Cheltenham International Film Festival continues to grow by deed and reputation. In June 2020, the Festival became the first international film festival in the UK to stream its entire programme online; over 40 films from emerging and celebrated filmmakers plus 10 Q&As with directors from around the world, including our own Honorary Patron, Simon Pegg. The success of the online Film Festival has given birth to YourScreen
( ), the Film Festival’s “virtual” cinema screening films throughout the year.

Cheltenham has welcomed many celebrated figures through the decades including filmmakers, actors, musicians, writers, artists, politicians and royalty: Benedict Cumberbatch, Sir Roger Moore, Dame Judy Dench, Bill Nighy, Tony Curtis, Roger Daltrey, Sir David Attenborough, Hugh Laurie, Nicola Benedetti, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, Prince Charles, Salman Rushdie, Van Morrison, Michael Palin, Bob Geldof, British Prime Minister, David Cameron, Hilary Clinton and Blondie singer, Debbie Harry, among them.

Over the past two years, the Festival has played host to legendary director, Mike Leigh, celebrated theatre turned film director, Josie Rourke (Mary Queen of Scots), Steven Berkoff, Jan Komasa (nominated for an Oscar in 2020 for Corpus Christi and winner of Best International Narrative Feature at Tribeca 2020 for The Hater). It is important for The Festival to support emerging filmmakers. In 2019, the Festival opened with the premiere of Carl Hunter’s debut film, Sometimes Always Never, starring Bill Nighy. And, in 2020 the same honour went to first-time features director, Katharine O’Brien, whose film, Lost Transmissions opened the 2020 Festival.

In 2021, Cheltenham International Film Festival reverts to a ‘live’ event, complemented by an online festival. In the event, pandemic or not, the Film Festival will happen. Here is our programme with more news to come.

Screen new, acclaimed independent films by emerging filmmakers from around the world, supported by live Q&As and interviews with directors, producers, actors. We plan a special tribute to Stephen Frears who has accepted our invitation. Our country in focus in 2021 is China; four films will be selected to show-off emerging Chinese talent. Other guest celebrities are being lined up to come to Cheltenham.

Up to 10 films will be selected for competition. Jury members include: Iranian filmmaker and women’s activist, Mahnaz Mohammadi, Anna Smith (Chair London Film Critics Circle), Deborah Parker (CEO Cinema For All), Dom Joly, Steve Knibbs (BBC reporter), Carl Hunter (director/musician), Ged Doherty (Chair Brit Awards/co-founder Raindog Films), Oliver Clarke (Göttingen Lumiere). One or two other names will be added.

Given the critical and commercial success we had in 2020 when streaming our entire film festival online, we have decided to extend and organise an annual online festival to complement the main Cheltenham International Film Festival reaching out to audiences around the UK.

Cheltenham Youth International Film Festival (CYIFF) is a new strand of the main festival, to include: film screenings, workshops, master classes, student fairs, career’s day and more for young people with an interest in film and students of film. Taking part in Master Classes will be Oscar-nominated screenwriter, Menno Meyjes (Color Purple, Indiana Jones), Oscar-nominated composer, Gary Yershon, plus award-winning director, Geoffrey Sax (Us, Victoria and Endeavour among his credits). Other names are being lined up.

In 2021, we introduce an annual lecture focusing on issues which challenge the film & television industries. Amma Asante, respected, award-winning British feature film and television director, will deliver the first lecture to be hosted by Cheltenham Ladies College (tbc). Amma’s lecture will address diversity in the film industry within the context of her own experience - the challenges she faced as a woman of Ghanaian heritage.

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