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

As filmmakers, film educators, and film lovers ourselves, we at the 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.

NEW FOR STUDENT FILMMAKERS IN 2021: The Key West Film Festival is honored to present the Kimberly Peirce Scholarship for Student Filmmakers. Scholarships totaling $3000 will be awarded each year, and will be presented at the festival’s annual awards ceremony by Peirce, best known for directing the Oscar-winning feature BOYS DON'T CRY. Ms. Peirce will also grant one-on-one sessions to the scholarship recipients to further chat about their projects and careers. All genres and lengths of student films are eligible, as are films from both United States and international film schools.

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 chat,” and the long weekend provides ample opportunity to meet these industry influencers.

2 - ARTIST TALKS: Nurturing emerging talent goes hand-in-hand with celebrating those at the pinnacle of their careers, and are interrelated strands of our mission. In depth interviews and Q&As with seasoned names in the industry about their careers, as well as many informal opportunities to chat, make our festival unique.

In this 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 famous nightly sunset celebration at Mallory Square, celebrity guests have included: Harmony Korine, Mariel Hemingway, Billy Corben, Tom Berenger, Kimberly Peirce, Burt Reynolds, Marisa Tomei, Ondi Timoner, Alan Cumming, Corey Glover, John Waters, Sebastian Junger, Celia Weston, Mark Bridges, Anson Mount, Joely Richardson, Paul Haggis, Lois Smith, and many more.

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 $3,000, 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 & FILMMAKER EVENTS: Key Westers love a party—and our festival is local. Every day and night we organize filmmaker breakfast meet-ups, sails, after-parties, and spontaneous after-after hangouts, in the historic homes and lush gardens of famous-Conchs-past like the Hemingways, James Audubon, and President Truman’s Little White House, in the rustic distilleries and breweries of Old Town, aboard majestic sailing ships docked in the bay...

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 - FILM SCREENINGS AND SPECIAL EVENTS: Our ethos is inclusive, fun, & community-building: All selected films get two FILMMAKER badges granting access to all parties and special events, and film screenings (per availability). We are all makers or patrons of the art of cinema, and building and celebrating community is key in Key West.

Join our truly unique community, which celebrates our pride of place in South Florida, the Keys, and the Caribbean islands, while welcoming the best from around the country and world.

Florida Narrative Short Award
Florida Documentary Short Award
World Narrative Short Award
World Documentary Short Award

Florida Student Short Award ($ Jury Prize Award)
World Student Short Award ($ Jury Prize Award)

Florida Feature Film Award
English-language Feature Film Award
Foreign-language Feature Film Award
Documentary Feature Award

LGBTQ Feature Film Award
Film Critics' Choice Award
Golden Key for Excellence in Costume Design
Golden Key Award for Excellence in Filmmaking

-Short films must be under 59 minutes in duration.

-Feature films must be 60-180 minutes in duration.

-Florida films must be written, directed, or produced by filmmakers who currently reside in Florida, OR shot at least 50% of the film in the state of Florida.

-World premiere must have occurred no earlier than January 1, 2019.

See specific categories for further details.

Overall Rating
  • Steve Wieclaw

    What an incredible festival! Hats off to the staff who created a fun live experience in the middle of a pandemic! I feel honored to have had my film 'Nonstop' selected for the 2020 festival. The staff was extremely courteous and helpful. I would love to go again next year, either as a filmmaker or just a fan. Thanks!

    March 2021
  • Joe Chvala

    What a wonderful festival! The lineup of all the films was fantastic and the venues looked gorgeous. The communication from the festival was also great. Hopefully we will be able to go next year. Congratulations for figuring out how to do such a unique and ingenious live festival in the middle of a pandemic.

    December 2020
  • We're very saddened that we couldn't go in person this year, but the online options were great and we enjoyed many short films. Thank you!

    December 2020
  • Very greatful and professional festival

    November 2020
  • I was finally able to attend after being accepted for three years. Of course, it was 2020, but the crew did a fantastic job with everything. Such a fun time!

    November 2020