How to Find and Apply to African Film Festivals

By Wale Oloworekende

July 2023

There has never been a more exciting time to be an African filmmaker. With the eye of the world tilting towards cultural output from the motherland, titles from Africa are already starting to have global traction thanks to the impact of streaming platforms and the global brand of African actors. The rise of African films has similarly inspired a number of festivals across the continent dedicated to curating, celebrating, and platforming some of the most exciting movies made by Africans with a focus on their technical merits and narrative styles.


At STATEMENT, we decided to compile a list of some of these festivals, where to find them, and how to apply to them.


The Panafrican Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou (FESPACO)


Founded in 1969, The Panafrican Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou (FESPACO) is a film festival that takes place biennially in Burkina Faso with a specific focus on African filmmakers and works chiefly made in Africa. Accepting all sorts of entries from short films to documentaries and feature films, the festival traditionally holds two weeks after the last Saturday in February but held its 2023 edition from the 25th of February to the 4th of March. The next edition of FESPACO is scheduled for 2025 and filmmakers can keep up with more information on the festival’s website.


African Film Festival


Committed to spotlighting films that capture the infinite possibilities in African films and stories, the African Film Festival founded in 1993 has grown to become one of the leading tastemakers and authorities on movies, shorts, and documentaries coming out of Africa. The 2023 edition of the festival was held from May 10 to June 1 and was billed as a “journey through a landscape of cinematic possibilities, where creativity knows no limits and boundaries are mere suggestions.” The African Film Festival welcomes submissions in both feature and short film categories. Applicants looking to showcase their work next year might find some information on the About page and look out for more extensive information on the Submissions portal.


Zanzibar International Film Festival (ZIFF)


Alternatively known as the Festival of the Dhow Countries, the Zanzibar International Film Festival (ZIFF) is the largest film festival in East Africa and is held in Tanzania annually. Film entries are considered from all over Africa and the African diaspora with entries from parts of the Arab world and Asia also considered. The Zanzibar International Film Festival places a primary focus on feature-length movies and is especially popular for its Golden Dhow award given to the best movie at the festival. The deadline for 2023 entries has already passed with the event taking place from June 24 to July 2, 2023, but filmmakers interested in applying in the future can check for updates on the ZIFF website.


Durban International Film Festival (DIFF)


Founded in 1979 by Teddy Sarkin and Ros Sarkin, Durban International Film Festival (DIFF) is one of the oldest film festivals in Africa. DIFF accepts entries from African and international filmmakers but African filmmakers are given priority. The 44th edition of the Durban International Film Festival is set to take place from July 20 to 30th at the University of KwaZulu-Natal after a three-year hiatus and the deadline for application has since elapsed. With the 45th edition sure to come along next year, filmmakers can follow the festival’s social media pages and website for more information for admittance.


Carthage Film Festival


The Carthage Film Festival, alternatively known by its French name Journées Cinématographiques de Carthage (JCC) is an annual film festival founded in 1966. Originally held biannually, the festival has taken place annually every year since 2014 in Tunis, the capital city of Tunisia with a hyper-focus on shorts and feature films by African and Arab filmmakers. 2022’s edition took place from October 29 to November 5, 2022. Preparations for this year’s event are happening in earnest with the festival expected to take place from October 28 to November 4. Applicants for the festivals are encouraged to apply through the application links on the festival’s website.


African International Film Festival (AFRIFF)


Widely regarded as the most popular film festival in Africa, the African International Film Festival (AFRIFF) was founded in 2010 by Chioma Ude with the task of providing total immersion into the world of African filmmaking from shorts to documentaries, feature films, and student films. Since its inaugural edition was held in Port Harcourt, Rivers State in 2010, the festival held annually in Nigeria has grown to be an annual celebration of African filmmaking across these formats. The 2023 edition of AFRIFF will be held from November 5-10, 2023. Applicants for the festival can head to the AFRIFF website where updates about upcoming events and instructions for registering for the festival are shared.


Africa in Motion (AiM)


Africa in Motion (AiM) is an annual African film festival that celebrates the best of African talent across all visual formats with a strong focus on feature-length movies. Traditionally taking place in Scotland and open to African-based filmmakers and diaspora-based Africans, it has been running for over 15 years. Last year’s edition was its 17th with a series of screenings and panels held from the 11th of November till the 20th of November. Details have not been announced for the 2023 edition but filmmakers and prospective attendees can keep an eye on the Africa in Motion Instagram page and website for additional info.


Cairo International Film Festival (CIFF)


Founded in 1976, the Cairo International Film Festival (CIFF) is the only international competitive feature film festival recognized by the FIAPF (International Federation of Film Producers Associations) in Africa. CIFF places a heavy focus on feature-length submissions with its highest prize, The Golden Pyramid, being awarded for the best film at the competition. The 45th edition of the Cairo International Film Festival will be held from the 15th to 24th of November 2023 with submissions from Africa and the Middle East being considered. Submissions are still ongoing for CIFF and prospective attendees can find more information on the application process on the festival’s website and social media pages.