36 Best Short Film Festivals Beyond the A-List

The Best Film Festivals For Shorts, for Improved Odds of Selection.



In the shadow of the A-list’s spotlight lies a treasure of cinematic gems: where the heart and soul of short filmmaking thrives. These festivals, while sometimes overlooked in favor of their more famous counterparts, are where you’ll find the art form’s purest work.

The 36 best film festivals for shorts beyond the A-List are a curated selection designed to enrich your film’s festival path. They range from events barely whispered about in the media to burgeoning platforms that already have attention.

Each is a gateway to opportunities. They are there to elevate your filmmaking journey. What they have in common. Each festival treats their short film program as a featured attraction.

The 3 dozen best short film festivals beyond the A-List are composed of the following categories.

• Short film festivals dedicated only to short film.

• Online competitions and curated streaming platforms.

• U.S. film festivals that have notable short film programs.

• International film festivals that have notable short film programs.

Here they are. (listed alphabetically)

Best Short Film Festivals: Shorts Only

Canberra Short Film Festival – Australia

Held in the capital. This festival has become a key event in the Australian film scene over its 28-year history, attracting both emerging talents and established filmmakers. The Canberra Short Film Festival is an essential platform for short filmmakers in Australia. Showcasing a rich mix of local and international short films and offering an opportunity to connect with the Australian film community. The festival is celebrated for its range of categories, including animation, documentary, and experimental, providing a vibrant platform for diverse storytelling.

Chicago International Reel Shorts Film Festival – United States

The festival celebrates the artistry of short films. Chicago International REEL Shorts is a gem for short filmmakers looking to share their work with an audience that appreciates the short film format. Celebrating over two decades of cinema, the festival has carved out a reputation. Showcasing films to ‘REEL PEOPLE’ in eclectic venues throughout Chicago. This festival is a welcoming stage. For filmmakers at all levels, to take part and engage with a community that celebrates short form cinema.

FILMETS Badalona Film Festival – Spain

Renowned for its commitment to promoting short films that push creative boundaries. FILMETS showcases a diverse spectrum of short films, encompassing everything from gripping narratives and interesting documentaries to the latest in animation and experimental work. It’s known for its warm atmosphere and focus on fostering international connections. By attracting a global array of filmmakers and industry professionals, the festival facilitates cross-cultural dialogues and collaborations, enriching the filmmaking process for participants.

Glasgow Short Film Festival – Scotland

As the largest competitive short film festival in Scotland, this festival celebrates diverse and innovative film with a commitment to pushing the boundaries of the short film form, for both local and international films. It’s known for its vibrant atmosphere and strong audience engagement. The festival offers a dynamic platform for new talent and stands out for its innovative programming and focuses on the latest cinematic techniques, making it a hub for filmmakers who are pushing the boundaries of short form storytelling.

Hamburg International Short Film Festival – Germany

In the heart of Germany's vibrant port city. The festival is an esteemed event in the world of short filmmaking. Known for its eclectic and avant-garde selection, this festival is an ideal destination for filmmakers looking to push the boundaries of the short film genre. The festival attracts a diverse array of international talent, offering a unique platform for both emerging and established filmmakers. With categories spanning from experimental to narrative shorts, it provides for a wide range of artistic expressions.

Manhattan Short Film Festival – United States

Unique in its approach. The festival is a global event that screens a selection of short films across multiple continents over the course of a week, where audiences in each venue vote for their favorites. It offers filmmakers a unique opportunity for worldwide exposure. The festival is open to any genre, making it a versatile platform for filmmakers to present their work. This interactive, audience-centric provides filmmakers with extensive exposure and feedback from a diverse range of viewers.

Miami Short Film Festival – United States

The Miami Short Film Festival is a hub for the short film genre, showcasing works that are 30 minutes or shorter. It is an international festival that aims to bring exposure to independent and emerging filmmakers. Committed to motivating and inspiring filmmakers. It’s a cultural event that offers a chance for the visitors to engage with the filmmaking process. The festival’s programming stands behind the discovery and celebration of new techniques and storytelling from around the globe.

San Jose International Short Film Festival – United States

Nestled in the heart of Silicon Valley. The festival is an exciting platform for short filmmakers looking to showcase their work in a dynamic and innovative environment. Celebrated for its diverse programming and high-quality selections, this festival attracts a wide range of genres, from animation and documentary to experimental and narrative shorts. The festival's setting in San Jose, a hub of tech and creativity, offers a unique backdrop for filmmakers to gain exposure in a community that appreciates innovation and artistic expression. A celebration of concise storytelling and short-form narratives​.

