The RAI Film Festival is a biennial international event celebrating the best in documentary filmmaking from around the globe. Established in 1985 by the Royal Anthropological Institute (UK), the RAI Film Festival showcases new work from academic anthropologists and related disciplines from all levels of experience from students to professionals. It looks for fearless films that ask difficult questions, build bridges, seek redress and promote social justice and dialogue.
Our strength lies in providing a leading showcase for the best in groundbreaking and innovative anthropological documentary filmmaking from around the world. Our mission is to support the role of film within anthropology, to champion the work of filmmakers and foster a thriving and inclusive community. We feature filmmakers who find creative ways to explore our shared humanity to shine a light on people, places and stories that are too often lost in the spotlight of global media.

The RAI Film Festival runs a series of competitive awards to celebrate filmmakers of cutting-edge documentaries while also offering an inclusive and nurturing environment to actively encourage and mentor first-time and student filmmakers. It also seeks to push at the established conventions of documentary film to explore new, creative and multimodal approaches to form, narrative, collaboration and reflexivity in filmmaking.

With the support of leading academic partners from major international universities, we offer workshops, masterclasses, a conference, work-in-progress sessions, and retrospectives. We aim to maximize discovery and discussion around films and other multimodal productions from an anthropological, artistic, historical, and educational point of view.

We are pleased to work in partnership with The British Forum for Ethnomusicology (BFE) on the Ethnomusicology Film Prize. The BFE aims to advance the study of musical life in its full richness and diversity. It provides a forum for sharing research through conferences and study days and the publication of the journal "Ethnomusicology Forum".

The 2021 and 2023 editions of the RAI Film Festival are archived here:

This time our festival will take place both in person from 27-30 March 2025 at the Watershed Cinema and the Arnolfini Arts Centre and Gallery in Bristol, UK- an official UNESCO City of Film. After this our festival films will be available for streaming throughout the month of April 2025.

The RAI Festival assigns 4 prizes and 4 awards: RAI Film Prize; RAI Short Film Prize; Basil Wright Prize; Wiley Blackwell Student Prize; Audience Prize; Lifetime Achievement Award, President’s Award, Richard Werbner Award for Visual Ethnography and the Ethnomusicology Film Award.
Read about them and past winners here:

I. Terms and conditions for entry*
* The term film is used here in reference to both film and video.
1. Films submitted for any of the Film Prizes must meet all the following key conditions:
(a) they make a significant contribution to the fields of anthropology, archaeology, ethnography or the study of intangible culture. However, they may be films made for either specialist or more general public audiences.
(b) they were first released in public on or after 1 October 2022
(c) they are in English and/or carry English subtitles
2. Films submitted for the Wiley-Blackwell Student Prize must have been completed while the director was enrolled in a bona fide educational institution.
3. Films produced by or in association with the Institute will not be considered eligible for the prizes but may be submitted for screening out of competition.
4. Any entry which has previously been submitted for an RAI prize will not be eligible.

5. Entry Fees:
Upon written request, these fees may be waived in genuine cases of hardship.

The RAI Film Committee will set up a pre-selection panel to identify a shortlist of films that will be screened at the Festival and where they will be judged by a separate panel of judges.
1. For the purposes of pre-selection, filmmakers or their agents are asked to submit the following:
(a) a completed on-line submission form.
Please make sure the online screener is downloadable. If this is not possible, please send digital film files (ProRes, mp4, .mov). This should be sent to
2. The RAI Film Festival does not pay any screening fees to films that are selected for any of the Prizes.
3. Prizes will be awarded to single films whether they have been made as stand-alone films or as part of a series. If a film has been made as part of a series, a brief account of its context within the series should be included in the on-line submission.
4. Submission of entries for the Wiley-Blackwell Student Film Prize must be accompanied by evidence of the student status of the director at the time of the completion of the film.
5. The makers of films selected for screening at the Festival will be invited to send a screening copy of the film in one of the approved formats. Details will be communicated to the selected candidates via email. This final selection will be announced by 15 January 2025 at the latest. The deadline for submission of screening versions will be the 15 February 2025.
6. The RAI will have the right to show any film submitted at the Festival. Additionally, extracts of no more than 4 minutes may be shown on television/web with a view to promoting the Festival.
1. Filmmakers or their agents submitting films must cover all costs related to the delivery of preview and screening copies to RAI Film.
2. Unless otherwise advised, the RAI will retain all materials submitted for pre-selection purposes for inclusion of its research collection / video archive where it will be used for internal, non-public screening purposes only.

