Honorary Patron – Simon Pegg

Cheltenham International Film Festival (CIFF) launched in 2019, supervised by the Trustees of Cheltenham International Film Trust Ltd. and with the support of the British Film Institute (BFI). The Festival seeks to attract new and diverse audiences to independent cinema. Integral to our artistic programme is to give voice to emerging filmmakers, screening independent films that meet high standards of creativity and reflect the times we live in – culturally, socially, politically and artistically.

Integral to the Festival is “Open Call”, a series of master classes and workshops in the arts & crafts of filmmaking, including cinematography, music, casting, special effects and the business of film production and raising finance conducted by respected and well-known film industry professionals. In 2020, the organisers will introduce Cheltenham Youth International Film Festival alongside the main event, to include workshops and special screenings to put film at the heart of social development and to inspire young people to consider a career in films.

Festival Programme:

The Festival screens films from around the world in and out of competiton. Films screened in competition are judged by a jury of film industry professionals and representatives of arts and the entertainment industries led by figures such as Ged Doherty (co-founder of Raindog Films with Colin Firth), Oliver Clarke (deputy director Göttingen Lumiere), BBC journalist, Steve Knibbs, BBC writer, Maurice Gran, TV personality Dom Joly and filmmaker, Esther May Campbell, among others.

The Festival also pays tribute to celebrated directors whose body of work has contributed to the legacy of great cinema. In 2019, the Festival welcomed British director Mike Leigh to the Festival and screened two of his early films. Among other directors we hosted in 2019 were: Josie Rourke (director of Mary Queen of Scots), Steven Berkoff, Stephen Cookson and Carl Hunter, whose first film, Sometimes Always Never, starring Bill Nighy opened the Festival.

And every year we select a “Country Focus”- in 2019 it was Poland. We screened five films from emerging Polish directors. A number of Polish filmmakers came to Cheltenham including the highly-regarded filmmaker, Jan Komasa, whose latest film, Corpus Christi is officially shortlisted for the Oscars in 2020 as Best International Film and is one of the Cheltenham International Film Festival 2020 jury.


Cheltenham is synonymous with arts festivals starting with Performing Arts (1926), Music (1945), Literary (1949), Jazz (1996), Poetry (2011) and Film (2019). Through the decades, the world’s leading filmmakers, actors, musicians, writers, artists, poets and respected figures from politics, science and even astronauts have come to Cheltenham: Mike Leigh, Benedict Cumberbatch, Dame Judy Dench, Bill Nighy, Roger Daltrey, David Attenborough, Prince Charles, Salman Rushdie, Van Morrison, Hilary Clinton, Michael Palin and Bob Geldof, among them. And, most recently, former British Prime Minister, David Cameron and the singer, Debbie Harry.

The Film Festival complements a full schedule of arts festivals in 2020 from the Poetry Festival at the end of April, through to the Jazz Festival 5th – 10th May; the International Film Festival on 26th May – 1st June; the Music Festival from 3rd – 12th July and concludes with the Literature Festival from 2nd – 11th October.

We have received numerous emails with comments about the Festival. The following are extracted quotes from a selection of these emails.

“I thoroughly enjoyed my few hours at Cheltenham. I hope the rest of the festival went splendidly”.
Mike Leigh – film director

“I did enjoy the festival very much and have no doubt it will be a very special feature in the future Cheltenham artistic landscape.
Steven Berkoff – legendary actor, director and writer

“It was a huge pleasure to be part of your Festival……. I wish your festival will remain for years to come in such a prestigious place like Cheltenham. I’m proud to attend its first edition. Hope to be able to visit you sometime in the future again”.
Jan Komasa – film director

“You achieved something extremely impressive for a first festival……”
Tiffany Holmes - British Film Institute

“Congratulations on a wonderful first year for the festival. I thoroughly enjoyed the masterclasses…”
Natalie Spencer – Co-founder Tout Court Film Festival International Film

“I've been hearing very positive reports of the festival. Bravo”.
Andy Freedman – Festival Director Stroud Film Festival

“Congratulations again on a fab festival.
Oliver Clarke - Cinema Lumiere in Goettingen

“Congratulations on pulling it all together in such an impressive way…..I think you were fortunate to have such a dedicated team of volunteers and helpers”.
Chris Baker – Co-founder Film Bath

“Well done for organising such a successful first festival. Onwards and upwards”.
Michael Bourne – President Cheltenham Film Society

“Congratulations on organising the Cheltenham International Film Festival. Another great cultural string to our town's bow”.
Alex Chalk MP

“There was an excellent selection of films and talks. The number of 'big names' you managed to get to attend the festival was astounding - most festivals are only able to do this after about 10 years”!
Katie O’Toole – Theatre Producer and Judging Panel

“Thank you for putting it on. It was a tremendous effort and I enjoyed it enormously.
John Morrish – Writer

“I appreciate the opportunities and guidance you provided me throughout my time working with CIFF….some great names and events. I can't wait to see what its future holds”.
“Abbey Wilson – Final Year Film Student University of Gloucestershire

“The selection of films screened at the event were brilliant and the feedback received about the films was all very positive . A lot of attendees were raving about how good it was for a first time festival”.
Amber Maher – Eight PR/Co-founder Slime London

“It was excellent having the opportunity to join in with the festival and its programming - something which I would love to do again”.
Jacob Ward – Actor and Filmmaker

“Thank you for hosting the festival……. It went down well and thought it was a success”.
Max Wilkinson – LibDem member of Cheltenham Borough Council

The brand name “Cheltenham”, recognised for its 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 Experimental. The Festival may add awards during the run up to the Festival.

In 2019, award winners ranged from celebrated British actor/director/writer, Steven Berkoff and director, Stephen Cookson, for their documentary Shakespeare’s Heroes and Villains, through to students of film for My Dad Is Orange, directed by final year film student, Elle Ralph.

Best Feature Film – Narrative
Best Feature Film - Documentary
Best Short Film - Narrative
Best Short Film - Documentary
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, 2017
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 premier status and does not require a premier 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 mid-April, 2019. 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