SFFILM champions the world's finest films and filmmakers through programs anchored in and inspired by the spirit and values of the San Francisco Bay Area.
Founded in 1957, the San Francisco International Film Festival (SFFILM Festival) is the longest-running film festival in the Americas. Held each spring and highly anticipated by its loyal and passionate audiences, the Festival is refreshingly intimate for a festival of its size and scope, and traditionally combines a range of marquee premieres, international competitions, compelling documentaries, new digital media work, live music performances, and star-studded red carpet events.
SFFILM is currently moving forward with planning its Festival for April 2021 as a hybrid in-person and online event, in accordance with all active health and safety recommendations from local, state, and federal officials. Exact dates, venue footprint, and in-person event structure are all subject to some change based on the realities of producing a safe and accessible film festival at that time.
Opportunities for Filmmakers
Since 1991, SFFILM Education’s Schools at the Festival program has provided the Bay Area educational community with the opportunity to experience stories from around the world. Schools at the Festival annually introduces thousands of students ages 6–18 and their teachers to international film and the art of filmmaking while promoting media literacy, deepening insights into other cultures, enhancing foreign language aptitude, developing critical thinking skills, and inspiring a lifelong appreciation of cinema. Festival filmmakers can participate via student screenings, school visits, hands-on workshops, and more.
SFFILM's year-round Artist Development programs provide significant financial and creative resources to independent narrative and documentary filmmakers from around the world through grants, fellowships, residencies and more. Since 2009, over $7.5 million has been awarded to more than 200 film projects in various stages of production. Festival filmmakers are invited to a series of industry talks and pitch sessions, and can meet with the SFFILM Makers team to discuss future projects and funding opportunities.
"Few festivals are more suited to their city than the SFFILM Festival. It’s clearly a festival programmed by those who love film for people who love film.” — Variety
Golden Gate Awards Competition
The Golden Gate Awards recognize the best of international and independent cinema by honoring excellence and superior innovation in narrative, documentary, shorts, experimental, animated, and youth produced work. In 2021, a total of $42,000 in cash awards will be awarded in a dozen categories.
The juried Golden Gate Awards include the New Directors Prize for a first narrative feature with a $3,500 cash prize, Best Documentary Feature with a $3,500 cash prize, and Best Bay Area Documentary Feature with a $2,000 cash prize. This year we are excited to announce the creation of a new Golden Gate Award for a Best Mid-Length Film (31–50 minutes) with a cash prize of $1,000.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences recognizes SFFILM Festival as a qualifying festival for their short film (live action, documentary and animated) competitions.
SFFILM Festival is a qualifying festival for the 12th annual Cinema Eye Honors for non-fiction filmmaking.
Audience Awards for Best Narrative and Documentary Features will also be presented, decided by audience ballot.
• All entries must have been completed on or after January 1, 2020.
• All filmmakers must provide accurate and complete information when submitting to the SFFILM Festival. SFFILM requires each filmmaker to include the following specifications:
- Filmmaker name, email, mailing address (city, state, zip code)
- Production credits
- Film language
- Run time
- Completion date
- Student project
- Youth Work submissions (You will be asked to send or upload photo ID with date of birth (proof of age 18 years and younger) to email@example.com
Incomplete application / entry forms will not be accepted and will need to be re-submitted.
• Feature films previously exhibited publicly in the Bay Area — either theatrically, at another local festival, or via television or internet broadcast — are not eligible for submission.
• Bay Area filmmakers (directors only, not production crew or cast) are eligible for entry fee discounts and additional Bay Area awards given in recognition of the rich variety of work that has established Northern California as a center of independent production. Bay Area awards are presented to a documentary feature film and two short films. To qualify for a Bay Area award, entries must have been made by a filmmaker who is a current resident of the San Francisco Bay Area (the area from Monterey to Mendocino: postal zip codes 93901 to 95457).
• The Festival is unable to waive entry fees or provide discounts beyond those indicated. Entry fees are not refundable. We encourage and urge all filmmakers to submit by the early deadline of October 19 before fees increase.
• You may submit any number of titles; however, a separate entry form, preview copy, and entry fee are required for each title. If the Festival determines a work is entered in the wrong category and needs to reassign it, any discrepancy in entry fees between the categories must be paid by the filmmaker.
• Narrative, documentary, and animated short films (under 30 minutes) can also be considered for inclusion in our popular Family Films program. Family Films should be suitable for ages 7 and up. Selections in this category engage and entertain the entire family. This program traditionally mixes emerging talent with established filmmakers such as Glen Keane, Bill Plympton, Cartoon Saloon, Aardman Animations, and Tonko House.
• Rough cuts or works-in-progress are accepted and reviewed. However, filmmakers are urged to submit as close to the final cut as possible. The Festival will not accept new versions of an entry unless requested by the programming staff.
• All entrants will be notified of the Festival’s decision by March 8, 2021.