II Terms and conditions governing the award of prizes
1. There will be a panel of judges appointed by the RAI Film Committee.
2. Pre-selection of a shortlist of films for screening will be undertaken in advance of the event by a panel nominated by the Film Committee.
3. All entries, including student submissions, will be eligible for both the RAI and Basil Wright Prizes, and if of appropriate subject matter and length, also for the RAI Short Film Prize, the Richard Werbner Award for Visual Ethnography, or the Ethnomusicology Film Award. All films will also be eligible for the Audience Prize.
4. Prizes will be awarded to the director(s) of the winning film, whether they are working on their own behalf or as part of a television company or other organisation.
5. In assessing the films, the judges will give greater weight to the anthropological content and visual merit than to the technical expertise or resources with which the films are made. This will be of particular importance in adjudication of the Wiley-Blackwell Student Film Prize.
6. In exceptional circumstances, the judges may seek assessments of any of the films from outside assessors whom they deem to be appropriately qualified.
7. The judges may divide the prizes and they may also give commendations to films not awarded a prize. However, judges are urged not to divide prizes unless they really cannot agree on an outright winner. Nor should they award more than two commendations in relation to any one prize.
8. No film may be awarded more than one prize. The only exception here is the Audience Prize, which may be awarded to a film that has also won one of the prizes adjudicated by the panel of judges.
9. The RAI does not commit itself to award prizes if in the opinion of the judges the quality of the films submitted is not sufficiently high.
10. One filmmaker associated with each production shortlisted for competitive screening will be offered a free pass to the entire Festival. Although the organizers welcome and encourage the attendance of filmmakers at the Festival, we regret that it is not possible to reimburse accommodation, subsistence or travel expenses.
The submission of a film/video to the RAI Film Festival implies the acceptance of these terms and conditions. The decision of the RAI Film Committee on any matter relating to the interpretation of these terms and conditions shall be final.

Overall Rating
  • Catalina Tesar

    It was very generous of the 2023 edition of the festival to award our film an important prize for visual anthropology. I really appreciated the dedication of the jury and the selection process. There were great films available to watch on line. The downside of the 2023 edition was the hybrid format (yet better than exclusively on line) and the geo-blocked access of several of the films I really wanted to watch. Otherwise, great atmosphere, I felt honored to be part of the festival!

    April 2023
  • Guangli LIU

    Thanks for having my work in the festival !

    April 2023
  • RAI Festival is always my favorite ethno film fest. 2021 is my third time participated in the festival. RAI IFF does not look for orthodox ethnofilms, instead of films that push the genre.

    June 2021
  • Dana Rappoport

    Wonderful team, incredible selection. Humanity and expertise at the same time.

    June 2021
  • My first time at the festival, showing my feature doc I Am Belmaya. Sadly I didn't get to feel the atmosphere in person, as it was a virtual event - but considering the online constrictions, I felt very connected. I enjoyed participating in the 'Wonder' social space - where I bumped into some of the same faces over several days, so it was as near as it gets to a true festival experience. The programme of round table talks and Q&As was vast and really impressive, and there were lots of fantastic films offering a window on all cultures of the world. Very much look forward to attending future festivals in person! Thank you so much to all the organisers - an amazing achievement.

    April 2021