There are as many ways to tell stories in film as there are filmmakers. Animation, color, music, archives, silence, laughter, reenactment … an endless palette of choices. Founded in 2007 newly minted Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival boldly curated 44 films and craft conversations that first year. They primarily brought into focus a wealth of talented filmmakers from Sonoma County and the greater San Francisco Bay Area.

Nearly 700 titles from 62 countries were submitted to SDFF 2023. 63 films were programmed, attended by 93 filmmakers and an impressive audience both in-person and via streaming. A Curtain Raiser event began the in-person festivities early in the week featuring "Dusty and Stones", a country music story about a duo from the Kingdom of Eswatini, followed by line dancing & great grub. Opening night’s "Exposure" by Holly Morris took us to the disappearing Arctic with a cadre of women who challenged every cell of their being in a quest for self and sisterhood. The afterparty warmed us all.

Submissions to SDFF 2025 are open to anyone, from every part of the world. Films are chosen for excellence in craft, character, storytelling and authenticity. We relish diversity in all its forms, colors and capacities. Attending filmmakers often comment they come to see films here that they can’t find anywhere else.

Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival is an Oscar® qualifying Film Festival for the short form.

Independent non-fiction filmmakers are our rock stars. Respect for your work includes a fair evaluation. Every entry that comes through our open submission window is watched, from beginning to end, by a minimum of 3 screeners. Alumni of SDFF pay no future submission fees.

Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival is proudly progressive, often featuring spotlights on social justice, journalism and hybrid content. We continue to encourage and provide equal opportunity for filmmakers through open calls for entry; explore what it’s like for any life to wake to its existence.

Take some time to see if your film might fit this Festival. The Documentary film community knows us. Ask around. Here is the experience of a Director who was with us recently:

⬌ What makes a film festival great? Well, there are many answers to that, and some are logistical, have to do with panels, number of screenings, etc. but there is always a certain je ne sais quoi that sends a festival into an entirely different realm. Your festival has that. Somehow when you add up the films, the theaters, panels, and the volunteers and their endless smiles and patience, and the filmmakers in attendance, you come up with a weekend that feeds the heart and soul. That is what you accomplished. Thank you. ⬌

Awards & Prizes
Jury Award Feature: $1,000 - 40 minutes & over
Jury Award Short: $TBD - 10-39 minutes
Jury Award Mini-Doc: $TBD - Under 10 minutes
Audience Award: TBD - Feature
Audience Award: TBD - Short

All films selected for SDFF are considered eligible for competition except those titles curated and invited for special programs.

⬌ Submission Requirements:
Submission fees are non-refundable. They offset a portion of our administrative costs in bringing you and your audience together.
Passwords must not be changed until the Festival closes all in-person and streamed programs.
We do not accept rough cuts. Your work is judged as what it is, not what it could be.
Each accepted film may be screened more than once during the Festival. Programming is at the discretion of Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival.
Films of any completion date are eligible for submission. Accepted films must not have been publicly screened anywhere in Northern California* within 60 days prior to the festival start date. *Excludes films curated for special programs.

⬌ Exhibition Formats:
SDFF has multiple screening venues in Sebastopol. Some require DCP; others do not use DCPs . You will be informed of the required screening format when the program is locked.
Foreign language films must be made available with English subtitles.
By entering your film, you agree to provide compatible exhibition format(s) at least 30 days before the start date of the festival to give SDFF print traffic manager time to QC your doc.

⬌ The title of your film must be on all shipping materials.
Before sending your media, please verify that your film plays correctly. Do not include menus, trailers and other special features.
Most films can be delivered via digital transfer. You can also ship your film file to us on hard drive/flash drive. SDFF will not pay shipping costs to or from the festival. If you want any materials returned or shipped on to another address, please provide postage with a pre-addressed forwarding label for your shipping container.

⬌ Communication:
Each entry needs to include the following contact information:
➦ Director: Full name, email address, phone number, postal mailing address
➦ Rights Holder [if different]: company name; contact name, email address, phone number, postal mailing address.
➦ Distributor Contact: company name, contact name, email address, department, phone number, postal mailing address.

You are responsible for updating SDFF directly regarding any change to your contact information. Ensure that emails from or FilmFreeway are not blocked by spam filters.

⬌ Deadlines:
All deadlines are firm.
Filmmaker Agreement to Terms of Entry:
By submitting this work, Filmmakers understand and agree to the following:
•If accepted and agreed to programming within SDFF 2025, filmmakers will not withdraw their film(s) from SDFF.
•Filmmakers have ownership or control of the copyright and are duly authorized to submit this film to Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival.
•Should ownership or rights to your film change, this agreement to screen at the Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival, will be honored, upheld and not be infringed.
•Upon selection for screening at SDFF up to two minutes of footage from each film and materials accompanying selected entry may be used for promotional purposes.

Overall Rating
  • Thank you Sebastopol for screening our awesome client Art & Pep (dir. Mercedes Kane) ❤️💚💙

    May 2023
  • Nora Jacobson

    This is a wonderful film festival. The volunteers were stellar. I enjoyed the experience tremendously.

    May 2023
  • Annie Leclair

    Heartfelt thanks to the lovely and passionate team at the Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival! It has been a real privilege to have "Grounded" exposed and nominated for the jury's award amongst such incredible films, panels and crowds! Really looking forward to experiencing in person the next edition!!

    April 2023
  • Debi Cornwall

    It was a joy to attend the Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival with my short, Jade Helm. I found the team very organized, communication clear and helpful, and a strong program.

    March 2023
  • Michelle Docter

    What a sweet festival! From the moment my film was accepted I felt taken care of and valued. The festival itself was so joyful and it was great to see the community come together to watch beautiful films and talk to the filmmakers after. So honored to be part of the 2023 festival!

    March 2023