Honorary Patron – Simon Pegg

The Cheltenham International Film Festival (CIFF) is one of the high profile international arts festivals for which the town is recognised around the world; attracting audiences from near and far in the tens of thousands.

At its core, the Festival screens films in and out of competition. Films in competition include features, shorts, narrative and documentary from emerging filmmakers. The film festival jury is comprised of leading figures from film, entertainment and the media: Ged Doherty, President of the Brit awards and co-founder of Raindog Films with the Oscar-winning actor, Colin Firth; the festival directors of Sochi and Göttingen International Film Festivals, Luba Balagova and Oliver Clark; leading film/tv agent, Sara Putt; BAFTA-winning director, Esther May Campbell; award-winning script writer, Maurice Gran, the popular British entertainer, Dom Joly, and BBC reporter, Steve Knibbs.

As well as screening the work of emerging filmmakers, the Festival pays tribute to celebrated directors, who were once emerging filmmakers, and whose body of work has contributed to the legacy of great cinema. In 2019, the Festival welcomed one of cinema’s great directors, Mike Leigh, and screened two of his early films. In 2020, the Festival will welcome and pay tribute to the multi-award nominated/winning director, Stephen Frears.

The Festival wishes to be known as a meeting place for filmmakers and audience to share ideas, opinions and opportunities. In 2019, among others, the Festival welcomed Josie Rourke director of Mary Queen of Scots, the legendary Steven Berkoff and Carl Hunter, whose first film, Sometimes Always Never, starring Bill Nighy, opened the Festival

Another popular strand to the Festival’s varied programme of film screenings is the “Country in Focus”. In 2019, the Country in Focus was Poland, and the organisers had the opportunity to welcome the Polish director, Jan Komasa, nominated for an Oscar in 2020.

In 2020, our Country in Focus is Italy; and there will be a special tribute to mark the centenary birth of Federico Fellini. We are awaiting final confirmation from Sandra Milo, one of Fellini’s favourite actresses, who has agreed to come to the Festival in May.

We also plan to welcome the celebrated and award-winning film producer, Stephen Woolley, and other film industry figures of note, including Jan Komasa, again, and the Festival’s Honorary Patron, Simon Pegg – both are dependent on filming schedules.

As well as film screenings, the Festival organises Master Classes in the arts & crafts of filmmaking and the business of film production under the brand Open Call. Open Call is open to all from students of film to members of the public looking for a peek behind the scenes to see how films are made. In 2019, we were fortunate to have attracted good audiences to classes conducted by celebrated figures such as cinematographer, Piotr Sobocinski Jr, who flew in from Poland, Rich Warren, Director of Encounters Film Festival and leading film, award-winning film producers, Phil Hunt and Gail Egan.

In 2020, we have the Oscar-nominated film composer, Gary Yershon, cinematographer, David Mackie, FilmBath Director, Holly Tarquini and leading film and television agent, Sara Putt of Sara Putt Associates coming to do Master Classes. And, new this year is the launch of the Cheltenham Youth International Film Festival – reaching out to under-represented members of the community via film and film-related events (workshops) to generate interest in the culture of cinema and the art of film.

The Festival also hosts the usual opening and closing night parties and invites attendees to ‘hang out’ at any number of the town’s well-known bars, cafes and restaurants.

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 starting with 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.

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.

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

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