São Paulo International Short Film Festival – Brazil

In one of Brazil's most vibrant and culturally rich cities. The festival is a prestigious event that has become a pivotal platform for short filmmakers worldwide. Known for its diverse and inclusive programming, the festival celebrates the art of short filmmaking across genres, providing a dynamic showcase for both emerging and established talent. This festival stands out for its passionate audience and its role in bridging the gap between Latin American cinema and the global film community. It serves as a major showcase for both Brazilian and international short films.

The 24fps International Short Film Festival – United States

Held in the historic Paramount Theatre in Abilene, Texas, the 24fps International Short Film Festival provides a prestigious stage for showcasing short films. Celebrating the art of short-form storytelling, the festival encourages filmmakers to present works that reflect genuine emotion and expression. The festival is a juried competition that welcomes submissions from around the world and is open to a variety of genres. Films must be under 20 minutes. The festival is renowned for its unique programming and is a significant platform for emerging talent.

Online Platforms:


An online platform dedicated to featuring the best short films from around the globe. Known for its carefully curated selection of short films, ranging from dramatic narratives to innovative animations. This platform is a great resource for filmmakers who want their work to be part of a high-quality, diverse collection of shorts. FilmShortage not only allows filmmakers to reach a wide audience but also offers a space to gain critical acclaim from short film enthusiasts and critics alike. Their featured films meet their high standards and receive significant exposure.

The ShortList:

The ShortList by ShortList Films is an online short film competition. Dedicated to discovering and recognizing the finest short films from around the world. Their goal is to help elevate the art of short film by spotlighting films that need to be recognized, while keeping submission fees low. The competition is open across many genres, from narrative to documentary and animation. The ShortList looks for films where story, vision, art, technique, and entertainment intersect. Entries are judged by industry peers who have had their work selected by Academy Award Qualifying festivals.

Short of the Week:

Short of the Week is an online platform that curates and showcases exceptional short films from emerging filmmakers. It provides filmmakers with an opportunity to reach a wide, engaged audience and gain visibility in front of both the film industry and film enthusiasts. It stands out as a premier destination for discovering the best in new short filmmaking talent globally. The selection process focuses on stories that are innovative and explores new territories. They look for films that are thought-provoking, emotionally stirring, and show great skill and craftsmanship.

Vimeo Staff Picks:

Selection as a Staff Pick signifies high quality and originality, and is a highly coveted badge of recognition offering filmmakers significant exposure to a vast online audience. This is the only platform on this list that has no formal submission process. Vimeo states that the key is catching the attention of Vimeo's Curation team. This sounds simple, but it has drawbacks. It becomes more about YouTube style marketing than filmmaking. If your film is playing on the festival circuit there is no way to market it for Vimeo Staff Picks. Vimeo is located in New York, so if your film is playing at a NY festival they may see it, or perhaps they won’t. If you’re screening at a premiere festival somewhere else, there’s a small chance they’ll see it. But if you’re screening at the majority of film festivals around the world, chances are they won’t see it. So, Vimeo Staff Picks while sought after leaves a lot to be desired unless you have marketing, star power or money to draw attention to your project.

Best Film Festivals For Short Films: United States

Dallas International Film Festival – Texas

Known for its commitment to celebrating excellence in filmmaking, the Dallas International Film Festival is an excellent platform for short filmmakers. Short filmmakers can expect to take part in a variety of programs, Q&A’s, and panel discussions, providing valuable exposure and networking opportunities. A significant festival that offers exposure in a growing Texas film industry.

Indie Memphis Film Festival – Tennessee

A vibrant event that celebrates independent film, making it an excellent choice for short filmmakers. Celebrating its 26th edition, the festival honors local, national, and international filmmakers and transforms Memphis into a hub for creative interaction between filmmakers, musicians, artists, and audiences. Indie Memphis features multiple genres, narrative, documentary, shorts, etc. and has a special interest in music documentaries and comedies. It's also known for its Black Creators Forum.

