The FREE SPEECH FILM FESTIVAL is designed to showcase today’s Free Speech Movement and invites filmmakers to join the global revolution by submitting films about Free Speech, Human Rights, and the Rule of Law. FREE SPEECH: You Define it!

The objectives of the 2021 FREE SPEECH FILM FESTIVAL are to facilitate speaking out against injustice through the medium of film; to build social awareness through the promotion of these films; and to inspire communities to redress injustice around the world through the power of film and social media.

Celebrating the passionate innovations of independent filmmakers, and championing the ideas, perspectives and voices that prove vital to the future of Free Speech, Human Rights, and the Rule of Law, only one FREE SPEECH AWARD-winning film is selected each year by audiences online, and locally, by citizens of Philadelphia, PA: home of the Liberty Bell's "Proclaim LIBERTY Throughout all the Land unto all the Inhabitants Thereof" since 1752.

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The Free Speech Film Festival is unique in several respects:

- American INSIGHT awards a cash prize of $1,000 to the Free Speech Award-winning filmmaker.

- The FREE SPEECH FILM FESTIVAL culminates in an onsite and online multimedia Free Speech Award Ceremony that showcases "Official Selection" trailers, the final Free Speech Award-winning film, and an in-depth interview with the Free Speech Award-winning filmmaker.

- The Moderator of our annual Free Speech Award Ceremony is former NBC News London Bureau Chief and CNN New York Bureau Chief, Karen Curry.

- American INSIGHT’s 2021 FREE SPEECH FILM FESTIVAL Award-Winner, as well as all of the “Official Selection” filmmakers, are interviewed on camera for our Meet-the-Director Series, and their films are featured on the festival's website in perpetuity.

- Free Speech Award-winning films and their filmmakers are also promoted over American INSIGHT’s daily Newsfeed, Festival Spotlight Blog, and across all of our social media outlets for a period of one year.

- American INSIGHT broadcasts its annual multimedia Free Speech Award Ceremony to audiences online, and that recording is placed in Free Speech Archives that date back to 1983.

- The FREE SPEECH FILM FESTIVAL focuses exclusively on deepening the understanding of Free Speech, Human Rights, and the Rule of Law, with the goal of promoting and preserving these principles worldwide.

- Every year, the Free Speech Award-winning film is linked in perpetuity to American INSIGHT’s interactive educational Free Speech Storyline, which traces the history of individuals who fought for their rights back to the signing of the Magna Carta in England in 1215.

Make History Everyday!

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The FREE SPEECH FILM FESTIVAL culminates in an annual onsite and online multimedia FREE SPEECH AWARD CEREMONY that features well-known artists, scholars, writers, and civic leaders speaking about what Free Speech means to them, in addition to showcasing American INSIGHT’s final FREE SPEECH AWARD-winning film and its filmmakers. Past speakers include:

Robert Greenwald, President, Brave New Films and 2019 American INSIGHT Free Speech Film Festival Award winning director.

Abby Huntsman, American television personality and former co-host of ABC’s The View.

David Kilgour, human rights defender, author, former lawyer and Canadian politician, remains continuously vocal on many human rights violations around the world

Wanjiru Njendu, director/producer and 2020 American INSIGHT Free Speech Film Festival Award winning director

Reggie Shuford, Executive Director, ACLU Philadelphia

Anne-Marie Slaughter, President and CEO of New America; University Professor Emerita of Politics and International Affairs at Princeton University

Ben Wizner, Director, American Civil Liberties Union’s Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project

Samuel Zhou, Deputy Director, Global Internet Freedom Consortium

Michael Perlman, Producer/ Executive Producer of American INSIGHT's 2012 Free Speech Film Festival Award winning film “Free China: The Courage to Believe,” and Amnesty International official Artist For Amnesty

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By agreeing to the terms and conditions stated herein, participants in American INSIGHT’s FREE SPEECH FILM FESTIVAL unconditionally accept these rules and regulations:


American INSIGHT’s FREE SPEECH FILM FESTIVAL jurors will include well-known writers, lawyers, scientists, recording artists, media specialists, scholars, historians, civic and cultural leaders from Philadelphia, as well as other national and international locations, and filmmakers who submit their films each year.

Jurors will not be prejudiced by film length, subject matter, filmmaker. They will follow established Judging Criteria (below) as they select American INSIGHT’s six “Official Selection” films. Although it is understood that any evaluation of artistic material involves a certain degree of subjectivity, their decisions will be considered final.


