Open City Documentary Festival creates an open space to nurture and champion the art of creative documentary and non-fiction filmmakers. We provide a platform for emerging talent as well as established masters working within the documentary form.

Over 7500 people attended the tenth edition of the festival which took place online. The festival took place between 9th–15th September 2020 screening international contemporary non-fiction film, audio and cross media, as well as filmmaker Q&As, industry panels, special live events and industry networking opportunities.

Submissions for Open City Documentary Festival 2021 are now open. We're looking for creative, innovative, challenging non-fiction filmmaking at short, mid-length and feature-length, as well as short audio documentaries, and cross platform projects.

We are working towards delivering our regular in-person edition in 2021, but in the context of the global pandemic, please be aware that our plans are currently subject to change. We will update all submitting filmmakers as and when definitive decisions are made concerning the shape of the festival and its programme.

Please submit your film project as either 'Documentary Short' or 'Documentary Feature', and your audio project as 'Audio Documentary Short'. Please include a link to download or stream your audio project in the submission, as FilmFreeway cannot currently accept audio files. Please use the 'Cross-Platform Projects' category for mixed reality, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, installations, games, 360 video and interactive web docs.

Please note that projects submitted to the 'Cross Media Projects' category are considered for exhibition in our Expanded Realities Exhibition. If your project does not have an interactive or 360 element and is intended for cinema exhibition please submit it as a 'Documentary Short' or 'Documentary Feature' . We are currently unable to accept single or multi-screen installation works not suitable for the cinema space. If you have a project of this nature and would like to discuss with the festival's programming team, please do get in touch. We plan to install our 2021 Expanded Realities Exhibition at our Central London Festival Hub but it will be adapted to an online format should this be required.

Recent Jurors include:

Karen Alexander (Curator), Erika Balsom (Scholar and Critic), Nelly Ben Hayoun (Designer & Filmmaker), Tessa Boerman (Curator/Filmmaker), Lucien Castaing-Taylor (Filmmaker), Katerina Cizek (Interactive Filmmaker), Charlotte Cook (Field of Vision). Greg de Cuir Jr. (Writer & Curator) Bec Evans (Dazed), Joseph Fahim (Critic and Programmer), Briony Hanson (British Council), Tabitha Jackson (Sundance Institute), Kevin B. Lee (Filmmaker & Critic), Lawrence Lek (Artist, Filmmaker and Musician) Mads Mikkelsen (CPH:DOX), Chiara Marañón (MUBI), Lynn Nwokorie (Doc Society), Pawel Pawlikowski (Filmmaker), Cristi Puiu (Filmmaker), Jessica Sarah Rinland (Filmmaker) Julian Ross (IFFR, Locarno Film Festival) Stephanie Spray (Filmmaker), and David Wilson (True/False).

Prizes are awarded in three categories:

Open City Award - This award is given by the Open City Jury to the film that exemplifies an author in control of their subject matter, craft and story - matching content and form in a powerful and persuasive fashion.

Emerging International Filmmaker Award - The Emerging International Filmmaker Award is presented to a first or second time feature filmmaker who displays new and exciting approaches to storytelling, and who exhibits commitment to their choices and a clear directorial vision.

UK Short Award - This award is presented to the short film that demonstrates the most engaging, innovative and compelling approach to short-form documentary — a film that would best represent UK talent at an international level and that demonstrates promise for the filmmaker's future career.

International Short Award - This award is presented to the film that best demonstrates a clear artistic vision, control of craft and the most engaging, innovative and compelling approach to short-form documentary.

The prizes for each award will be announced at a later date.

Open City Documentary Festival is a Section B BAFTA Qualifying Festival for the British Short Film award.


1. Open City Documentary Festival (OCDF) screening programmes are curated and all submissions will be fully considered by the Programming Team.

2. OCDF accepts documentary films of all lengths and subject matter, originating from anywhere in the world. OCDF accepts audio documentaries up to 10 minutes in length.
3. OCDF only accepts submission of documentary films, cross-platform projects and audio works completed after 1 January 2020
4. All entries must be in English or contain English subtitles. Non-English entries submitted without subtitles, or supplementary printed translations, will be automatically disqualified.
5. Films that have had a public screening in London prior to OCDF 2021 will be considered ineligible for selection. There is no premiere status requirement for audio or cross-platform projects.

