Shorts Competitions

All shorts must be under 40 minutes. Any film over 40 minutes will be considered a feature. The Grand Jury Prize Winners for Best Narrative Short, Best Animated Short and Best Documentary Short will be eligible for Academy Awards® consideration without the standard theatrical run, provided the film otherwise complies with the Academy rules. Please refer to website for rules and eligibility.


Narrative Short Competition

This is an international competition for live action narrative films under 40 minutes with the winning film becoming eligible for Academy Award™ consideration. Previous winners include Erik Schmitt’s Rhino Full Throttle, Christof Kuschnig’s Hatch, Academy Award™-winner Shawn Christensen’s Curfew, Sean Durkin’s Mary Last Seen, Jamie Travis’ The Armoire, and Denis Villeneuve’s Next Floor.


Recent NaFF selections that went on to Oscar™ nominations include Buzkashi Boys, Kavi, Miracle Fish, The Pig, Instead of Abracadbra, and West Bank Story.

Documentary Short Competition

This is an international competition for documentary films under 40 minutes with the winning film becoming eligible for Academy Award™ consideration. Previous winners include Ciaran Cassidy’s The Last Days of Peter Bergmann, Sergio Oksman’s A Story for the Modlins, Matt Lenski’s The Meaning of Robots, Aideen O’Sullivan’s Bye Bye Now and The Rauch Brothers’ Q&A.


Past NaFF selections include Academy Award™ nominees, Mondays at Racine, Witness from the Balcony of Room 306 and Academy Award™-winner Freeheld.

Animated Short Competition

An international competition for Animated Short Films. The winning film automatically qualifies for Academy Award™ Consideration. Recent winners include Peter Vacz’s Rabbit and Deer, Emma de Swaef & Marc James’ Oh, Willy!, Leo Verrier’s Dripped, Max Porter &  Ru Kuwata’s Something Left, Something Taken and Chris Landreth’s The Spine.


Recent NaFF selections to go on to Academy Award™ nominations include Daniel Sousa’s Feral, Jan Lachauer’s Room on the Broom, Grant Orchard and Sue Goffe’s A Morning Stroll and Academy Award™-winner William Joyce’s The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore.

Experimental Short Competition

The Nashville Film Festival has a long history of celebrating experimental shorts — movies that stretch the definition of expression and form — going back to the earliest days as the Sinking Creek Film Celebration in East Tennessee in 1969. Experimental filmmakers who screened here include the greats, Kenneth Anger and Stan Brakahge, as well as more recent filmmakers like Charles Lim, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, and Jason LaRay Keener.


Recent winners of the $500 cash prize include Eli Hidalgo’s Confessions Through an Open Curtain, Katharina Gruzei’s Workers Leaving the Factory (Again), Charles Lim’s All the Lines Flow Out, Jonathan Courette’s All Flowers in Time and Joseph Ernst’s Feeder.

College Student Short Competition

The College Student Short Competition winner receives a $500 cash prize. Entrants MUST send a photocopy of a valid college ID or a copy of their most recent transcript along with entry. If validation is not received, the film will be placed in the category most appropriate (narrative, animated, documentary, or experimental). Student films also compete in their category at large. For instance, our 2013 winner for Best College Student Short was also the Honorable Mention for Best Documentary Short that year.

Recent winners of the College Student Competition include Kristelle Laroche and Ben Mullinkosson’s The Pink Helmet Posse, Yuval Hameiri’s I Think This is the Closest to How the Footage Looked, Chun-Yi Hsieh’s Bian Zi, and Ariel Kleiman’s Deeper Than Yesterday.

Watkins Young Filmmakers Competition

The Young Filmmakers competition is open to all filmmakers age 18 and under–a copy of state or school ID or a verification letter from a teacher MUST be provided with entry. Without this, the film will instead be entered in the most appropriate category (Animation, Narrative, Documentary, or Experimental). The winning filmmaker receives a scholarship offer from Watkins School of Art, Design and Film worth $20,000 over four years.

Recent winners include Ruby Drake’s Overflow, Mateusz Madry’s The Purple Story, Ben Kadie’s Alone Together and Emma Strabel’s Finding My Way.

Tennessee Spirit Short Film

Tennessee Spirit Award for Best Short Film is presented to both the best narrative short film (live action or animation) and Best Documentary short film that meets two of the three criteria (proof is required to win the award):


     – The director is a current Tennessee Resident or Tennessee Native

     – The executive producer or writer is a current Tennessee Resident

     – At least 65% of the film was shot in Tennessee


Recent narrative winners include Steven Wesley Miller’s Shadowland, Warren Lewis Allen & William Scott Stewart’s Wild Sands, Will Akers’ Talk to Arthur and Matt Schosser & Shane Bartlett’s Swing.


Recent documentary winners include Eric Byford’s Straight Up: Tennessee Whiskey, Josh Harrell’s Another Corner, Stewart Copeland’s Mr. Smith’s Peach Seeds and Zac Adams’ Nashville Rising.