THEME: Relevant to the topic of Free Speech, Human Rights, and the Rule of Law.

EMOTIONAL IMPACT/AUDIENCE APPEAL: Visually appealing and entertaining, engender an emotional response, and create a lasting impression.

STRUCTURE/STORY: Clear, logical and effective plot with a meaningful and unique story line.

AUDIO/MUSIC: Appealing soundtrack, original, consistent volume, no background noise.

CINEMATOGRAPHY: Effective visuals, lighting and camera angles.
Editing: Smooth flow that creates a powerful response from the viewer.

EDITING: Smooth flow, creates emotional response from the viewer


Film submissions deadlines and fees:

Early Deadline: January 31, 2021

Regular Deadline: February 28, 2021

Late Deadline: March 31, 2021

Email Notification of acceptance or rejection: before August 1, 2021.

FREE SPEECH AWARD Ceremony: Sunday, October 17, 2021


– Submissions must be made electronically through FilmFreeway.

– Guidelines must be followed by all applicants, or films will not be accepted.

– Defective submissions will not be accepted into the Festival.

– Multiple submissions are permissible; however, each submission must be accompanied by its own Entry Form and submission Fee.


FilmFreeway Online Screener


Restricted to individuals 18 years old or above.

Uncompleted films will not be accepted.

American INSIGHT’s selection committee(s) reserves the right to determine inappropriate content, such as violence, hate speech, defamation, or pornography; if any content is deemed by the committee(s) to be such, the film will not be accepted.

Previously broadcasted and/or independently/commercially distributed films will not be accepted.


No submissions can be greater than 60 minutes in length, or less than 6 minutes.


International submissions will ONLY be accepted through FilmFreeway, including the Entry Form and Entry Fee.

All non-English films must include English subtitles.

All International film submissions must agree with copyright rules and regulations.


Filmmakers submitting to American INSIGHT’s FREE SPEECH FILM FESTIVAL are encouraged to submit trailers along with their signed Entry Form and Entry Fee. Trailers may be included in American INSIGHT’s online pre-Festival promotional activities. Trailers can be submitted by a Vimeo or YouTube link, or on FilmFreeway. All terms and conditions regarding American INSIGHT’s FREE SPEECH FILM FESTIVAL apply to Trailer content.


Submitter is responsible for notifying American INSIGHT of any and all changes in contact information as soon as they occur.

All communication will be through email to the primary email address provided, including: reception of submissions, acceptance and non-acceptance of submissions into Festival, defective submissions, etc.

Notification of acceptance status will be sent no later than August 1, 2021.


The final five films chosen may be promoted by their filmmakers as “Official Selections” of the FREE SPEECH FILM FESTIVAL.

Acceptance of a film by American INSIGHT’s FREE SPEECH FILM FESTIVAL in no way obligates the Festival to screen or award any film, and such additional actions are done so at the discretion of the Festival and its committee(s).

“Official Selections” for American INSIGHT’s FREE SPEECH FILM FESTIVAL are selected by the Selection Committee, based solely on the Judging Criteria stated above.

“Official Selections” are in no way an endorsement of the film’s content by any representative of American INSIGHT.


Do not submit press kits until notified (unsolicited kits will not be returned).

Upon notification of acceptance, press kits will be requested and preferably should be submitted through FilmFreeway.

Press Kits should include: still photos (300 dpi); synopsis of the film (100 words or less); Trailer; filmmaker statement, photo, and biography.


Entry Fees are non-refundable.

Filmmakers retain the copyright of their film.


All archival materials used in your film must be credited within the film itself and be included within its run time.

The submitter and/or undersigned expressly warrants that it has obtained all necessary copyright clearances for original works of authorship used in the film, and all rights and clearances necessary to exhibit the film.

The submitter and/or undersigned shall indemnify and hold harmless American INSIGHT, and its FREE SPEECH FILM FESTIVAL from and against any and all claims, liabilities, losses, damages, fees, and expenses (including but not limited to reasonable attorney’s fees, and costs of the court) which may be incurred by reason of any claim involving copyright, trademark, credits, publicity, screening, and loss of or damage to the screening videos submitted, and any claims arising out of or in connection with the exhibition of the film.


American INSIGHT is grateful to FilmFreeway for being a Sponsor of the 2021 FREE SPEECH FILM FESTIVAL