of South-
West England prior to the CIFF

Festival Screening:

1. Films will be screened on DCP unless otherwise stated by the organisers.
2. The CIFF also requires Blu-ray as a back up to DCP.


A selection panel composed of film professionals and enthusiasts is charged with viewing all films and for making a short list to invite to the Festival. Once the panel has made its final decision, invites will be sent to the successful filmmakers by end April, 2021. Please ensure that we always have your latest contact details on file so that we may reach you. Due to the volume of entries, it is not possible to offer individual feedback.

Successful submissions will be listed on our website ( and social media platforms.

If your film is successful we shall require press/publicity materials, including a press kit, and digital images.

Overall Rating
  • Abbey Wilson

    CIFF was a great festival to be a part of! It managed to acquire some brilliant industry filmmakers to come and do exciting workshops and panels, as well as amazing Q&A's, with the likes of Mike Leigh and Josie Rourke. As well as providing some quality names, it included shorts from unknown filmmakers for them to get their names out there, and provided great discounts for students and the filmmakers involved. A real great effort for its first year and I'm excited to see what comes of it in the future!

    June 2019
  • Sam Tipper

    Excellent venues, nice people and some big names attached to the festival. I'm sure it will establish a great reputation for itself in the coming years.

    June 2019
  • James Mileham

    Fantastic festival! They played some excellent films touching on a wide array of subjects showcasing some incredibly talented artists both domestically and abroad. Brilliantly organised and gave great opportunities for young and upcoming filmmakers to have their work seen too! 10/10

    June 2019