Our submission are closed. We hope you will join us virtually for the 29th Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival this October, 9-17th. Tickets will be on sale the week of September 21st.

Best wishes,
The team at HSDFF


The Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival, celebrating its 29th Anniversary October 9th-October 17th is the oldest non-fiction festival in North America. HSDFF offers multiple awards categories, and is a designated Academy-Award© -qualifying festival for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Documentary Short Subject.

MovieMaker Magazine has named HSDFF to its global list of “50 Festivals Worth the Entry Fee”. Each year, HSDFF presents multiple special sidebar programs, one of the most recent being Women Behind the Lens: Diverse Perspectives in 2016, funded by a grant from the Academy®.

HSDFF, a 9-day all-pedestrian festival, makes its home in one of the most unique vacation destinations of the American South, the Historic Spa City of Hot Springs, Arkansas, with all screenings and parties held within easy walking distance. Each October, the city comes alive as film-lovers and filmmakers gather to immerse themselves in over 100 of the best international features and shorts the documentary world has to offer, and to attend unforgettable events. HSDFF offers one-of-a kind forums, tributes to industry greats, and numbers of noted guests and visiting professionals. Over the years, Hot Springs has hosted many of the greats in documentary film, and is known for its warmth and hospitality to filmmakers.

Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival hosts multiple juries made up of industry professionals. Awards are given in the categories of Best U.S. Documentary Feature, Best International Documentary Feature, Best Documentary Short and Audience Award as well as additional recognitions determined by the juries.

The winning short film in the Documentary Short Film Competition is eligible for Academy Award® consideration without the standard theatrical run, provided the film otherwise complies with the Academy rules.

The Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival exhibits in a variety of program categories. Not all categories are competitive.

*Short Films: 40 minutes or less
*Features: Over 40 minutes
*Fees are non-refundable.
*Competition is open to U.S. and International entries.
*Films not in English must be subtitled with English subtitles

ELIGIBILITY: Feature and short documentary films completed after November, 1 2019, are eligible for HSDFF 2020 with preference given to films premiering after May 1, 2020.

SUBMISSIONS will be received between January and July of 2020, with notification of acceptance no later than September 30th, 2020.

Feature and Short films that are available on VOD or a streaming platform will not be eligible for competition at the festival.

Feature length films that have been released theatrically or broadcast on television nationally prior to the festival will be considered for non-competitive sections only under special circumstances determined by the festival.

Short films that are available on VOD or a streaming platform will not be eligible for competition at the festival.

SUBMISSIONS will be received between January and July of 2020, with notification of acceptance no later than September 30th, 2020.


You may submit multiple entries but must fill out a separate entry form and PROVIDE an entry fee for each.

UPDATED CUTS: Our programming team will review the original screener received. HSDFF is unable to guarantee a review of the updated versions of your film, but links to new cuts can be emailed to hsdfi@hsdfi.org

FEEDBACK: Unfortunately, due to the volume of submissions, we are unable to provide individualized feedback to filmmakers at this time.

Have additional questions about submitting? Please email hsdfi@hsdfi.org
Once accepted, if distribution plans accelerate and you find that your film will be released, theatrically or otherwise, before October 17, 2020, we ask that you notify us immediately.

Great care will be taken with entries while with us, however we cannot accept responsibility for loss or damage incurred en route, or due to normal wear and tear. HSDFF is held harmless from any and all claims, liabilities, losses, damages, and expenses that may be incurred by reason of any claim involving copyright, trademark, credits, publicity or screening of any film.

Overall Rating
  • Great, great festival! Kind of exotic location among the bath houses from the early 20th Century and the Art Nouveau hotel where the festival is held. Very friendly and fun vibe. Great audiences!

    February 2020
  • Even though I wasn't able to attend, I could clearly tell that this is one of the best documentary film festivals around. Tons of guests, parties and filmmakers attended (obvious to me thanks to their very active social media accounts). Clear communication throughout. Nice folks for sure. I hope to get there next time if the opportunity presents itself again. The only thing I didn't like (and other festivals are guilty of this too) is when Academy Award-Qualifying festivals (and there's only so many of them) present awards to films that have already qualified elsewhere. Films like that need to be excused from competition and give other films the chance to qualify too. With that said, I'll continue to submit and hopefully attend in the near future. I highly recommend submitting to Hot Springs. We need more festivals like this to stick around.

    November 2019
  • Richard Chisolm

    Most festivals tend to marginalize short documentaries. This one does not. The venues are centralized in a fantastic historic hotel. The festival staff is fantastic. The social and professional networking opportunities are outstanding. These smart and creative folks know what they are doing. I felt valued and respected as a filmmaker.

    November 2019
  • Festival Formula Ltd

    Thank you HSDFF for screening my documentary short "Sununu: The Revolution Of Love. This is an exciting festival and communication was extremely professional. Highly recommend for any documentary filmmaker.

    November 2018
  • Wonderful festival. Thanks so much to the staff and volunteers. I look forward to submitting in the future!

    November 2018