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 deepen, inspire 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 also includes 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 is shown all over Estonia.

🌿 Grand Prix for the Best Film
🌿 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 Mention (one in each category)
🌿 Audience Award
🌿 Special Prizes

MAFF considers creative documentaries (15 minutes and over) completed after January 1st, 2022. 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.
However, it is up to the festival to decide for which category the entry will qualify.

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 submission to the festival is free of charge.
The festival does not pay screening fees to entrants for the screening of their films.

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

Acceptable preview screener must be a private/password-protected 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 1st, 2024. 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.

Full details on all films and program information will be announced on the festival website by September 10th, 2024.

Competing films are judged by an international jury of six members, who are filmmakers and nature experts. The jury will award the following prizes:
◾ Grand Prix for the Best Film (Grant of 5000 Euros)
◾ Best Director (Grant of 1000 Euros in each category)
◾ Best Cinematography (Grant of 1000 Euros in each category)
◾ Best Editing (one in each category)
◾ Special Jury Prize (one in each category)
◾ Special Mention (one in each category)

Both competing and non-competing films are nominated for:
◾ Audience Award
◾ Special Prizes

All participants will receive a participation certificate.

Screening and Promotion

All films selected for the festival must be provided with English subtitles unless they are already in English. The accepted screening formats for all films in competition and non-competition sections are MP4 or MOV.

All screening copies must reach the festival by August 30th, 2024 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 promotional or educational purposes of the festival.

Film Delegations

With each film selected to the festival one person - director, producer, cinematographer 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. The festival does not offer compensation for travel expenses.

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
  • Thanks for selecting my Film Cucurrucu - The Pigeon Rescuers. It's such a lovely festival and I had a great experience spending time in Estonia

    November 2023

    I was very happy to screen the documentary <Water celery> made in Korea. I'll never forget it.♡

    November 2022
  • Tanja Brzakovic

    Small festival with a great films and incredible hospitality. We enjoyed seeing very good cinema works, having chance to meet other professionals and exchange thoughts. Thank you for having us, it was a great pleasure!

    October 2022
  • emma baus

    Great festival team and great audience ! It was a wonderful experience to discover Estonia alongside all my fellow filmakers new friends. Hope to come back in the future !

    October 2022
  • Andrea Odezynska

    I'm happy that "Return Sasyk to the Sea" (Ukraine) was a part of this very special film festival. A big thank you to the MAFF 2022 team!

    October 2022