The Pan African Film Festival (PAFF): All you need to know

From 100 million dollar blockbuster premieres to newly emerging Hollywood talent, The Pan African Film Festival (PAFF) showcases a broad array of Black creative works from the world over, highlighting those that reinforce positive images and help to destroy negative stereotypes.

The Pan African Film Festival is the largest film festival in the United States dedicated to the exhibition of Black films. Each year PAFF exhibits more than 180 films made by and/or about people of African descent made in the U.S., Africa, Europe, the Caribbean, the South Pacific, Latin America, Canada, and Asia. In 2020, 40,000+ people from both the industry and the public attended PAFF. The 29th Annual PAFF will take place in Los Angeles in February 2021.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences designated PAFF as an official qualifying film festival for live-action and animation short films.
USA Today selected PAFF as #3 in their list of 10 Best Film Festivals in the U.S.

Who is eligible to submit to PAFF?

  • PAFF accepts films and videos made by and/or about people of African descent. (Filmmaker needn’t be of African descent.) Preferably, films should depict positive or realistic images.
  • Films can be of any genre – drama, comedy, horror, adventure, animation, romance, science fiction, experimental, etc. PAFF accepts features and shorts; narratives and documentaries.
  • All submissions must be in English or have English subtitles.
  • Webseries should have a cumulative run time of at least 15 minutes and no more than 30 minutes.
  • PAFF will accept submissions of works in progress. However, your submission must be sufficiently complete to allow our programmers to follow the storyline and be able to make a decision. We will only accept one work-in-progress version of your film, so please make sure it is your best shot. (If you expect your final version to be 90 minutes, a 45-minute rough cut is probably not acceptable.) Also, whenever possible, you should provide an on-screen description of missing scenes. The final version of your film is expected to be ready no later than October 20, 2020.

Does PAFF have a film competition?

  • Official (Jury) Competition: Best Narrative Feature, Best Narrative Short, Best Documentary Feature, Best Documentary Short, Best Director-First Narrative Feature.
  • An independent jury panel made up of industry professionals, academics, community and business leaders judge all films in Official Competition.
  • Films in Official Competition must be copyrighted no earlier than 2019.
  • Audience Awards: Audience Favorite Narrative Feature, Audience Favorite Documentary, Audience Favorite Short Narrative, Audience Favorite Short Documentary.
  • Additional Awards: In addition to Official Competition and Audience Awards, there are a number of Programmers’ and Special Festival Awards.

How do I submit my film to PAFF?

  • Click on the link to Film Freeway and fill out the Submission Form. Required information on the application must be filled in. NOTE: Each film submitted must have a separate application with a separate application fee paid.
  • Screener links – Links must remain active until February 28, 2021, or until you are notified that your film has not been accepted. If you change the password to your link, you MUST send a new valid password by email to submissions@paff.org. Failure to do so may eliminate your film from consideration.

Will my film’s screener actually be previewed?

Absolutely Yes!
All films submitted to PAFF with a usable online link and password are previewed from start to finish by at least one member of the PAFF programming staff. No film can be included for screening at PAFF without having been previewed by at least one of our programmers.

What are PAFF’s deadlines and entry fees?

  • The submission deadlines given below are dates by which your online application must be completed and your screener can be viewed. Make sure your online link is working and you have provided a valid password.
  • Please Note: If you paid $20 to submit a short film before the Early Deadline and your film can’t be viewed due to an invalid password or other defect until after the Early Deadline expiration date, we reserve the right to prompt you to make the additional payment for the Regular Submission Period or for whichever submission period the defect is corrected. Also, there may be a lag time between your submission and the viewing, so please make sure your password remains valid. Please immediately advise any password changes to submissions@paff.org.
  • All submissions are handled equally regardless of when they are submitted. Late and Extended Late Submissions are processed, previewed and given the same considerations as Early and Regular Submissions. The only difference is the higher submission fee. We encourage you to submit your film as early as possible.

Deadlines and fees?

  • Earlybird Submission: June 1-July 15, 2020
    • Features (50 minutes or more): Entry Fees $35.00
    • Shorts or Webseries (49 minutes or less): Entry Fee: $20.00
    • Mini-Shorts (5-9 minutes): Entry Fee: $15.00
  • Regular Submission: July 16-September 20, 2020
    • Features (50 minutes or more): Entry Fees $50.00
    • Shorts or Webseries (49 minutes or less): Entry Fees $30.00
    • Mini-Shorts (5-9 minutes): Entry Fee: $20.00
  • Late Submission: September 21-October 31, 2020
    • Features (50 minutes or more): Entry Fees $70.00
    • Shorts or Webseries (49 minutes or less): Entry Fees $40.00
    • Mini-Shorts (5-9 minutes): Entry Fee: $35.00
  • Extended Late Submission: November 1-December 10, 2020
    • Features (50 minutes or more): Entry Fees $105.00
    • Shorts or Webseries (49 minutes or less): Entry Fees $65.00
    • Mini-Shorts (5-9 minutes): Entry Fee: $50.00
  • For Submission after December 10, 2020, please contact: submissions@paff.org

When and how will I be notified if my film is accepted?

  • Notification of acceptance will be emailed to the sender/contact person and the director listed in your application. Please make sure you notify us at miki@paff.org immediately if there are any changes in email addresses.
  • Selection results will be sent out beginning December 15, 2020. It is a “roll-out” notification process with feature-length films being notified first and then short films, web series, and mini-shorts. Other than feature films possibly receiving notification first, there is no significance to the order in which notification is given.
    All accepted films will be posted on the PAFF Website by approximately January 10, 2021.
  • You will be notified that your film has not been accepted only after all screening slots have been filled. We do place a few films on a “waitlist” in the event a slot opens after selections have been made. You will be notified that your film is on the “waitlist.”
  • PAFF’s host theatre is all-digital. The only accepted projection formats for Feature Films are DCP, HD resolution, or greater Online Link and Blu-Ray. For Short Films, Web series, and Mini-Shorts you will be asked to submit an HD resolution (or greater), Online Link. We may also accept DCP and Blu-Ray for short films depending on programming needs.
  • If there are any updates for projection formats, you will receive the update with your acceptance notification.
  • PAFF will not accept watermarked films for public presentation.

About the author


Stanton is a passionate digital strategist who is keen to learn and contribute to the growth and development of the growing men and women, especially in Liberia. He has professional skills in Online Strategy Formulation, Implementing Digital Solutions, Brand Building Online & Social Media Marketing and Advertising.


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