The Matsalu Nature Film Festival (MAFF) is an annual nature film event held in Estonia. It has been named after the nearby Matsalu National Park, which is one of the largest bird sanctuaries in Europe. MAFF is organized by the Matsalu Nature Film Festival non-profit organization in cooperation with the Lääneranna municipal government. The festival promotes nature-oriented and sustainable ways of life and respect for the nature-connected traditions of indigenous people. It showcases a variety of new international documentaries about wildlife, conservation and the environment that inspire, inform and ignite change.

Traditionally, the festival features various art and nature photography exhibitions, photo presentations and meetings of both professional and amateur photographers. The program includes also screenings, activities and workshops for schoolchildren, roundtable discussions on different nature-related topics and other cultural events.

MAFF takes place in the tiny town of Lihula in Western Estonia. A selection of films are shown all over Estonia.

🌿 Festival Grand Prix
🌿 Best Director (one in each category)
🌿 Best Cinematography (one in each category)
🌿 Best Editing (one in each category)
🌿 Special Jury Prize (one in each category)
🌿 Special Mentions
🌿 Audience Award
🌿 Special Prizes

The 19th MAFF call for entries is open from January 1st to May 1st 2021.

MAFF considers creative documentaries (15+ min) completed after January 1, 2019. The festival does not accept fiction.

Films can be submitted in one of two categories:
◾ NATURE - documentaries that depict the natural world in its diversity.
◾ MAN AND NATURE - documentaries that depict the relationship and balance between nature and humanity.

Films may have been previously entered in other, similar festivals.

Films that have been submitted for consideration in previous years are not eligible, not even if the film has changed significantly since the last time it was submitted.

The number of entries by one author is not limited.

Participation at the festival is free of charge.

The festival does not pay any screening fee to entrants.

Entrant guarantees that third parties have no claim on the submitted films.

Acceptable preview screener must be a private/password-protected and downloadable MP4 or MOV (max 5 GB) file of the English version. The festival does not accept films that are free to view online.

It is advisable also subtitle films if they are spoken in English which is hard to grasp for non-native speakers, i.e. an accent or slang.

Each entry must be accompanied by the items below:
◾ 3 publicity stills from the film
◾ full production credits
◾ director's/presenter's contact (e-mail & postal address)
◾ synopsis max 100 words
◾ trailer or teaser (YouTube or Vimeo link)

It is important to enter your films as early as possible! The festival is not in obligation to view late entries! 

Selection Process

The Selection Committee appointed by the festival will make the selection from the entries. MAFF selects up to a hundred films each year, divided into competition and regular programs.

Entrants will be notified via FilmFreeway of their selection or rejection to the festival by August 10, 2021. MAFF is under no obligation to provide comments or feedback regarding the submitted film to the applicant or any other representative of the submitted film.

Upon selection of a film, the festival will contact the applicant via FilmFreeway and will request to fill a binding entry form. Participant shall not withdraw the film from the program once the selection is confirmed with the binding form.

Finalists will be selected from among the official selection. They will be informed about the selection via FilmFreeway. All competing films will be translated into Estonian. For purposes of translation each competing film must be accompanied by the items below:
◾ time-cued subtitle file in English either in .srt or .txt (or timecoded dialogue list)
◾ list of species in Latin (if any)

Non-competing films will be divided into regular programs. The films will be screened in English or in their original language and with English subtitles.

The full list of films admitted to the program will be published on the festival website by September 1, 2021.

Full details on all films and program information will be announced on the festival website by September 10, 2021.

Competing films are judged by an international jury of six members, who are filmmakers and nature experts. The jury will award the following prizes:
◾ Festival Grand Prix for the Best Film (Grant of 3000 Euros)
◾ Best Director (one in each category)
◾ Best Cinematography (one in each category)
◾ Best Editing (one in each category)
◾ Special Jury Prize (one in each category)
◾ Special Mentions

All participants will receive a participation certificate.

Screening and Promotion

The screening copies may be digital files, such as MP4 and MOV files.

All screening copies must reach the festival by August 20, 2021 at the latest.

All films selected to the program will be screened only at the festival events. Any additional screenings outside the festival events shall require a separate prior consent expressed by the producer or distributor.

Participant consents to the organizers publishing information about the film on the festival website as well as in all printed festival (such as the catalogue, the program, leaflets, etc.) and press materials.

Participant consents for noncommercial festival purposes, media, television stations and partner Internet portals may be granted access to film materials (stills, information), trailers or film excerpts of a max 3 minutes.

All screening copies will remain in the festival archives and will be exclusively used for the festival promotional events and in educational purposes.

Accommodation Expenses

With each film selected to the competition program one person - director, producer, cinematographer, distributor or official representative - is invited to attend the festival. The organizers will cover the costs for accommodation during the festival and transfers between Tallinn and Lihula. Contributions to travelling expenses are not included in the payments made to participants.

Final Provisions

Copyright: Submitting the films to the festival the participants are simultaneously agreed to permit entries to be shown during the festival without any charge to the festival organizers.

Overall Rating
  • Hilco Jansma

    It's a great and well organized film festival that gives it's visitors, participants, volunteers and filmmakers a warm welcome. It unites nature documentary filmmakers from all over the world and gives them a well deserved stage.

    November 2020
    Response from festival:

    Thank you Hilco Jansma so much for taking the time to leave us such a wonderful review! We look forward to seeing you again!

  • Прекрасный фестиваль в прекрасном месте! Очень отзывчивые организаторы! Всех благ фестивалю!

    October 2020
    Response from festival:

    Thank you Aleksei Golovkov! We greatly appreciate your participation and kind words!

  • Susan Scott

    Good communication from the festival team and so lovely that they give the selected films a participation certificate, nice touch!

    July 2020
    Response from festival:

    Thank you Susan Scott for your positive feedback!

  • Mijin Lee

    It was fantastic film festival and everyone was soooo friendly!

    December 2019
    Response from festival:

    Thank you Mijin Lee for your participation and kind words!

  • Bruno Chatelin

    Strongly recommending, everything was top notch professional, and I am not saying only because our film won grand prix and audience winner. Thank you Matsalu Bruno Chatelin curator of the best for fests.

    September 2019
    Response from festival:

    Thank you Bruno Chatelin for your kind words!