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Through working and learning together, students develop unique artistic voices and create impactful, innovative documentaries.

Portrait of teenage girl wearing a majorette outfit
Still from Drummies (2021) by Jessie Zinn

Situated in the Department of Art & Art History, Stanford University’s Master of Fine Arts program in Documentary Film is a two-year program in which small cohorts of 6-8 students immerse themselves together in documentary filmmaking.

In addition to the core production courses, students take a range of film studies, film history, art history, and art practice courses, placing their documentary film practice within a context of critical engagement with the world. Students become conversant with the documentary tradition as well as with alternative media and new directions in documentary. The MFA degree is designed to prepare students for professional careers in film, video, and digital media, with the qualifications to teach at the university level.

“The program produces filmmakers who can do it all — produce, direct, shoot, edit, distribute."

— The Hollywood Reporter

Recent Student Films

Films from the program have screened and won awards at major festivals including Sundance, SXSW, and Tribeca. Student work is frequently featured on PBS, The New York Times OpDocs, The New Yorker, The Guardian, The Atlantic, and Short of the Week. For a larger selection of recent student work, see Recent Films.

The Game God(s) (2021) by Adrian Burrell

Club Quarantine (2020) by Aurora Brachman

The Clinic (2018) by Elivia Shaw

Crisanto Street (2018) by Paloma Martinez

Unheard (2017) by Erin Kökdil

Financial Aid

Documentary Film graduate students receive a generous amount of fellowship support.

Fellowship support covers the full cost of tuition and assistance toward costs of living. In addition, the program offers funds toward the costs of student productions.

Featured Alumni

  • Priscilla Gonzalez Sainz

    Priscilla Gonzalez Sainz

    Priscilla Gonzalez Sainz’s (‘17) thesis documentary film ROOM 140 is now streaming on The Atlantic Selects.
  • Portrait of Elizabeth Lo

    Elizabeth Lo

    Elizabeth Lo (‘15) was named one of the "25 New Faces of Independent Film" by Filmmaker Magazine in 2015 and was featured in the 2015 New Directors Showcase at Cannes Lion
  • Reid Davenport

    For his debut feature, Reid Davenport ('16) received the 2022 Sundance Directing Award in the U.S. Documentary Competition.
Atrium of the McMurtry Building at Stanford University
Prospective Applicants

Online Information Sessions

We're holding online info sessions for prospective applicants in Fall 2022. Feel free to also contact us with your questions about the program.

Upcoming public events