Kansas City FilmFest International – Missouri

This festival is significant for short filmmakers because of its commitment to celebrating emerging and established talent. Kansas City FilmFest International is an excellent opportunity for filmmakers to showcase their work in a supportive environment that celebrates storytelling through cinema. Short filmmakers can expect a weekend filled with diverse independent films, workshops, panels and networking events offering chances to connect with industry professionals.

Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival – Minnesota

One of the largest and premier film festivals in the Midwest. Now in its 43rd year. MSPIFF offers short filmmakers a significant audience and the opportunity to screen alongside a diverse array of international and national films. The festival's broad scope and inclusive programming make it an important venue for filmmakers seeking to reach a wide and varied audience over 2+ weeks each spring. Over 250 new films screen, and there are many visiting filmmakers and talent on hand each year.

Mountainfilm – Telluride, Colorado

A distinctive film festival that focuses on documentaries about environmental, cultural, climbing, political, and social justice issues. This festival, nestled in the scenic town of Telluride, Colorado, offers a unique platform for short filmmakers who wish to explore and present these themes. It is renowned for its commitment to showcasing stories that inspire and educate. Mountainfilm presents an opportunity to be part of a festival that celebrates the art of film and advocates for critical issues facing our world.

Philadelphia Film Festival – Pennsylvania

This festival is a major event on the East Coast. Attracting a large and diverse audience. For short filmmakers, the Philadelphia Film Festival offers an opportunity to showcase their work in a prestigious setting, alongside a selection of the best in contemporary international and independent cinema. To engage with a community that’s passionate about film. The festival is known for its diverse selection, welcoming films of any genre.

River Bend Film Festival – Goshen, IN

Dedicated to showcasing independent cinema and celebrating the spirit of independent film. For short filmmakers, especially those starting out or from the region, it provides a welcoming and nurturing environment. The festival's size allows for more intimate networking opportunities and a chance to connect personally with audiences and other filmmakers. The festival has workshops and discussions. Providing filmmakers with valuable networking opportunities.

San Diego International Film Festival – California

Known for its mix of glamor and artistic innovation. Attracting filmmakers and audiences from around the globe. For short filmmakers, the San Diego International Film Festival is an invaluable platform for showcasing their work to a sophisticated audience and gaining industry recognition. The festival's varied programming and many networking events offer filmmakers the opportunity to connect with industry professionals and other artists.

SCAD Savannah Film Festival – Georgia

Hosted by the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), it’s an acclaimed event that provides a significant platform for short filmmakers. The festival invites award-winning professionals and emerging student filmmakers. Short filmmakers can look forward to their work being featured in a festival known for celebrating an array of genres and styles. The Savannah Film Festival is a chance for filmmakers to gain exposure in an environment that is artistically enriching and professionally rewarding.

Sidewalk Film Festival – Birmingham, Alabama

Sidewalk Film Festival is a filmmaker-friendly event with a strong emphasis on independent cinema, offering opportunities for networking and exposure. A notable event for short filmmakers, Sidewalk provides a platform to present their work to an engaged and supportive audience. The festival's focus on storytelling and innovative cinema makes it a valuable venue for filmmakers in the indie-film scene. A great place for short filmmakers to expand their horizons and connect with the film community.

Virginia Film Festival – Charlottesville, Virginia

Hosted by the University of Virginia, this festival offers a blend of mainstream, independent, and international films. Short filmmakers screen in a prestigious academic setting, attracting a diverse audience of students, academics, and film enthusiasts. It's known for bringing a fascinating selection of guests, ranging from acclaimed directors to cultural experts, stimulating discussions that are both educational and engaging.

Best Film Festivals For Short Films: International

Adelaide Film Festival – Australia

Celebrated in Australia. The Adelaide Film Festival is known for its diverse programming and commitment to new voices in cinema. It’s appealing to short filmmakers because of its reputation for showcasing innovative and cutting-edge works. A vibrant atmosphere and engagement with industry professionals offers excellent networking opportunities. The festival is known for its support of bold, creative storytelling and its ability to highlight local and international talent.

Alexandria Mediterranean Film Festival – Cairo, Egypt

Held in the historic city of Alexandria, Egypt. The festival is a renowned cinematic event celebrating the rich diversity and cultural heritage of the Mediterranean region. It’s an exceptional platform for filmmakers who wish to showcase their work to a discerning audience that has a deep appreciation for stories and perspectives unique to the Mediterranean basin. The festival's emphasis on Mediterranean cinema provides a unique opportunity for filmmakers from these regions to showcase their work.

