In 1994 a section for documentaries was introduced at the Ljubljana International Film Festival (LIFFe) and it immediately received a great response from the audience. It quickly became clear that the documentary film production has its audience, even a large one, although documentaries were rarely – if at all – screened in cinemas. It became one of the most popular sections among the audience of the Ljubljana International Film Festival (LIFFe), until it was discontinued from the official programme after 1996.
Thus, it is not surprising that in the 1998 the Documentary Film Festival was established. In the first few years it was a specialised non-competitive festival that offered a general, quite unselective overview of the contemporary documentary film production. Later it introduced a competitive section for Mountain and Adventure Films (in 2007 it became a separate festival event, named Mountain Film Festival).
From 2007 when Simon Popek became the director and the selector of the festival – it has become a specialised competitive festival focusing on contemporary documentary film production, mostly on films that deal with social issues and social phenomena.
The Documentary Film Festival has 5 sections: Competitive; Myths, Icons, Media; Intimate Portrayals; Topical, Socially Critical; and Retrospective.
The main Competitive section, introduced in 2009 at the 11th Documentary Film Festival, is prepared in collaboration with Amnesty International Slovenia and is dedicated to documentaries that deal with human rights issues. Each year 5 or 6 films compete for the main award, the Amnesty International Slovenia Award for the best film on human rights issues. The winning film is selected by an international jury composed of three members (selected by the Amnesty International Slovenia).
The Myths, Icons, Media section includes films on cultural icons, social and cultural phenomena, music and film stars, trends in mass culture and arts. The Intimate Portrayals section offers intimate encounters with well known personalities or ordinary people, while the Topical, Socially Critical sections brings films that are critically focusing on actual social issues. The last is the Retrospective section which presents domestic and foreign directors or national productions. In the past years this section brought personal retrospectives of Jože Pogačnik, Mako Sajko, Nicolas Philibert, Raymond Depardon, as well as an overview of Bosnian documentary film production.