The Chicago International Film Festival celebrates the best that cinema has to offer. Showcasing films from established masters and emerging storytellers, the Festival welcomes films from around the world. Offering an impressive selection of competitive and non-competitive programming, the Chicago International Film Festival brings films both domestic and international to silver screens in Chicago.
As one of the main cultural importers of world cinema to the Midwest, the Chicago International Film Festival is a place for audiences and filmmakers to engage with one another. The Festival features a host of screenings, panels, educational events, and Q&A’s that foster cultural understanding and artistic engagement. In 2020, the 56th Chicago International Film Festival presented 58 feature films and 56 short films from 43 countries.
The Chicago International Film Festival is the longest-running competitive film festival in North America. Films programmed in these competitions are eligible for awards across a variety of categories.
International Feature Film Competition
Representing a wide variety of styles and genres, these works compete for the top honor, the Gold Hugo - as well as awards for best actor, actress, director, writer, and more - in North America's longest-running competitive film festival.
New Directors Competition
This selection of first and second feature films, receiving their U.S. premiere in Chicago, celebrates the spirit of discovery and innovation upon which the Festival was founded. To be eligible for the competition, films must be at least a U.S. premiere if selected for the Festival.
Global in scope and representing a wide range of approaches to documentary form, this program offers a diverse cross-section of contemporary non-fiction filmmaking in both competitive and non-competitive sections. To be eligible for the International Documentary Competition, films must be at least a U.S. premiere if selected for the Festival.
From the edgy to the tender, these bold LGBTQ-themed films exhibit new artistic perspectives on sexuality and identity, and compete for the Q Hugo Award.
Short Film Competitions
Annually showcasing the best short films from around the globe, this competition highlights the work of both upcoming artists and masters of the short subject form. Programmed films are eligible for awards in the following categories: Animation, Documentary, and Live Action. The winners of the Best Live Action, Best Documentary Short and Best Animated Short awards are eligible to be considered by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for the Academy Awards®.
City & State
This program celebrates Illinois’ rich filmmaking tradition, showcasing the best features, documentaries, and short films with their roots right here in Illinois. Films in this section compete for the Chicago Award, given to the year’s best Illinois film.
The Chicago International Film Festival screens a wide range of films out of competition every year. All non-competition films at the Festival are programmed under one of the following categories.
Gathering genre films from horror and thrillers to edgy animation and dark comedies, this showcase of future cult classics and midnight favorites offers an exciting mix of late-night fare.
Now in its 25th year, this program showcases films that celebrate the richness of African American filmmaking and the diversity of black cultures around the world and the filmmakers behind them.
Cinemas of the Americas
With films from Cuba and Colombia to Brazil, Uruguay, and Argentina, this program spotlights the fresh and vibrant work of emerging and veteran filmmakers from South and Central America, Mexico, and the Caribbean.
Featuring boundary-breaking works of cinematic art, this program boldly explores the creative potential of the moving image to craft powerful, innovative films.
A mix of classic narratives and cutting-edge forms, this program offers a snapshot of the contemporary cinematic landscape. Serving up the sights, sounds and stories from cultures around the globe, this section presents the latest from established masters, festival award winners, box-office hits, and hidden gems.
All film selection and programming decisions are made at the discretion of the 57th Chicago International Film Festival and its programming team.
The Chicago International Film Festival will present our 57th edition October 13-24, 2021. It is our intention to host an in-person event with the possibility of additional online components.
A) Eligibility Requirements
- Films must have been completed AFTER August 1, 2020.
- Films completed before August 1, 2020 are NOT eligible.
- Films must premier/have premiered AFTER October 25, 2020.
- Films premiered anywhere on or before October 25, 2020 are NOT eligible.
- Films must be at least a Chicago premiere, and US premieres (theatrical and/or online) are given priority.
- Films shown at private screenings not open to the public (for crew, investors, etc.) are eligible.
- Films that have previously been available online throughout the U.S. through film festivals are eligible for consideration.
Films are NOT eligible if they
- Have theatrically screened publicly in the Chicago area
- Have had a theatrical run in the US prior to the Festival dates
- Have aired on US television prior to the Festival dates
- Are available to the public for purchase on DVD/Blu-ray or online.
- Feature-length films (narrative or documentary) that are available for public online viewing in their entirety are NOT eligible. Short films (under 40 min) may be available online.
- Films previously submitted to the Chicago International Film Festival are NOT eligible for consideration.
All entries must be either in English or subtitled in English. Dialogue lists are not accepted.
Entrant confirms and warrants required legal authority to submit the entry to the Festival and to use all music, images, and content in the entry.
For any specific questions regarding your film’s eligibility, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
B) Submission Guidelines
1. Films must be submitted via an online screener hosted by Vimeo or other secure online platform. (It is recommended that films submitted via online screener be available to download). Please contact email@example.com if you prefer to submit a Bluray/DVD screener.
2. Only complete entries (including fee payment and screener) will be considered.
3. Entrants are permitted to submit works-in-progress (i.e., without final color correction or sound mixing), but please note that the programming committee will only consider the version submitted. Subsequent cuts or replacement copies will only be accepted at the request of the programming committee.
4. To qualify for student entry fee rates, entrant must include proof of student status at the time of production (e.g., copy of student ID, transcript, etc.) Proof of student status should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org upon submission.
5. For theatrical screenings, all films selected for the Chicago International Film Festival will screen on DCP unless otherwise arranged. If required, file specifications for online screenings will be provided to selected films.
Early deadline entries must be postmarked/submitted online by April 5, 2021.
Regular deadline entries must be postmarked/submitted online by June 14, 2021.
Late deadline entries must be postmarked/submitted online by July 6, 2021.
D) Judging & Selection
Films are selected for Festival presentation by the Chicago International Film Festival programming committee. If a film is selected, the Festival office will contact the entrant by phone or email. For films selected to screen at the 57th Chicago International Film Festival, the Festival will only cover one-way shipping costs for the Festival screening hard drive or DCP.
For films selected to screen at the 57th Chicago International Film Festival, the Festival will only cover one-way shipping costs for the Festival screening hard drive or DCP.
All entrants will be notified on or before September 15, 2021. The Festival does not provide feedback or screening notes to entries that are not selected.
Films selected for the International Feature, Documentary, New Directors, and Out-Look Competitions are judged during the Festival. All other competitive film categories, including the Chicago Award and Short Film Competitions, are judged before the Festival.
E) Entry Fees
Each entry must be accompanied by the appropriate entry fee. Entry fees are not refundable. Fees cover registration, registration notification, full consideration by the programming department, and notification of the results. These fees may be paid by credit card (VISA, MasterCard, or American Express) or by check or money order, made payable to Cinema/Chicago.