DCIFF is the oldest independent film festival in Washington DC and has a storied history of presenting extraordinary films. We have showcased cutting edge features, animation, experimental films, shorts, and documentaries on every subject, from every country, and with every budget and subject imaginable. To date, we have not been a curated film festival, but this year we have decided to pivot. DCIFF will be programmed in all categories based on two themes: 1) science fiction/imaginative landscapes/creative presentations of reality and 2) emotionality - how film stimulates emotions and reaction. We call this: Filmscapes, Futures and Feelings.

Along with this switch from extensive (lots of films and lots of filmmakers) to intensive (fewer films and much, much more attention to each film and filmmaker), we cannot yet say what our venues will be or if there will be a commercial-level theater for screening. For 2021, we will be using a range of smaller venues and we will do out utmost to assure high quality projection and sound for filmmakers.

The 2021 festival follows a new format: 20-25 films (including shorts) in 10 days, not including the high school film competition, with robust filmmaker-centered programming around each selected film that allows for discussion, learning and celebration with small groups of audiences and several screenings. We will work closely with selected filmmakers to craft thoughtful, seminar-type programming around their film’s presentation. DCIFF brings together passionate artists, filmmakers, critics, curators, and film enthusiasts for a ten-day celebration of independent filmmaking. Like previous festivals, we remain dedicated to selecting films through the submissions process and continue to be a volunteer-run festival. All submissions fees support festival programming.

Due to the ongoing pandemic, the 2021 festival will likely follow a hybrid format. We expect to offer small in-person screenings in Washington, DC, but also explore streaming and live feed options as needed. We expect online screenings to be integrated with in-person events. We will do our best to get all filmmakers to DC for the festival and ask you to understand that acceptance into the festival this year really does assume your attendance and/or active involvement. The intention is that each film or group of short films will be screened several times over 2 days and have at least 2 seminar-style associated activities. Sorry, but under the circumstances we are not accepting web series submissions for the 2021 festival. We only accept high school submissions in the student category.

We will have awards for the 2021 festival but are currently reevaluating our awards structure. Because of the smaller group of selected films, we are working on how best to recognize everyone. We expect to have three best film awards and then awards for best directing, writing, cinematography, editing, effects and sound. The high school film competition awards are a separate category of 1st, 2nd and 3rd places.

Submissions open from August 30 – November 30, 2020.

We welcome submissions in the following categories:
◾ Narrative features
◾ Short films
◾ Documentaries (feature and short)
◾ Animation + Experimental (up to 2 hours)
◾ Scripts + Works in Progress
◾ High School Student Film Showcase and Competition (films up to 30 mins.) – Free Submission until November 30, 2020.

We are open to films of any genre except adult films (though' R-rated" is fine) and in any language (with subtitles). We do not have a section dedicated to family films, but love films that appeal to the child in us all. We have an excellent animation section and encourage animators working across all styles to submit their work.

Stipulations: We put a great deal of effort, time and attention into promoting the films selected for screening and competition and, in this way, have aided many a filmmaker on the road to success, awards, distribution, and networking, but we can only do so if the following rules are followed:

Metro DC Film Premieres required (we do accept films that have had private screenings in DC), East Coast and US Premieres preferred; all films completed within one year of the date of submission to DCIFF; if your film is still in process we will accept submission but DCIFF will remove a film from final selection if it is not completed by the end of December 2020. Our reasonable submission fees are entirely used to cover the cost of filmmaker support: press, screenings, seminars and outreach. DCIFF is a volunteer-run festival with an 21 year track record.


High School Students - For age 18 & under only! We will accept high school entries *only* if you are a current high school student or graduated high school in the summer of 2020. Please include your current high school ID and your high school name and address, or a letter from a school advisor with your submission.

DCIFF Alumni - To qualify for submission in an alumni category, we must have screened one of your films in a previous festival. With your submission, please include the title of your screened film and the year it was shown.

Films in Distribution: If you are a distributor or your film is ruled by a distribution contract, please make sure that you can screen this without a screening fee. DCIFF does not pay screening fees but we do everything we can to bring filmmakers and talent to attend the festival.

By submitting your film to DCIFF you are agreeing to the following conditions:

- I am authorized to submit this film to the Washington, DC Independent Film Festival for consideration and have read, understood and agreed to all entry requirements.
- I authorize DCIFF to post up to 3 minutes of all entries submitted on related websites, as well as post stills, for promotional purposes only.
- I understand that no film accepted for screening in competition at DCIFF may be withdrawn without the express written permission of DCIFF. In the event that a screening print is not delivered or in the case of technical issues, DCIFF reserves the right to screen publicly the DVD submission file unless other arrangements have been made with you, the filmmaker.
- I promise to contact DCIFF immediately regarding any changes to the information above, including Premiere status of my film or exhibition format. Failure to provide complete and updated information or failure to submit an exhibition copy of my film by the above-stated deadlines may cause the elimination of my film from competition.
- All rights and permissions are in place for my submission (it is the sole responsibility of the applicant to obtain any and all necessary rights and permissions).
- By submitting my film for consideration, I grant permission to DCIFF to use any portion of my film and related materials for promotion in all media, including DCIFF catalogues, flyers, posters and the DCIFF website.
- I am DULY authorized to submit this film to the Washington, DC Independent Film Festival and its competition (“DCIFF”) and I have read, understood and agreed to all entry requirements.
- All submitted films are in competition.
- By submitting to the festival, I am showing interest in taking part in DCIFF 2021 should our film be selected.
- All of the above information and statements are accurate.

Overall Rating
  • Umran Safter

    A wonderfully organized festival despite pandemic restrictions and fears. A lovely and fantastic team made it a great festival experience for audiences and film makers alike.

    April 2021
  • David Ashton

    Despite a difficult year for film festivals, DCIFF really did a fantastic job in 2021 by adapting their programming with a hybrid format. They took less films, which allowed for a more intimate, in depth format. They were able to screen my film in person with a Q7A, and on another day filmed a conversation between another director and I, which was available to viewers with the virtual format. DCIFF staff was very communicative and extremely active on social media, which I really appreciated. I look forward to being a part of their festival again soon.

    April 2021
  • Ella Altman

    Such a family! especially at these times.
    Proud to be a part of your super diverse independent creation.
    See you next year!

    October 2020
  • Not exaggerating, but this is THE best festival for organization and communication. Also, they're not only a festival but an organization trying to make things better for creatives. Awesome experience.

    April 2020
  • Win Brooks

    Had a wonderful time with DCIFF screening my short, "Rattenfalle." They were communicative and accommodating.

    March 2020