Mission & History

The Nashville Film Festival is proud to bring the world to Nashville through a celebration of the diversity of the human spirit expressed through the art of film. In year-round programs, NaFF helps build a more informed, collaborative and alive community.


Founded in 1969 by Mary Jane Coleman, NaFF was originally known as the Sinking Creek Film Celebration. Nearly 20 years later it was renamed as the Nashville Independent Film Festival and, later, the Nashville Film Festival in 2003. It was voted one of “25 film festivals worth the entry fee” by MovieMaker Magazine and highlighted as One of the Best Film Festival Prizes by Film Festival Today. Brooks Institute named it one of the top 5 film festivals in the U.S.

Notable Films & Awards

NaFF presents the best in World Cinema, American Indies, documentaries, and numerous short form programs by veteran masters, up-and-coming directors, and first-time filmmakers. NaFF films have won the highest honors in the film world.  Films screened in the past include 13 Assassins, (500) Days of Summer, Cyrus, Terri, Buck, Nowhere Boy, Project Nim and Academy Award nominees, I Am Love, Ajami, and Dogtooth.


With Academy Award qualifying status and numerous well-attended shorts programs, NaFF has screened many prize-winning narrative and animated shorts.

NaFF is also the place where many up-and-coming filmmakers get their first big break. Craig Brewer – Footloose, Hustle & Flow, and Black Snake Moon won his first award at NaFF. Most recently, Clay Jeter received the Ground Zero Tennessee Spirit Award for Best Short Film and used the finishing funds to complete Jess + Moss, which then premiered at Sundance and was accepted for competition in Berlin before returning the NaFF 2011.

Music City: Music Films

Nashville is Music City. So, NaFF emphasizes the music in films. Some of the most memorable songs in films have been written and performed by Nashville’s songwriters and artists. In addition to the many films about music and the Music Films in Music City awards, NaFF presents showcases, workshops, and other events where these songwriters and artists come together with film professionals from Hollywood and around the world to promote collaboration.

Distinctive Awards

With a strong commitment to independent and innovative filmmaking, NaFF offers some truly unique awards. Filmmakers compete for cash and prizes valued at more than $37,000, plus television broadcasting contracts. Winners of the Short Narrative and Animation competitions automatically qualify for Academy Award consideration. (Only 42 film festivals worldwide share this designation). Other special awards include prizes for the best LGBT film, best film by a black filmmaker, best Hispanic film, awards for Tennessee directors and more. Further, NaFF offers a series of Career Achievement Awards to talent both on-screen and behind the scenes. Recipients of recent Career Achievement Awards include Patricia Neal, Hal Holbrook, Kris Kristofferson, Academy Award-winning composer Gustavo Santoallala, and Academy Award-nominated documentarian Steve James.

Celebrity Guests

Filmmakers from across the country and around the world attend the festival every year. Celebrity honorees and participants have included Oprah Winfrey, Susan Sarandon, William Shatner, William H. Macy, Al Gore, Danny Glover, Vincent D’Onofrio, Joey Lauren Adams, Rob Thomas, Craig Brewer, Harmony Korine, Ashley Judd, Kiefer Sutherland, Joshua Jackson, Brad Paisley, Kimberly Williams-Paisley, Peter Falk, Paul Reiser, Patrick Swayze, Rick Schroder, Christine Vachon, John Waters, Matthew McConaughey, Robert Redford, James Cromwell, Harry Belafonte, Barbara Kopple, Michael Moore, D.A. Pennebaker and director of the upcoming The Amazing Spider-Man, Marc Webb.


More than just a week of competition, workshops and entertainment, NaFF’s yearlong efforts create programs for senior citizens, challenged teens, and high school and college-age filmmakers and embrace the diversity within its own community by partnering with various local cultural and ethnic groups.




Started in 2004 with the funds from the Tennessee Arts Commission and The Memorial Foundation, the MAKING OF A TEEN FILM project has become a highly anticipated annual event. With guidance from film professionals, teens share their ideas, create a story and transform it into a short film. Participating in all aspects of the process, they also cast, act, direct, learn make-up, create costumes, create props, and shadow the professional film crew. Once their short film is edited, it is passed to teen collaborators at the W.O. SMITH MUSIC SCHOOL who score it. The first time all participants see the completed film is at the annual Nashville Film Festival when they walk the red carpet, take group photos, watch their film on the big screen and participate in a question-and-answer session.