The RAI FILM FESTIVAL celebrates documentaries from around the globe that engage with themes of culture & society. It has a special focus on anthropological and ethnographic films. First held in 1985, and one of the longest-established in its field, the RAI FILM FESTIVAL serves as a leading forum for exploring the multiple relationships between documentary film-making, anthropology, visual culture, and the advocacy of cultural diversity and intercultural dialogue through film.

**UPDATE** Please note that due to the ongoing uncertainties around COVID-19, we have now decided to deliver the 17th RAI Film Festival 2021 as an online event (19-28 March 2021).

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

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 September 2018
(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, or by or in association with any member of the RAI Film Committee 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. In the absence of any such waiver, entries without payment cannot be considered.
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 in public 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. This calls for a brief synopsis of the film and a statement as to the potential contribution of the film to the fields of anthropology, archaeology, ethnography or the study of intangible culture
(b) a link and password to an on-line screener of the film. Please make sure the file is downloadable. If this is not possible, please send 2 DVD copies of the film. This should be sent by insured post or courier to the RAI Film Festival, 50 Fitzroy Street, London W1T 5BT.
(c) a production still or other publicity image that will work as a thumbnail image to accompany the eventual catalogue entry of the film. This should be uploaded through the submission form.
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. Submission of entries for the
4. 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 2021 at the latest. The deadline for submission of screening versions will be the end of February 2021.
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.
7. After the conclusion of the Festival, the RAI will prepare an international travelling version to be screened at the University of Southern California Dornsife in Los Angeles, USA and elsewhere. Filmmakers are invited to indicate on the submission form whether they would be in agreement that their film may be included in the Travelling Festival.
1. Filmmakers or their agents submitting films must cover all costs related to the delivery of preview and screening copies to the RAI Festival office at 50 Fitzroy St, London W1T 5BT
2. It is most important that films from overseas should be sent by insured postage only.
3. The RAI will not be responsible for any customs charges, freight or demurrage charges or any other charges incurred by entrants who failed to follow the submissions procedure laid down herein.
4. 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.
5. The RAI will however cover costs of returning the screening copies. These will be sent by insured airmail to the address from which they were submitted.
6. The RAI will take every reasonable care to protect films submitted. However, the RAI will not be responsible for any loss or damage to films however caused. Entrants are advised to insure their films against loss or damage.
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, but the judges are empowered to recognise any eligible film submitted, even if it has not been shortlisted.
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
  • 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
  • André Luís Lopes Neves

    It was a really honour for our film to be screened and awarded in this great and beautiful festival. Although our film was censured in other big anthropology film festival, RAI gave us all the acknowledgement we could expect. We totally recommend this film festival, specially for those ones really interested in watching challenging perspectives on the western world.

    April 2021
  • Nina Ross

    One of my favourite film festivals, have been multiple times. Was an absolute honour for my film to be screened. They did a fantastic job of transitioning to remote screenings and brilliant communication as well as interesting discussions. Cannot recommend this festival enough.

    April 2021