10 Top Documentary Film Festivals - Raindance

Here is an updated list of the top 10 documentary film festivals from all over the world.

It’s interesting to note all of the different methods of entertainment outside of the screenings of the documentaries themselves. Each festival broadcasts the summits, workshops, and parties that are hosted as a part of the festival. Some are mere distractions from the main event; others provide interesting or helpful information for cinephiles and documentary professionals alike.

True/False Film Festival

In its ninth edition, Colombia will highlight some of the latest films fresh from Sundance, Toronto, or other large film festivals. Co-heads, David Wilson and Paul Sturtz, make a great effort to be as hospitable as possible for all those involved in True/False, and emphasize creating a more unique festival experience. When the doc’s aren’t rolling, there are plenty of parties and events, all in a generally small location.

Thessaloniki Documentary Festival

The main program focuses on documentaries that explore the social and cultural developments in the world. Located on the beautiful coast of Greece, the festival’s side events host exhibitions, master classes, round-table discussions, publications, concerts and parties.

Visions Du Reel

Changing to new management in 1995, Visions du Réel quickly became the important “must-see” event for documentary films. The festival opens its doors to a variety of interpretations of documentary films, or cinema du réel, with experimental films, essays, family films, major reports, historical inquiries, and epic or fragmentary stories.

Hot Docs

Hot Docs is one of the oldest and most respected documentary festivals in the world. Each year, they screen over 180 innovative documentaries from Canada and around the world. Also incorporated in the festival are the industry programs, including a wide array of professional development, market and networking opportunities for documentary professionals.

Sheffield Doc/Fest

Doc/Fest allows participants to meet sectors of the whole of the British documentary industry under one roof. Every year, the festival attracts the leading names of British documentary makers and executives in British television. Celebrating the art and business of documentaries, the festival promotes the screenings of today’s documentaries and brainstorming for the future.

Silver Docs

Silverdocs includes a week-long international film festival integrated with a five-day conference – the largest professional conference of its kind in the US. The conference promotes documentary film as a leading art form, supports the work of independent filmmakers, and encourages public dialogue around the issues and ideas explored in films. Just minutes away from downtown Washington, D.C., screenings take place at the AFI Silver Theatre, one of the premier film exhibition spaces in the US.

Sunny Side of the Doc, La Rochelle

Aside from the public screenings, the festival caters specifically to the industry with several workshops and forums available. The event also offers the opportunity for filmmakers to meet with commissioning editors, buyers and new talents. Sunny Side of the Doc hosts an Asian edition in Tokyo in March and in Mexico City for Latin America in the beginning of November.


Founded in 1955, Leipzig is one of the oldest Documentary Festivals around. It has become the central meeting point for German documentary film with a widespread international presence. To help German and international producers with networking, the event offers them access to potential project financers and television program editors.


This 10 day long film festival is the largest of its kind in Scandinavia. Entertaining participants with art exhibitions, concerts, and professional seminars, the main attraction includes the 200+ selection of documentary films from all over the world.

International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA)

As the world’s largest documentary film festival, IDFA offers a wide selection of diverse competition and non-competition films. The festival typically premieres major international documentaries that eventually make their way to some of the big-name festivals including Sundance. Incorporated into the festival are a series of sidebar events to promote audience and professional appreciation for documentary films.



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