Better Cities Film Festival is the world’s premiere film festival about cities, towns, and neighborhoods. In October 2024, we will host our 11th anniversary edition of our annual flagship festival in Detroit, MI.

It is a festival of stories about places - about how places shape our lives, and about how we can make our cities, towns and neighborhoods better places for everyone to live, work and play.

We honor the top films with awards, and screen those films to a vast audience around the world through our flagship event (a four-day film festival in Detroit, Michigan), and through satellite screening events in a growing number of host cities across the world (from small towns like Laredo and Oxnard, to international hotspots like Shen Zen and Milan).

Beginning in 2020, we formed a unique partnership with the United Nations to create the UN-HABITAT BETTER CITIES FILM FESTIVAL, which brought the festival to Abu Dhabi, UAE for the Tenth Session of the World Urban Forum, the largest international conference on cities. Our partnership with UN-HABITAT will extend to bring the film festival to future global conferences and events in 2022 and 2023.

We accept films of any length and genre, that in some way relate to our theme. Past films have included stories relating to: architecture, bicycling, beekeeping, community life, street art & public art, main street, historic preservation, civic history, urban gardening, urban design, tactical urbanism, placemaking, sociology, economic development, environment, sustainability, ecology, transportation, mass transit, walkability, gentrification, housing, new urbanism, trains, subways, buses, stadiums, police stations, postal routes, parks, waterfront, rivers, murals, technology, innovation, racial equity and more.

Our roster of judges features influential thought leaders in urban design, architecture and film. Visit our official website to learn more.

Better Cities Film Festival attracts a highly-engaged niche audience of filmmakers, artists, activists, architects, authors, bicycle advocates, city lovers, community leaders, historians, journalists, ministers, mayors, politicians, urban planners, and everyday engaged citizens eager to improve their community.

Originally founded as the New Urbanism Film Festival in Hollywood in 2013, we announced our new name Better Cities Film Festival in 2019 and relocated the flagship event to Detroit. In 2020, we adapted to the pandemic with an online virtual festival, screening over 80 films from 26 countries during October.

In 2021, we re-established our live, in-person flagship festival in Detroit, Michigan, USA. Detroit is the poster child of urban revitalization, and living laboratory civic innovation and reinvention. Our 2021 Detroit festival combined film screenings with tours, tactical urbanism, happy hour film discussions, and creative placemaking events throughout the Motor City, culminating with an awards ceremony to honor the winning films and filmmakers.

Cash Prizes total over $1,000!

All Winners will receive:
Official Award Certificate
Official BCFF apparel
All Access Pass to the next BCFF flagship festival.


As used herein, the term ENTRY includes a film, an animation, a television (TV) pilot, a documentary, a web series of any type or kind, and/or a music video, stills, and combinations thereof.
BCFF means Better Cities Film Festival.

