As the oldest independent film festival in Washington DC, the DC Independent Film Festival (DCIFF) has a storied history of presenting extraordinary films. We have showcased cutting edge features, animation, experimental, shorts and documentaries on every subject from every country with every budget and subject imaginable.

By exhibiting world premiere screenings, hosting timely seminars and workshops, and sponsoring discussions with the United States Congress, DCIFF gives independent filmmakers opportunities for their voices to be heard in a way that no other festival can provide. The festival includes a dedicated POLIDOCS section for controversial films that should be screened in the Nation's Capital and a high school film competition. We encourage local filmmakers to apply as well as those on the cutting edge of ideas, technology and imagination worldwide.

DCIFF is proud to be a volunteer-run festival with an over twenty year track record. DCIFF is not a curated festival. With the exception of retrospectives and honorees, all films screened are chosen through the submissions process.

Our annual awards are:

Best of Fest
Best Feature ($1,000 Award sponsored by Stonepark Productions0
Best International Film
Best Documentary
Best Documentary Short
Best Short
Best Wed Series (episode)
Best Animation
Best of Metro DC
Best Woman Director ($1,000 Award Sponsored by MediaFusion)
Best High School Student - 3 Awards (a separate competition within the festival)
Special Alumni Career Award

If sponsors donate products or cash for awards, we pass these on to our winners. Otherwise we give winners our unique festival award plaques. The high school competition has cash prize awards.

Submissions open from August 19 – December 19, 2019

We welcome submissions in the following categories:
◾ Narrative features
◾ Short films including wed series pilot/episode
◾ Documentaries (feature and short)
◾ Animation + Experimental (up to 2 hours)
◾ High School Student Film Showcase and Competition (films up to 30 mins.) – Free Submission to Regular Deadline on November 28, 2019.
◾ Student Films (Please Note: Student films under 20 mins. are only free up until September 27, 2019 early submission deadline with a valid student I.D., but there is a fee for submissions from September 28-December 20, 2018. We are strict on these deadlines.)

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 always have a horror film section, in honor of a genre that has been an important launching point for independent filmmakers. We have an excellent animation section and encourage animators working across all styles to submit their work. DCIFF 2020 also welcomes open source films, art films and interactive films and the wide spectrum of documentary formats and issues including advocacy films.

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 2018; while we have screened films that are available in their entirety for public viewing online, this is not our preference and we check every film we select accordingly. 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 eighteen year track record.


Students - You must be a current student to qualify for submission in a Student category (include your current student id or a letter from a school advisor with your submission).

High School Students - For age 18 & under only! We will accept your film as a high school entry if you are a current high school student or graduated high school in the summer of 2019. Include your current high school ID 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 DCIFF. Please include with your submission the title of the film screened and the year we showed it.

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 release DCIFF from all responsibility for any and all film loss or damage. I understand that my submission review copies will not be returned.
- 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.
- All of the above information and statements are accurate.

Overall Rating
  • Grandin Theatre Film Lab

    Our program had a student attend the festival, and here is his review:

    "The festival was well run and well attended. I felt very taken care of as a film maker. It was a good networking opportunity and amazing to see my film on screen at such a well established fest. "

    March 2019
  • Lara Hewitt

    I was very happy to screen our film in DC at the quaint 'Miracle Theatre'. Deirdre, the festival director, introduced the film which was a nice touch - it's not always the case that the festival head is present for your screening. The festival is spread out both in terms of geography and time, so it's not an intense experience but it is a great chance to enjoy Washington for a week. Staff and volunteers were kind and friendly and homestays were offered. The Carnegie Institute for Science was a beautiful venue for films.

    March 2019
  • Tom Bessoir

    A well run festival in a beautiful venue. I enjoyed the Q&A with the audience after my screening.

    March 2019
  • Fantastic festival! I was very happy to show my film at the DC Independent Film Festival! Very good communication and great selection of films!

    March 2019
  • Andrew Knox

    Although I was unable to attend, the DCIFF communicated very well and kept me informed every step of the way. Very well organized event.

    March 2019