Mission & History
NaFF amplifies our collective and individual awareness by bringing the world to Nashville to celebrate innovation, music and the many voices of the human spirit through the art of film.
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.
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 to the NaFF 2011.
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.
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 Documentary, Short Narrative and Short Animation competitions automatically qualify for Academy Award consideration. (Only 17 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.
One of the most exciting awards presented at NaFF is The Mike Curb Career Achievement Award. Since 2010, it has been presented to A. R. Rahman, Clint Mansell, Gustavo Santaolalla, Paul Williams and Carter Burwell.
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, Nicole Kidman, 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 Marc Webb.