As the final deadline to submit to #AFF2016 draws nearer, we sat down with Deana Nassar, AFF’s Artistic Director and Festival Programmer, to talk about all aspects of our submission and selection process.

This is a special year for AFF, our 20th anniversary! Are there any specific types of films the festival is looking for this year?

I’m not sure that this year is that much different in terms of what we are looking for. We strive to show films that reflect Arab culture and the people in the most complex, beautiful and diverse ways possible.

We want to reflect the conversations on the ground, so if people are talking about revolution, or occupation or war we want to make sure that our program reflects those topics. If they are dealing with women’s rights, and minority rights, that should be in our program. We are very fortunate that we get a very large selection of films to choose from, so we have a pretty good sense of what topics are being grappled with.

It’s also our priority to show great art coming out of the Arab diaspora and sometimes that may not have any social or political commentary associated with it, it could be about a boy’s relationship to his grandmother, we think those are important stories to tell too.

What are the basic requirements that need to be met by the films being submitted?

The films should have been produced between January 1, 2014 – June 1, 2016 and most importantly, the film must not be available on the internet or have been broadcast nationally on cable or satellite television prior to the festival screening, with the exception of the music video category.

How can a filmmaker submit their film?

The easiest way to submit is through FilmFreeway-

What should a filmmaker do to make sure their film is properly prepped and ready to be submitted?

They should make sure the film is available in DCP format with a frame rate of 24fps or high resolution .264 or Blu-Ray Discs and If the film is not in English it should have legible English language subtitles unless it is a silent film, or one with no dialogue.

When is the submission deadline? What happens if a film arrives or is submitted after the deadline?

Hmm… the deadline was on May 31st! Our late deadline is June 14th so hurry and get your film in!

I should also say that it’s important for us that no one feels deterred from submitting due to financial constraints. If a filmmaker is reluctant to submit because of finances, I’d encourage them to contact the festival and ask for a fee waiver at

How do you select the final films for the festival?

We have dedicated and talented selection committee that weighs in during the submission process and helps us decide what films are best to show at AFF. Not all of those films unfortunately make the final cut because then we have to look at the program as a whole and make sure that we are covering a good range of topics and that we have a good diverse representation and we are try to feature as many countries as possible.

What are the competition categories? How are the winners chosen?

We have five categories: 1) Best Narrative Feature, 2) Best Documentary Feature, 3) Best Narrative Short, and 4) Best Documentary short. These categories are chosen by our Jury and our last category, our AFF Audience award is chosen by audience feedback.

What is something you would like every filmmaker to know about AFF?

I want them to know that we see our Festival as a conduit to share their unique perspectives and voices and we are in the process of working on some very exciting developments that will put us in a position to better support filmmakers in the near future so stay tuned!!

AFF 2016 Call for Entries