1. Film ENTRIES must be submitted online via
2. Each ENTRY will only be considered for BCFF screenings hosted after the corresponding deadline on FilmFreeway.
3. Films must be submitted to the proper length category and with the proper fee to be considered for the festival. Fees paid to an inappropriate category will not be returned.
4. All ENTRIES must be in English, subtitled, or dubbed into English.
5. All authors and/or owners of the ENTRIES including the films selected for screening at the festival grant BCFF a nonexclusive, global, royalty free right and license to use stills and excerpts of up to two minutes long for promotional purposes, online, at BCFF exhibitions, or at any exhibition promoting the BCFF. The authors and owners also grant to BCFF a nonexclusive, global, royalty free license and right to publicly display the films selected for screening.
6. Exceptions to the festival regulations must be authorized by the Festival Director of the BCFF.
7. Multiple entries are permissible, but each entry must be made separately via FilmFreeway.
8. Submissions sent as hard copies or regular mail will not be accepted or returned.
9. All fees are nonrefundable.
10. BCFF reserves, in its sole discretion, the right to refuse to consider any submission. In the event BCFF refuses to consider a submission no fees and no entry fees will not be returned or refunded.
11. Film ENTRIES may be screened more than once at BCFF or at any future BCFF event.
12. BCFF retains rights to screen all ENTRIES at any future BCFF event without compensation to the authors and owners without needing permission from the authors and owners.
13. All authors and all owners of the ENTRIES including film submissions waive the right to collect any screening fees from BCFF and waive the right to collect any other fees associated therewith.
I/We wish to have our film/animation/TV pilot/documentary/web series/music video/ entry(ies), collectively referred to ENTRIES included in the BCFF. If more than one (1) party signs this agreement as submitter, then reference to “I”, “me”, “my” throughout this agreement shall apply to each party; jointly and separately.
I hereby do grant BCFF, its festival director and producers a nonexclusive, global, royalty free license and rights to use stills and excerpts of any ENTRY up to two minutes long for promotional purposes, including but not limited to online, podcasts, BCFF trailers, BCFF website or BCFF sponsor websites, screening at BCFF exhibitions, or at any exhibition promoting the BCFF, and grant to BCFF a nonexclusive, global, royalty free license and rights to show for promotional purposes on television, on the BCFF website, twitter, and Facebook page, on sponsors’ websites, print and digital promotional material, press releases, etc., excerpts from the ENTRY and/or stills submitted by me with this application. No more than two minutes or up to the length of the trailer submitted by the filmmakers may be used.
I hereby do grant BCFF, its festival director and producers a nonexclusive, global, royalty free license and permission to use my entire ENTRY for public screening at BCFF film festival and BCFF events, including third party organizations, entities or persons producing an official BCFF screening or event, without having to compensate me, and without having obtain any consent from me, and without having to advise me.
I hereby do grant BCFF, its festival director and producers a nonexclusive, global, royalty-free license and permission to use my entire ENTRY for BCFF virtual screening events, including online streaming my ENTRY at BCFF virtual events.  (A virtual event, also known as an online event, virtual conference or livestream experience, is an event that involves people interacting in an online environment on the web, rather than meeting in a physical location).

BCFF may use excerpts from the ENTRY (limited to two minutes) to create promotional trailers and ads for BCFF, which may appear online, on television or at screening events. I waive any and all rights to compensation for and use by BCFF of the ENTRY for these promotional purposes.
All intellectual property ownership of all ENTRY remains with the personnel who contributed to the ENTRY. I still retain the right to sell, distribute, and exhibit my ENTRY elsewhere, including but not limited to other festivals and broadcast outlets. I own the intellectual property rights to all material submitted with application and that will be viewed at BCFF.
The nonexclusive, global, royalty free licensing and permission to use my entire ENTRY (as described in this agreement) exists in perpetuity. In the event that I sell my intellectual property rights in the ENTRY to another entity, I sell the rights to said intellectual property encumbered with this nonexclusive, global, royalty free license to the ENTRY. Thus, BCFF will still have the right to use my ENTRY even if I sell the intellectual property rights to another entity.
I understand that BCFF, its producers and sponsors are relying on this release and accordingly, I hereby irrevocably waive any and all rights to seek or obtain any injunction or other equitable relief against BCFF, its officers, agencies, employees and sponsors.
I warrant that the use of the rights granted here and of any material supplied by me/us will not violate the rights of any third party. I agree to defend, indemnify, and hold harmless BCFF, its officers, agencies, employees, and sponsors from any claims by third parties alleging that our content or material infringes on any third party’s rights. This Release and Hold Harmless Agreement shall bind my assigns and any representative.
This contract is the entire agreement between the parties hereto, and replaces and supersedes any prior agreement or understanding, verbal or written, with respect to the subject matter hereof. No amendment, addendum, modification or waiver of this contract or any portion hereof shall be valid unless contained in a writing signed by both parties hereto.
In consideration for this release and in consideration of permitting BCFF to use my ENTRY as detailed above, I receive the opportunity to have my ENTRY shown at BCFF and any future BCFF events. I accept and hereby do acknowledge that there is no promise of payment, in any form for likeness, image, biography, recording, equipment, or for any other contribution to us on this production.
I hereby certify that I am over eighteen years of age and competent to contract in my own name. If I am signing on behalf of an organization, I certify that I have authority to do so and that my signature binds the organization and its performers to all elements of this contract.
I have read the foregoing release and authorization and agreement, before affixing my signature below, and warrant that I fully understand the contents thereof.
I am authorized to sign and give consent for everyone (including but not limited to performers, writers, directors, technical crew, distributors) who contributed to all ENTRY(IES) and all materials submitted with this application to the Better Cities Film Festival.

