The RiverRun International Film Festival is one of the leading film festivals in the Southeast region of the United States. Held in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, it is a prominent spring event that film lovers from across the region look forward to annually.

The festival screens a selection of narrative, documentary, student and animated movies from both newcomers and well-known filmmakers from all over the world. It also presents a variety of special events, exclusive premieres of noteworthy films, panel discussions, family programs, tributes to celebrities etc. Another exceptional attribute of RiverRun is that this is an accredited qualifying festival for Academy Awards for the category of best documentary and best animated short.

RiverRun International Film Festival 2018 is excited to present 151 films from a pool of talented filmmakers. The highlights of this year’s festival include a screening on opening night of American Animals, a narrative feature fresh from the Sundance Film Festival, and the documentary feature Sammy Davis, Jr.: I’ve Gotta Be Me. In celebration of the=is year being the 20th anniversary of the RiverRun International Film Festival, there will be free screenings of some of the films at this year’s event. These films include:  Disney’s Mulan, The Age of Innocence, Wild Strawberries from the RiverRun’s Spotlight: 20th Films From 20th Century Masters. Closing night will end the festival with a screening of the film Hearts Beat Loud by UNCSA alum Brett Haley.

The History of the RiverRun International Film Festival

The Festival was founded by Gennaro and Beth D’Onofrio in 1998. The event was first held at the French Broad River near Brevard, North Carolina, a fact that reveals where the RiverRun International Film Festival also got its name.

In 2003, RiverRun was moved to Winston-Salem and this has been the home of the festival ever since. The move was the idea of Dale Pollock, a former filmmaker and Dean of the School of Filmmaking at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA).

Producer Farihah Zaman and River Run programmer David Chisholm.

Riverrun is growing by leaps and bounds each year and continues to present the best new films to the world. Some of the festival’s significant picks from the previous years include Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution, Mud, Win Win, 500 Days of Summer, Mao’s Last Dancer and The Notebook. RiverRun has also presented a diverse selection of documentaries from the past years, such as Chasing Ice, Twenty Feet from Stardom, Chimpanzee, Up the Yangtze, Manufactured Landscapes, and Last Train Home.

In 2017, the Festival had a total of 16,800 admissions to events and screenings. The 151 films shown represented work from filmmakers from some 49 countries. The films were shown in multiple venues including: Hanesbrands Theatre, UNCSA theaters, Bailey Park, SECCA, and a/perture cinema.

The Festival is a non-profit organization with the vision of connecting communities through film. Its mission is to promote a deeper understanding and appreciation of cinema and also different cultures throughout the world.


The RiverRun International Film Festival honors worthy competition winners and presents them with the following awards.

  • Master of Cinema Award
  • Spark Award
  • Emerging Master Award


  • Audience Awards
    • Audience Award for Best of Fest
    • Kilpatrick, Townsend & Stockton, LLP Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature
    • Audience Award for Best Documentary Feature
    • Altered States Audience Award for Best American Independent Film


  • Jury Awards (Narrative Features Competition)
    • Best Narrative Feature
    • Peter Brunette Award for Best Director
    • Best Actor
    • Best Actress
    • Best Screenplay
    • Best Cinematography
    • Visionary Award
    • Human Rights Award
    • Special Jury Prize


  • Jury Awards (Documentary Features Competition)
    • Best Documentary Feature
    • Best Director
    • Special Jury Prize


  • Jury Awards (Shorts Competition)
    • Best Narrative Short
    • Special Jury Prize for Visual Ingenuity, Narrative Short
    • Special Jury Prize for Emotional Authenticity, Narrative Short
    • Best Student Narrative Short
    • Best Documentary Short
    • Best Animated Short
    • Best Student Animated Short


The Master of Cinema Award recognizes excellent work in film and is the highest prize given by the festival. Recent recipients of this award include Jane Alexander (2017), Celia Watson (2017), Stanley Nelson (2015), Kartemquin Films (2014), Peter Bogdanovich (2010) and Bill Pullman (2008).

Gabriel Wilson

The Emerging Master Award is given to breakthrough artists in recognition of their talent in movie making. Some of the recent winners of this award include Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady of Loki Films (2015), Melanie Lynskey (2014), Debra Granik (2014), Jeff Nichols (2013), Paul Schneider (2012) and Michael Shannon (2011).

The Jury Awards are given by the members of the RiverRun jury who assess and judge the competition films. The Audience Awards are decided by the votes cast by members of the audience who are present at each screening.

How to Enter Your Film

There are several ways to submit your film to the RiverRun International Film Festival. You can submit online through or through You can subscribe to these websites so you can get a $5.00 discount on your entry fees. You can also enter your film using an application form available in RiverRun’s own website. There is no submission fee for North Carolina students as long as they present a valid student ID and send their application using RiverRun’s online form.

The submission of films for the 2018 Festival is now closed. For filmmakers who are interested to enter their films for the 2019 Festival, the submission will open in the mid-summer of this year.

Filmmakers must conform to the rules and regulations and enter their films into one of the following film categories:

  • For feature films, either narrative or documentary, the length should be 40 minutes or longer.
  • For short films (narrative, documentary, experimental or animated), the length must be 40 minutes or less.
  • For student films, the entry film should have been completed after January 1, 2017, and must not exceed 30 minutes. Proof of enrollment is also required.

For the complete list of rules and regulations, you can visit the following websites.

RiverRun’s Official Website:



For questions about submissions and if you need additional information, you can call 336-724-1502, send an email to or visit the website at

The 2018 RiverRun International Film Festival will run from April 19-29, 2018.


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