Twelve Lions Film Festival is a four-day event showcasing quality independent film from around the world. Through film premieres, retrospectives, workshops, panels, meet and greets, and other networking events, we aim to further the careers of emerging filmmakers and to deepen the film lover’s appreciation of cinema in all its richness and diversity.

We founded Twelve Lions Film Festival to celebrate the art of film, to encourage emerging filmmakers, to challenge and entertain film lovers, and to support Kentucky’s growing film industry.

Twelve Lions Film Festival will bring a range of independent films and a gathering of filmmakers and film fans to Lexington, Kentucky from Thursday, 9/26/24 – Sunday, 9/29/24. All official selections are screened in the century-old Kentucky Theatre, a Beaux Arts movie palace in the heart of Lexington's vibrant arts and dining scene.

Stick around for Keeneland’s fall meet (starting on Friday, October 4) at that storied racetrack. Tour one or all of the 14 bourbon distilleries within just 45 miles of our downtown. Surrounded by more than 400 horse farms and miles upon miles of fence-lined pasture, we’re the Horse Capital of the World. Recently named one of Zagat’s 30 Most Exciting Food Cities in America, we’re the site of a culinary revolution. Take in the Kentucky River palisades at nearby Raven Run or experience world-class climbing at the Red River Gorge, one of Southern Living’s Seven Wonders of the South. We hope you’ll come for the films and stick around to check out all that Lexington and the surrounding areas have to offer.

$ 500 — Best Documentary
$ 500 — Best Narrative Feature
$ 250 — Best Narrative Short
Equipment Package — Best Student Film

Best Cast
Best Use of Music
Best Animated Short or Feature
Audience Choice
Honorable Mentions (2)

*All films are eligible unless already nominated for Best Documentary, Best Feature, Best Short or Best Student Film

1) We only accept submissions through FilmFreeway.
2) All films must be the original work of the filmmakers and all filmmakers must have the necessary rights. Films must have embedded English-language subtitles, where appropriate. The submission must include a brief film synopsis, a downloadable trailer, and poster in a 2 x 3 aspect ratio, all essential for promotional purposes.
3) Films must not have distribution. Films must be one-offs, not part of a series.
4) All decisions of programmers and jurors are final. All entries will be viewed and given equal consideration.
5) No entries and/or final selections will be returned.
6) We do not pay for any screening fees for any film that was submitted for review.
7) All submitted materials must include the FilmFreeway tracking number and additional information as listed in the General Rules.
8) Press Kit materials will be sent only upon notification of being officially selected. It is the sole responsibility of the filmmaker to send all materials listed. All materials can be picked up at the festival if filmmaker is attending. If you require your materials to be returned to you, a self-addressed pre-paid envelope must be sent to Twelve Lions Film Festival.
9) If selected as an Official Selection, projects are to be uploaded to the designated Twelve Lions Dropbox. A backup on thumb-drive or DVD/Bluray.
10) Exhibition copy of the film and marketing materials are to be sent per required specs once festival acceptance is announced. A letter and/or email will be sent to all those accepted with requirements and the date needed. IT IS THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE FILMMAKER TO SEND REQUIRED MATERIALS, PER SPECS SHEET, AT THE TIME GIVEN. IF FILMS AND MARKETING MATERIALS ARE NOT SENT IN TIME OR PER REQUESTED SPECS, TWELVE LIONS HAS THE RIGHT TO ELIMINATE THE FILM FROM THE FESTIVAL OR ADJUST THE SCREENING COPY ACCORDINGLY TO FIT OUR REQUIRED SPECS.
11) All entered films grant Twelve Lions Film Festival a non-exclusive limited use agreement to use selected portions of films chosen for competition, and/or use film promotional materials to promote the festival, including the rights to utilize any excerpt from any film submitted and accepted for exhibition for promotional purposes and/or on Twelve Lion's website. Filmmakers fully retain all rights, title and interest in their films and all intellectual Property.
12) Twelve Lions does not accept responsibility for damage or loss of materials. Please do not send us original or master copies.
13) By agreeing to these Terms and Conditions, you certify that you hold all necessary rights for the submission of this film and have read the regulations. Your submission is your acceptance of all the Terms and Conditions listed under these Rules and Terms.
14) Dates and guidelines subject to change without prior notice.

Overall Rating
  • Duncan Ragg

    I couldn't recommend Twelve Lions more highly. Wonderful communication, and a deep engagement with the film and the makers, supporting independent voices.

    November 2023
  • Steve Bailey

    Beautiful location. Great town. Hugely rewarding. Highly recommend.

    October 2023
  • Sara Mohazzebi

    We were very impressed with Twelve lions! The theater was gorgeous and it was very filmmaker friendly! The films were all incredible. We were honored to screen "Trying" at this festival! I can't believe it was only the first year!

    October 2023
  • This is how you launch a first year festival. Great communication. Awesome venue. Exciting events. I was very honored to have my film screen at the inaugural fest. Here's to many more!

    October 2023
  • 12 Lions first year and what a first year it was.

    We have been doing the circuit with our short for the last few months and I’m so happy that it wrapped up with the 12 Lions Film Festival.
    One thing I have come to realize over this experience is that without a real theatre, it is hard to host a quality film festival. Luckily the KY Theatre is a wonderful place to host a festival. It is a historic location in the heart of downtown Lexington with two wonderful theatres- the KY and State. The technical quality of the theatre allows films to be shown in a way that justifies the work filmmakers put into their stories.
    Another noteworthy aspect of our experience at Twelve Lions is that the festival is about supporting and promoting filmmakers. It’s about collaboration, forming connections, “networking”, and promoting young filmmakers. I say that because of the little things we noticed and appreciated:
    -The organizers were kind, hardworking, and communicative.
    -There were Q&A’s, panels, guest speakers, workshops. I hope this trend continues and improves in years to come. This is maybe the most important aspect for young filmmakers at festivals- knowledge, support, connections, critique, motivation.
    -Wonderful screening conditions. This is a big thing, and surprisingly has been overlooked by many festivals both regionally and nationally.
    -Printed and framed posters of films being premiered.
    -Social media presence that showcases filmmakers.
    -Wonderful awards that facilitate filmmakers future work.
    -Good promotion and ability to motivate interest and turnout. I look for this to improve.
    -Hosted in a wonderful city that is eager to embrace this type of festival.

    I look forward to 12 Lions growing and garnering more submissions so that it can continue to show top tier films. Submit y’all!
    Excited for the next year and am glad that this festival is happening- it is needed.

    October 2023