The Society for Visual Anthropology screens the best of ethnographic film at the annual SVA Film & Media Festival. The Festival is held as part of the American Anthropological Association (AAA) Annual Meeting, giving filmmakers and distributors broad access to an audience of thousands of anthropologists, educators, and other attendees.

The 2023 AAA meeting will be held jointly with the Canadian Anthropology Society/société canadienne d’anthropologie (CASCA) at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre in Toronto, Canada. This will be the in-person venue for the SVA Film & Media Festival as well. The 2023 conference theme is "Transitions."

Ethnographic film and media can be defined broadly as works that emerge through ethnographic fieldwork or that use, are informed by, illustrate, or evoke concepts and principles of anthropological theory, methods, or practice.

For more information, please visit:
− Society for Visual Anthropology:
− SVA Film & Media Festival:
− American Anthropology Association:
− AAA/CASCA Annual meeting (Nov 15-19, 2023):

2023 SVA Film & Media Festival Co-Directors:
Dr. Jennifer Cool (University of Southern California)
Dr. Christian Hammons (University of Colorado Boulder)

The Jean Rouch Award recognizes films that make exemplary use of ethnofiction techniques or that are produced in a collaborative manner embodying the spirit of Rouch's "anthropologie partagée" (shared anthropology).

The Best Feature award recognizes the film longer than 45 minutes that best embodies the ethnographic inquiry and cinematic craft celebrated through the Festival.

The Best Short award recognizes the film shorter than 45 minutes that best embodies the ethnographic inquiry and cinematic craft celebrated through the Festival.

The Best Student Film award recognizes the most outstanding film made by a student enrolled in an accredited educational institution.

The Best Interactive Media award recognizes media work—including VR installations, iDocs, websites, games, podcasts, and other media—that best embodies the creative and collaborative spirit of multimodal anthropologies.

In some years, Special Mentions may be awarded in each category to recognize the merit of exceptional work that advances visual anthropology and ethnographic filmmaking.

Categories, Origin, Premiere and Distribution Status

– A feature is a film with a running of time of more than 45 minutes.
– A short is a film with a running time of less than 45 minutes.
– Interactive media is any media work other than a film, including VR installations, iDocs, websites, games, and podcasts.

All submissions must have been completed on or after January 1, 2020. Projects may originate from anywhere in the world. There is no premiere requirement and projects that already have distribution may be submitted.

While the vast majority of submissions are documentaries, the festival accepts experimental, narrative, and other film genres as long as they fall within the broad category of ethnographic media.

Students & SVA Members

Special consideration and fee reductions may be given for works created by students and current members of the Society for Visual Anthropology.

Student submissions must have been completed while the filmmaker was enrolled in an accredited educational institution. Proof of student status may be requested. Submissions in noncompliance may be disqualified without refund.

SVA member submissions must have a Society for Visual Anthropology member in a key production role (usually producer or director) or as the central narrator or interlocutor in the film. SVA members may submit films to any category for a reduced fee upon request. Submissions in noncompliance may be disqualified without refund.


The festival jury—comprised of five members who are anthropologists, filmmakers, and/or film scholars—selects work to be included in the festival on the basis of anthropological relevance and value to the field. Low budget and shorter works receive the same careful attention as high budget and longer works.

Notification of Acceptance

Filmmakers will be notified about the status of their submissions from the email address no later than September 1, 2023.

All entries must be submitted on FilmFreeway. All correspondence must include the FilmFreeway tracking number.

Overall Rating
  • The SVAFMF was my first-ever in-person film fest. I met so many people within my field and had the honor of being presented alongside so many filmmakers with far more experience. The organizers worked hard to make the event stand out among the chaos that is the AAA convention. The QA moderators did a great job at engaging the filmmakers with the audience and the ladies working the projectors worked extremely hard at making the fest run for 8 hours a day for its 4 day run. I will remember this fest forever and I hope to return to it in the future.

    November 2022
  • Juan Castrillon

    This year's festival was a great opportunity to meet scholars and creators I always wanted to talk to. Very rich selection of audiovisual works!

    February 2022
  • it was great experience.Thank you very much.

    November 2021
  • pretty much a complete failure. No clear communication before and during the festival. an organised panel without prior information or questions shared that at the end didn't even take place because the conveners did not show up (or were late for over 30min). I had expected more...

    November 2021
  • Mohammad Salimirad

    I am very happy that my film was screened at this festival.

    November 2021