As filmmakers, film educators, and film lovers ourselves, we at KWFF know that a truly great festival achieves two things: It provides real value to filmmakers whose works we show as well as entertainment and cultural enrichment to audience members and the community.

Having your film selected by our programmers, and attending the festival as a filmmaker or film fan—which always takes place the (long) weekend before Thanksgiving—is valuable for many reasons:

1 - ACCESS TO TOP FILM CRITICS: We’ve cultivated strong relationships with writers for the LA TIMES, ROLLING STONE, NEW YORK TIMES, WASHINGTON POST, WALL STREET JOURNAL, FILMMAKER MAGAZINE, BUZZFEED, TIME OUT NY, INDIEWIRE and others. We kick off each festival with an informative and entertaining critics’ “porch chat,” and the long weekend provides ample opportunity to meet these industry influencers.

2 - ATTEND FILMMAKER MASTER CLASSES: Spotting and mentoring emerging talent, along with celebrating those at the pinnacle of their careers, are interrelated strands of our core mission. Daily seminars with seasoned names in the industry have included Screenwriting with an Oscar Nominated Writer, Directing the Actor, Virtual Reality demos, Indie Doc & TV Filmmaking, Crowd-Funding on Indiegogo, Film Distribution, Commercial and Music Video Directing, as well as career retrospectives with actors, directors, and other craftspeople.

3 - AWARDS COMPETITION & CEREMONY: Films selected to be shown are automatically in competition in all categories for which they qualify. Winners are announced at our closing night ceremony and party. And student filmmakers are in the running for scholarship awards of $1,500 in four special categories, demonstrating our festival’s commitment to foster the next generation of talent in Florida, around the country, and the world.

4 - SEE GREAT FILMS IN A GREAT ENVIRONMENT: Our locale of the beautifully-preserved and vibrant Old Town Key West, with its boutique cinemas clustered close together, along with our ideal tropical climate mean that you can big-screen binge-watch Oscar contending features and great shorts programs while in between take a dip in the ocean or hotel pool and then grab a local brew or mojito at Sloppy Joe’s or any number of lively bars on historic Duval Street.

5 - WHICH LEADS TO THE PARTIES: Conchs (as the locals call themselves) are the partying kind—and our festival is Local. Every night we host special events, after-parties, and after-after hangouts. The grand historic homes and lush gardens of famous-Conchs-past like the Hemingways, James Audubon, and President Truman’s Little White House provide epic backdrops for these festivities, as do the patio bars and restaurants of Old Town.

6 - ENJOY A CARIBBEAN HOLIDAY: Bring your crew—be they film crew, boat crew, friends, or family. Or come solo and find a new crew here, while soaking up the warm sunshine and local vibe of our island home in its most beautiful season. Sail, dive, jet ski, kayak, enjoy live music on Duval Street, visit our historic museums and art galleries... It’s all here, walk- & bike-able and definitely flip flop-friendly. For any age and lifestyle, Key West and our festival are a warm and welcoming respite.

7 - NO-STRESS NETWORKING: All of the above give filmmakers and VIP pass-holders lots of opportunity to meet, mingle, talk film, pitch ideas, make deals, make love, or all of the above!

8 - SUBMISSION FEE GETS YOU VIP TREATMENT - Compared to many festivals, our film submission fees and VIP passes are reasonable, and our ethos egalitarian and inclusive. If we program your film - feature or short, student or Oscar winner - you will get two all-access VIP/filmmaker badges. We are all makers or patrons of the art of cinema, and Community is Key in Key West.

Join our truly unique community by submitting your work or reserving your all-access VIP pass today.

OUR FESTIVAL DESCRIPTION AND MISSION: The mission of the Key West Film Festival is to showcase films that capture Key West’s essence: Creativity, Diversity, Sustainability, and Beauty. Key West enjoys a rich tradition of inspiring locals and visitors alike to approach everything they do with creativity and a sense of fun. In this spirit, we look for excellent, diverse, socially-conscious, challenging, artful and creative works from across the world, while celebrating our pride of place in South Florida, the Keys, and the Caribbean islands.

In our laid-back, tropical setting of Old Town Key West with its historic theaters within walking distance of each other, the bars of Duval Street and the magic of Mallory Square on the Florida Bay, celebrity guests have included: Burt Reynolds, Marisa Tomei, Billy Corben, Alan Cumming, Mariel Hemingway, Sebastian Junger, Judy Blume, John Waters, Celia Weston, Mark Bridges, Anson Mount, Joely Richardson, Val Lauren, Paul Haggis, Lois Smith, Terry George, Steven Bauer, Angus MacLachlan, Zachary Booth, Bob Wisdom, Anne O'Shea, and many more.

We showcase the best works from Florida filmmakers and far beyond, while also fostering young talent through student scholarship awards and by hosting networking parties and master classes.

Come be part of the unforgettable Key West experience, where passion meets paradise.

Best Florida Short (or Pilot) - Narrative or Doc ($1500 Grand jury Prize Award & Audience Award)
Best World Narrative Short (Audience Award)
Best World Documentary Short (Audience Award)

Best Florida Student Narrative short (or pilot) ($1500 Jury Prize Award)
Best Florida Student Doc Short ($1500 Jury Prize Award)
Best World Student Narrative Short (or pilot) ($1500 Jury Prize Award)
Best World Student Documentary Short ($1500 Jury Prize Award)
**select student travel/ lodging grants provided as well

Florida Feature film - narrative or doc (Audience Award)
Narrative English language Feature Film (Audience Award)
Narrative Foreign-language Feature Film (Audience Award)
Feature-length Documentary (any language) (Audience Award)

Best LGBTQ feature film
Film Critics' Choice Award
Golden Key Award for Excellence in the Cinematic Arts

-Short films must be under 20 minutes in duration.

-Feature films must be 50-125 minutes in duration.

-Florida films must be written/directed/produced by filmmaker/s who currently reside in Florida or were shot at least 50% (locations or labor) in the state.

-Exhibition format for all films must be Blu-Ray, QuickTime or H.264.

-World premiere must have occurred no earlier than January 1, 2017.

See specific categories for further details

Overall Rating
  • This year's festival was my second time at Key West Film Festival and I must say that it is one of the best festival experiences I've ever had! It is exceptionally well-organized, the staff and volunteers are friendly and the programming blooms with diversity and quality. It's also an amazing summit for filmmakers, actors, producers and press to socialize and network. All against the wonderful backdrop that is the unique paradise of Key West. This festival stands apart for all these qualities and more! But as with the movies, I don't want to spoil it all! My highest recommendation!

    November 2017
  • Brian Heil

    What a fun time at the Key West Film Festival. Highly recommended.

    November 2017
  • The perfect film festival to compliment the perfect destination. It all almost feels surreal. Walking along a breezy strip full of culture and conchs and a celebration for filmmakers and film lovers alike. The staff is there throughout and they care. I was welcomed with open arms and a smile. It was nice to know that the programmers actually watched my film and had specific things to say about it. I've been to too many film festivals where it's clear the programmers haven't done their homework, and the fact that Key West does really sets them apart. The films were eclectic and fun and unique and exhilirating. I couldn't have asked for more. It was truly humbling to be part of the selections. The parties were as fun as they were networking-savvy. Don't miss this fest!

    November 2017
  • Barbara Hammer

    A small but elegant film festival in historic theaters and a modernist new building: 3 venues. Top film selections with mix of the avant-garde, challenging and more traditional genres. Staff exceptionally welcoming, pleasant and helpful. Gift bags yummy. Plus, it's Key West warm and balmy in the winter. Go if you can!

    November 2016