The Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival, celebrating its 28th Anniversary October 18th-October 26th 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®. Hot Springs presents the annual breakout Spa City Sports Series showcasing a selection of powerful human stories played out against the fields, arenas, rings and courts of competitive sports across the globe.

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 in English

ELIGIBILITY: Feature and short documentary films completed after January 1, 2018 are eligible for HSDFF 2019 with preference given to films premiering after May 1, 2019.
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 2019, with notification of acceptance no later than September 30th.


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

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
Once accepted, if distribution plans accelerate and you find that your film will be released, theatrically or otherwise, before October 18, 2019, 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
  • 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
  • If the Grand Budapest Hotel had a film festival, this would be it.

    November 2018
  • Mary Beth Minnis

    My experience at HSDFF was excellent! I highly recommend this festival.

    November 2018
  • James Burns

    This is a filmmakers type of festival. Great Staff and excellent programs!

    July 2018