Save yourself a headache and read these answers to our Frequently Asked Questions:
Q. Do you accept films completed prior to 2021?
A. We accept all films regardless of date filmed, completed, distributed, etc. Our mission is to curate the best films about urban design.
Q. I produced a series of videos on this issue, can I submit more than one in my series?
A. Yes! If you produced a web series or episodic piece about urban planning, please send it in. You can submit individual episodes as short film entries, or you can submit the entire series as a feature. If you submit as a feature, we’ll watch the whole series and consider it as a feature and also consider individual episodes as short films in the relevant categories.
Q. Can you waive my entry fee? I am a starving filmmaker / work for a good cause and I can’t afford the entry fee.
A. While we are fellow filmmakers and can completely relate, unfortunately we cannot waive any fees. It’s just not fair to all the other starving filmmakers. We do suggest submitting early to take advantage of the reduced fees.
Q. How will I know if you received my DVD?
A. We strongly discourage sending physical copies for consideration. If you have to submit through the mail, please contact us first. We’ll want to make sure your format is compatible with our players. This has been a problem in the past, so please message us and we will help you get your video to us.
Q. Will the DVDs be returned?
A. Nope.
Q. Can I submit more than one film?
A. Sure, you can submit a thousand films – as long as they all accompany their own entry form and fee.
Q. Am I eligible if I live outside the U.S.?
A. Absolutely! Submit it online using Please note that the film must be in English or have English subtitles.
Q. Can I submit a rough cut?
A. Yes, but the final version must be uploaded before the final deadline. We try to make accommodations for updated versions, but make no guarantees.
Q. Can I submit my film if I am under 18?
A. You can, if you have a parent or guardian submit it for you.
Q. Can I enter if my film has screened at other festivals or on the Internet?
A. Yes. And please let us know if you’ve won any awards!
Q. My film was made a while ago, can I still submit it?
A. Yes. We have no time limit on when it was made. As long as it is still relevant.
Q. Is the deadline ‘received by’ or ‘postmarked by’?
A. Received by. And seriously, submit it online.
Q. I have a film that I think might fit in the theme, but I am not sure. Can you preview it and tell me if I am wasting my entry fee?
A. Send us a link and we’ll take a look. Email us at We’ll be happy to watch a trailer or the first few minutes of your film and let you know if it fits.
Q. I just missed your deadline – am I screwed?
A. Email us at If we still have enough time to fairly review your project, then we may waive the deadline.
Q. How will I know if I am accepted in the festival?
A. We will notify you by email with a series of instructions arranging to get a screening copy of the film, film stills, a video trailer, press release, and how to tickets for you/your crew. The website will also send a notification but will not provide information or instructions regarding screenings.
Q. How will I know if I won the big contest?
A. We announce the winners on the final night of the festival. If you are not present, follow the hashtag #BCFF2022 for all the updates on the festival, including award winners.
Q. Do you offer any discounts on submissions?
Yes, we offer discounts for students, volunteers, previous years’ winners, CNU members, and members of sponsoring organizations. Email us for details.

Overall Rating
  • David Gantz

    A great festival run by passionate people. Josh is an incredibly communicative and involved organizer who really knows his stuff and works deeply with the community to bring the festival together. I'm honored to have been a part of it.

    January 2024
  • Brianne Turczynski

    Thank you for debuting my film, Not For Sale! Great venue at Wayne State University. The directors were informative and friendly and stayed in touch with me throughout the festival production answering all questions and concerns.

    January 2024
  • Gina Margillo

    The festival was extraordinary in that films became the launch point for greater discussions on issues of city planning, new urbanism, housing, zoning, etc Under the vision of it's incredible director, this was a warm and welcoming festival with a great selection of films and ample time for substantive learning, socializing and networking. Thank you for recognizing Overtown's Living Legacy in the mix.

    November 2023
  • Gustavo Bernal

    I had a great experience at the festival. Unfortunately, due to previous commitments, I couldn't attend. Besides that, my film won an award. Very grateful for that experience

    October 2023
  • It was amazing to participate with my student film at the Festival.
    As a Latin American imigrant in Canada I doubt a lot on myself.
    Being able to be Awarded For Best Student Short Doc was by far my best experience since I immigrated here.
    Thank you so much for the Festival for putting together so many beautiful stories of people that are working to make cities a better place.

    February 2023