The Different Kind of Categories at Film Festivals

The Different Kind of Categories at Film Festivals

When a director, producer or filmmaker decides to enter one of their films in a festival it is highly important they indicate and tick the right boxes what category their film belongs in. Otherwise they may risk getting their film evaluated being delayed or even worse disqualified.

So, we thought that it would be a good idea to point out all the different categories that exist in qualifying what a film actually is, and where it belongs in a festival. That way should you have the great opportunity of attending a film festival you know where to find the film genres you like.

Feature v Short

This category is pretty self-explanatory, normally any film that is over an hour in length is considered a feature film, and anything under 60 minutes a short film. However, different festivals have slightly different qualification times and definitions. If a film enters the grey area of between thirty minutes and an hour it could face stiffer opposition than if it were a classified as a simple short.


Narrative is equal to novel in the written word, in other words it means a film based on fiction. If a film is both fact and fiction, then it will still be categorized in the narrative section.


These films are meant to be based on fact, although their message can be portrayed through editing there can still be an element of non-truth in the film. Most documentaries are fairly obvious through their topic and are often about real life.




Any film that has been made by any form of animated technique will be classed as animation. Some films have a mixture of animation and standard film techniques and if this is the case it will generally be classed as an animated film.


The term experimental is an overall blanket term for a film that does not fit into any other category, it encompasses the film that is not quite a documentary or slightly out of the box. Festivals that showcase new technologies and that push the envelope, often are classed as experimental.

Music Video

Self-categorizing but a highly important genre, some music videos are works of art, such as the Thriller video from Michael Jackson. Usually around three minutes in length, the music video can either be animated or feature artists but has to contain music.


Student films are mostly short films of a narrative nature, these films have their own category to encourage young filmmakers to present their work.  Again, some festivals have different entry qualifications and it might insist that only genuine students can enter their work. Other festivals do not engage such strict rules and accept films from either non-professional or young filmmakers.These categories of films might help in picking the wheat from the chaff, they will certainly help in selecting a category for you to either submit or view a film. At the cinema they operate a completely different set of categories that are mostly self-evident: comedy, action, horror, crime, drama, fantasy, animation, historical, documentary, adventure, mystery, romance, science fiction, thriller, western and war. Whether you are visiting a cinema or going to a film festival it is a pretty good idea to know your categories to avoid any mistakes.