5. Only completed entries (Entry Form, Preview Screener, Payment) will be processed and considered for screening.

6. Each submission must be accompanied by the appropriate Entry Fee. Entry Fees are not refundable. Projects submitted with the incorrect entry fee will not be considered for selection.
7. OCDF accepts FilmFreeway and Vimeo Secure Online Screeners for preview purposes. Whilst we can also accept DVDs, this must be additional to an online screener. For cross-platform projects, please include an online screener if possible or a downloadable project file if possible.
8. DVD entries must be marked with production title and tracking number. Please ensure that DVDs are checked on a stand-alone player before dispatch.
9. DVD entries must be sent to:

Open City Documentary Festival
UCL, 14 Taviton Street
London WC1H 0BW
United Kingdom

10. OCDF is unable to return preview copies.
11.OCDF accepts completed films and films at fine cut stage for consideration. Works-in-progress may only be submitted under special circumstances. Please contact the programmers in this case.
12. OCDF does not accept resubmissions unless substantial changes have been made. Please contact the programmers if you have any specific questions.
13. Every reasonable effort will be made to protect films and tapes from damage or loss, but the Festival, and its management cannot assume liability for damage or loss.

16. Waivers (free entry) are granted only to select applicants who have been invited to submit by the Programming Team.
17. The cost of postage and packing of an entry to the Festival must be paid by the entrant.

18. If selected, the cost of postage and packing of screening copy (inbound print transport) to the Festival will be covered by OCDF. The filmmaker must cover the costs associated with the return or forwarding of screening copy (outbound print transport) after the festival.
19. OCDF offers standard screening fees to submitted projects selected for the festival. OCDF’s standard screening fees are £150 (inc VAT) for feature-length projects and £50 (Inc.VAT) and mid-length projects (both moving image and audio) for a single public screening. OCDF offers a standard screening fee of £100 (in. VAT) for cross-platform projects

20. If a project is selected for screening, the Festival will contact the entrant by e-mail. All entries will be notified by August 1st 2021 at the latest, barring unforeseen circumstances. If for some reason you haven’t received an email by this date, please check festival website for programme announcements or contact the Programming Team.
21. Following selection, the Festival will provide all successful entrants with a Screening Agreement and delivery schedule.

22. All entries are viewed and chosen by the Programming Team. Final selections are at the sole discretion of the Festival.
23. All projects selected will be made available for public viewing. All timings, date and venue details will be assigned by the Festival.

24. The Festival reserves the right to place projects into relevant programme strands.
25. Films which have been distributed theatrically in the UK prior to the festival are ineligible for submission.
26. If selected, the entrant grants OCDF the right to utilise publicity materials related to the production (e.g. press kits, posters, stills, etc.) for promotional purposes and to broadcast or screen clips of a maximum of five minutes.
27. If selected, the entrant must provide OCDF with a secure online screener of the complete project for the festival to make available to members of the press and jury (if applicable).
28. Successful entries may also be used for private press screenings prior to the festival. In this case, the Festival would contact the entrant in advance.

30. All films selected for OCDF 2020 and screening as UK Premieres, with the exception of those screening in retrospective programmes, are eligible for awards. Shortlisted films will be determined by the Programming Team.
31. Awards will be decided and presented by a team of International Jury Members.

32. Entrant confirms and warrants required legal authority to submit the entry into the Festival and to use all music, images and content in the entry.

Overall Rating
  • Rolla Tahir

    One of the best festival teams I've ever met. Excellent programming, and opportunities to network and learn. I would definitely go again.

    September 2019
  • ZITA Erffa

    Best festival! The people who organize it are great, they have very interesting panels and good films! Met a lot of nice people there!

    March 2019
  • Vincent Förster

    I had a really good time at OCDF. The focus of industry events on young and upcoming filmmakers' development was brilliant and the carefully curated and diverse programme was pushing the boundaries of the documentary form. Congrats for putting up this great, growing but still intimate festival and for having me being part of it! :)

    September 2018
  • david mcnulty

    Brilliant on all fronts. A PROPER festival, run by a brilliant and dedicated team who really care about storytelling.

    November 2017
  • Kees-Jan Husselman

    Very nice festival. Very good film programme and nice cinemas.

    September 2017