Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival is a bridge for independent non-fiction filmmakers to reach as wide an audience as possible. This is our 13th year of exhibiting non-fiction work of independent filmmakers. Each film programmed for SDFF is a signature of excellence in craft, character and storytelling. 

We are driven by an immense curiosity to learn and understand the lives of others, lives different in experience and age from our own.  We need documentaries in our lives now more than ever. They are the touchstones of reality from the past and present that can guide us into an enlightened future.

SDFF 2020, an iconic program of Sebastopol Center for the Arts, continues its tradition of highlighting film as art blending exquisite story and craft. There are topical panels made up of attending filmmakers who focus on filmmaking skills and issues. Docs In Progress offers Peer Pitch West: an opportunity to give documentary pitches a test run in a supportive environment with fellow filmmakers providing feedback. SDFF 2019 hosted Peer Pitch for a 2-day session making us the West Coast hub for this Docs In Progress mainstay.

Sebastopol is in Sonoma County, California. On a good day, we’re only an hour north of San Francisco. We are a mix of small town folk, organic farmers, prize-winning vintners, environmentalists, old hippies and more artists per acre than most. We’re curious, engaged, opinionated and welcoming to all. Take some time to see if this is the Festival that fits your film. The Documentary film community knows us. Ask around.

Here is the experience of one Director:

"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."

Jury Award Feature: 40 minutes & over
Jury Award Short: 10-39 minutes
Jury Award Mini-Doc: Under 10 minutes
Audience Award: Feature
Audience Award: Short

If accepted for screening, your film will screen 26 – 29 March 2020 at the Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival.

Films of any completion date are eligible for submission. However, accepted films must not have been shown commercially anywhere in Northern California* prior to the festival.

*Excludes films curated for special programs

- FilmFreeway and its video player;
- Vimeo with its current password protected private link;
- YouTube as an unlisted link.
Passwords must not be changed until submissions have closed and notification of program films is announced.

If you absolutely cannot upload your film please email programming@sebastopolfilm.org for instructions on mailing a physical screener.

We do not accept rough cuts, subsequent cuts or more complete versions of submitted films, therefore changing or updating the originally submitted link is not accepted.

Each accepted film may be screened more than once during the Festival. It can be selected and exhibited once again during Best of the Fest, a series of monthly screenings following SDFF 2020, until year’s end.

There are no fee waivers. We are sensitive to this issue and keep our fees low. They offset a portion of our administrative costs in bringing you and your audience together.

Exhibition Formats:
Acceptable exhibition formats are QuickTime or ProRes files which can be delivered as a download link or mailed to SDFF on a SD card, flash drive or hard drive. If you have a DCP version of your film we will need a digital file backup copy (QuickTime or ProRes file) for your film as well. By entering your film, you agree to provide compatible exhibition format(s) at least 40 days before the start date of the festival to give SDFF print traffic manager time to QC your doc.

Before sending your media, please verify that your film plays correctly. Do not include menus, trailers and other special features.

Foreign language films must be made available with English subtitles.

All entry deadlines are postmark deadlines. Entries postmarked after the final deadline might not be considered. Submission fees are non-refundable.

Each entry, by any means, needs to include the following contact information:

Director: Full name, email address, phone number, mailing address
Rights Holder [if different]: Full name, email address, phone number, mailing address
Distributor Contact: Full Name, email address, department, phone number, mailing address

You are responsible for updating SDFF directly regarding any change to your contact information and ensuring that emails from programming@sebastopolfilm.org are not blocked by spam filters.

By submitting this documentary, I understand that I am agreeing to the following:
I own or control the copyright and am duly authorized to submit this film to Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival 2020. Should ownership or rights to my film change, this agreement to screen at the Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival 2020, will be upheld and not be infringed.

If accepted, I will not withdraw my film from SDFF 2020. Upon selection for screening at SDFF 2020 up to two minutes of footage from the film and materials accompanying my entry may be used for promotional purposes.

Overall Rating
  • Jan Millsapps

    One of my best-ever festival experiences. The staff, including many volunteers, is gracious and generous with their time and expertise. They support and value the filmmakers from start to finish. Screenings were well organized and clearly publicized, and films I saw there were excellent.

    April 2019
  • David Auerbach

    I loved being at the Festival with my short documentary. I stayed with a lovely cinephile host family, saw some inspiring films and made some new friends among the international and local film community. I hope I can come back. Thank you SDFF!

    April 2019
  • Radu Sava

    We had a blast at the festival. The workshops with top professionals were very inspiring. Our hosts were very generous. We made a lot of new filmmaker friends.

    April 2019
  • Deborah Craig

    I wasn't able to be there because of a scheduling conflict, but had a great experience working with festival. Everyone was quick to respond, friendly, supportive and helpful. One of my film participants was there at the festival and was made to feel very welcome. Thanks to all of you for your great work!

    April 2019
  • Annie O'Neil

    An absolutely wonderful film festival! I highly recommend you go if you are accepted. Great films, great filmmakers, and wonderful hosts!

    October 2018