Dubai International Film Festival – Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Known for showcasing the best of Arab cinema, including a wide range of short films. The Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) is one of the most prominent film festivals in the Middle East and the Arab world. DIFF has gained a reputation as a major cultural event, showcasing a diverse array of films from the region and beyond. The festival includes a significant focus on short films. It serves as a crucial networking hub, attracting industry professionals, film critics, and cinema enthusiasts.

Edinburgh International Film Festival – Scotland

One of the longest-running film festivals in the world. While known for feature films, this prestigious festival also includes a significant short film component, offering filmmakers the opportunity to showcase their work in an internationally recognized setting. The festival is known for its eclectic mix of films and commitment to new talent, making it a perfect venue for emerging filmmakers looking to gain recognition and critical acclaim.

Fantasia International Film Festival – Montreal, Canada

Fantasia is best known for its focus on genre films, including horror, sci-fi, and fantasy, including shorts. Short filmmakers who specialize in these genres will find Fantasia a welcoming festival with an enthusiastic audience for their work. The festival stands out as a beacon for filmmakers who delve into the imaginative and often thrilling realms of genre storytelling. Providing an unparalleled platform for both emerging and established filmmakers.

Havana Film Festival – Cuba

Known as the Festival Internacional del Nuevo Cine Latinoamericano, the Havana Film Festival is a significant event in Latin American cinema. It offers filmmakers the chance to connect with the Latin American film industry and showcase their work. While not only a short film festival, it includes a short film program and is one of the most significant film festivals in the region. The festival's focus on regional storytelling and aesthetics makes it a unique showcase for short films with a Latin American flavor.

Ischia Film Festival – Italy

In the stunning setting of the Aragonese Castle and set against the backdrop of the picturesque Italian island of Ischia, the festival is an enchanting event that celebrates the art of cinematic storytelling with a particular emphasis on location and landscape in film. This unique festival is an ideal destination for filmmakers who wish to explore and emphasize the significance of setting in their work. Making it a distinctive platform for directors, cinematographers, and producers who use the power of place to enhance their storytelling.

Mumbai Film Festival – India

Known as the Mumbai Academy of Moving Image (MAMI) Film Festival. The festival has grown to become one of the most prominent film festivals in Asia, renowned for its diverse selection of films and its vibrant celebration of both Indian and international cinema across a variety of genres and formats. For short filmmakers, the festival offers a platform to reach a broad audience and network with key industry players in the Bollywood and global film industries.

Shanghai International Film Festival – China

SIFF is one of Asia's most prominent and prestigious film festivals. Known for its celebration of both international and Chinese cinema, and serves as a bridge between East and West in the film industry. The festival offers a unique platform for filmmakers to showcase their work and engage with the growing and increasingly influential Chinese film market. SIFF attracts a wide range of industry professionals and is a must-attend event for short filmmakers looking to gain access to the Asian market.

Thessaloniki Documentary Festival – Greece

Also known as the Thessaloniki International Documentary Festival, its focus is only on documentary work, including feature-length and short films. It has grown to become an important event in the international film festival circuit, particularly known for showcasing a wide range of documentary films from around the world. It's a prominent and ideal venue for short filmmakers specializing in documentary storytelling.

Valdivia International Film Festival – Chile

One of the oldest film festivals in Latin America. It focuses on independent and avant-garde filmmaking and is renowned for its relaxed and intimate atmosphere. Short filmmakers will find the festival particularly appealing because of its supportive atmosphere for artistic films. For filmmakers passionate about exploring the depths of cinema beyond mainstream narratives, VIFF is a beacon of artistic innovation and a celebration of unconventional and experimental film.

36 Best Short Film Festivals Beyond the A-List

These 36 events underscore that the best film festivals for shorts stretches well beyond the A-list. They flourish in diverse corners of the globe. Proving the essence of cinema thrives wherever stories are told with passion and creativity.

Each festival, with its unique blend of audience, focus, and atmosphere, weaves together a rich tapestry of cinematic exploration.

The list of festivals represents new possibilities and perhaps redefines your path forward. They celebrate storytelling in its most concise form and support the art of short filmmaking. Reminding us that sometimes the most powerful stories are those told in the shortest time.

By: SF Block

Writing about indie filmmaking.

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