The Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival, celebrating its 27th Anniversary October 19th-October 27th 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, Best Sports Documentary, and also an 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, 2017 are eligible for HSDFF 2018 with preference given to films premiering after May 1, 2018.
Feature length films that have been released theatrically or broadcast on television nationally prior to the festival or are available on DVD or VOD are not eligible for competition status and will be considered for non-competitive sections only under special circumstances determined by the festival.

SUBMISSIONS will be received between January and August of 2016, with notification of acceptance no later than September 15th.

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 27, 2017, 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
  • James Burns

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

    July 2018
  • Taylor Stanton

    I had the honor of attending HSDFF back in 2016 with my short "The Festival". Two years later, I still remember it as one of the very best festivals I've had the honor of attending. Staff is friendly and welcoming. Lots of fun networking opportunities and a really great lineup of films in a laid-back setting. Hot Springs, itself, is a great town and was a real joy just to walk around and explore. Highly recommended for fellow filmmakers!

    March 2018
  • Justinsuperstar Johnson

    Oh my gosh, what can I say about HSDFF? I've done the festival circuit before, but never been to a doc-focused festival. It was an absolutely joy to be surrounded by other documentary directors, and the festival organizers do a fantastic job of keeping us busy with all kinds of events.

    Loved to see just how enthusiastic the locals are as well, pretty much every screening I attended was very full. Even though I missed the screening of my short, numerous people came up to me to say they had seen it play, and I had quite a few in-depth conversations about it.

    I'm so motivated to keep on creating just to attend this festival again!

    Oh, and I didn't even mention how friggin' cute the town of Hot Springs is - everything festival related happens in a very central area, and you get the lay of the land quite quickly.

    I could go on and on about this fest, but I'll just let you experience it yourself. Hope to see you again, HSDFF!

    October 2017
  • Matilda Khanbabaei

    Unfortunately, I didn't get the chance to travel to Hot Springs, Arkansas, but I am aware that Hot Springs International Documentary Film Festival is one of the best documentary filmmakers to get the chance and screen film. It is also a great place for networking.

    The communication with the director was amazing. We were accepted at another film festival and they arranged with the director of the other festival in order to screen our film in one day so the other festival could present the US premiere.

    I really hope I can present another film next year and travel to the festival venue.

    October 2017
  • Lance Kramer

    This was hands-down one of the best festival experiences we had with our film. The town and community of Hot Springs could not have been a more warm and gracious host. The Arlington Hotel is a perfect venue for a festival, the A/V and tech was impeccable, loads of homemade food and drinks all day long, parties were a blast, post-screening discussion was lively and engaging. Highly recommend applying to this festival, it's the embodiment of what a documentary film festival should be.

    November 2016