Film Contests, Festivals and Grants to Change the World

Winners of the 4th Annual DoGooder Nonprofit Video Awards. Image via DoGooder Nonprofit Video Awards.

Winners of the 4th Annual DoGooder Nonprofit Video Awards.

As the saying goes, if a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video is worth ten thousand. Here are four online contests, awards and festivals that promote social change through film.

The Global Social Change Film Festival and Institute (GSCFFI)

“GSCFFI features four days of films, panels, workshops, selected shorts and special events to inspire and build a global community focused on expanding the reach of conscious social change film and media.” This year’s inaugural event, held April 13-17 in Ubud, Bali, has the theme of “Global Women and Film,” featuring international woman filmmakers and keynote speakers, including award-winning Indonesian filmmaker and activist Nia Dinata.

DoGooder Nonprofit Video Awards

This is an annual online video contest, presented by YouTube and See3 Communications, a communications consulting firm that helps nonprofits advance their mission online. “In the past year, we’ve seen nonprofits use video to fundraise, form petitions that leverage citizen voices, and speak out about the issues that matter to them in creative ways, “ said Steve Grove, head of YouTube News, Politics and Nonprofits, in a press release. The winners of last year’s contest produced cause-related videos about topics as diverse as Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy to economic discrimination against same-sex couples.

ViewChange Online Film Contest

“ has launched an online competition to find powerful new stories about the progress being made in achieving the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). These short videos will be used to raise awareness, inspire action, and accelerate the worldwide movement to reduce extreme poverty by 2015.” This year’s grand prize winner was a story about the first primary school for girls in a Maasai village in Kenya, “a place that lets [girls] know that their dream is possible.”

Media That Matters Film Festival

This festival showcases important issues from gay rights to climate change in films that are 12 minutes or less, many of which are produced by people under age 21. This year marked the festival’s 10th anniversary, featuring 12 short films from around the world. The films are streamed online, broadcast nationally and distributed on DVD to educators and activists.

PUMA.Creative Impact Award

At this year’s Sundance Film Festival, PUMA.Creative and Channel 4 BRITDOC Foundation launched the PUMA.Creative Impact Award, a new annual award of 50,000 Euros “to draw attention to the finest creative, social justice, peace and environmental filmmaking in  the  world.” The selection jury includes Her Majesty Queen Noor of Jordan; Morgan Spurlock, Academy Award nominated Director of Super Size Me; Orlando Bagwell, Director of the  Ford Foundation Social Justice Media Initiative; and Emmanuel Jal, musician and activist. (Note: Channel 4 BRITDOC Foundation also hosts workshops, websites and events, like the Good Pitch, to support filmmakers dedicated to social justice.)


Ford Foundation launched this five-year, $50 million initiative to support socially conscious documentary filmmakers. The New York Times columnist Nick Kristof and his wife, Sheryl WuDunn, authors of the bestselling Half the Sky, are one of the first recipients of the grant, and their film will focus on women’s empowerment and women in conflict. JustFilms is also working on a partnership with Sundance Institute to support new workr, offer finishing funds, organize a yearly International Filmmaker Lab aroun the world, develop and support new technology solutions for filmmakers, and feature screenings of JustFilms-supported works at funding competitions, industry panels and festivals.

Do you know of other good online film contests and festivals? Leave your comments!

Erica Schlaikjer

About the Author Erica Schlaikjer

Erica Schlaikjer is the Creator and Curator of Benevolent Media. She lives in Washington, D.C. Follow her on Twitter: @benevolentmedia and @eschlaik.

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