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 2019, the 55th Chicago International Film Festival presented over 120 feature films and 57 short subject films from 65 countries. The Festival welcomed films from over 30 new directors to Chicago this year, exemplifying the spirit of discovery that has long been its calling card.

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
This program of striking and masterfully crafted films from around the world showcases the best in cinema today. Telling essential, transportive stories, these titles compete for the Festival’s top prize, as well as awards for best director, best actor, and more.

New Directors Competition
Screening for the first time in the U.S., these bold works from first- and second-time feature filmmakers are selected to represent the most exciting new voices in cinema. Prizes awarded in the category include the Gold and Silver Hugo as well as the Roger Ebert Award.

Documentary Competition
From the topical and timeless to the political and proactive, these real-life stories bring you up close and personal with the people and issues that define who we are, where we come from, and where we’re going. Documentary Competition titles, making their U.S. premieres in Chicago, compete for the Festival’s top nonfiction prize.

Short Film Competitions
Annually showcasing the best short films from around the globe, these competitions highlight 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 top winners in the Live Action and Documentary Short Film Competitions qualify for consideration at 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 our state. Films in this section compete for the Chicago Award, given to the year’s best Illinois-made 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.

After Dark
From blood-splattering gore to suspenseful sci-fi to the outrageously wild, weird, and wicked, this program of boundary-pushing horror and fringe films from around the world will blow your mind and keep you up late.

Black Perspectives
Now in its 24th 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
Showcasing fresh and vibrant work from emerging and veteran filmmakers from South and Central America, Mexico, and the Caribbean, this program reflects the diversity, dynamism, and artistry of films from around the region

Global Currents
Grab your passport and journey around the globe with these films from Asia to Europe to South America and beyond. With an intimate view of these cultures and their stories, this program highlights contemporary cinema of all genres, with unique insights that transcend difference and remind us of the shared human experience.

Gender is as fluid as the types of films that address LGBTQ+ themes. From hard-hitting dramas to lesbian romances to documentaries about cultural icons, these films reflect superbly crafted perspectives on sexuality and identity from around the globe.

A) Eligibility Requirements

1. Films completed on or after October 1, 2019 are eligible for consideration
2. Films that have premiered on or before October 27, 2019 are NOT eligible for consideration.
3. Films previously submitted to the Chicago International Film Festival are NOT eligible for consideration.
4. Films must be at least a Chicago premiere, and US premieres are given priority. Films that (a) have screened publicly in the Chicago area, (b) have had a theatrical run in the US prior to the Festival dates, (c) have aired on US television prior to the Festival dates, or (d) are available for purchase in North America are NOT eligible.
5. 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.
6. Films shown at private screenings not open to the public (for crew, investors, etc.) are eligible.
7. All entries must be either in English or subtitled in English. Dialogue lists are not accepted.
8. 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.

B) Submission Guidelines

1. Feature-length films must be submitted via online screener hosted by Vimeo, on DVD or on Blu-ray disc. (It is recommended that films submitted via online screener be available to download).
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 (copy of student ID, transcript, etc.)
5. All films selected for the Chicago International Film Festival will screen on DCP unless otherwise arranged by the submitting filmmaker and programming team.

C) Deadlines

Early deadline entries must be postmarked/submitted online by April 6, 2020.
Regular deadline entries must be postmarked/submitted online by June 15, 2020.
Late deadline entries must be postmarked/submitted online by July 6, 2020.

D) Shipping

The cost of shipping an entry to the Festival must be paid by the entrant. Collect or COD shipments will not be accepted. All international entries must be sent “free domicile” to the Festival office with all transportation charges, duties, and taxes prepaid by the shipper. For films selected to screen at the 56th Chicago International Film Festival, the Festival will only cover one-way shipping costs for the Festival screening hard drive or DCP.

E) 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. The Festival does not provide feedback or screening notes to entries that are not selected.

All entrants will be notified on or before September 10, 2020

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.

F) Entry Fees

Each entry must be accompanied by the appropriate entry fee. Entry fees are not refundable. Fees cover registration, registration notification, 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.

Overall Rating
  • Ariane Boukerche

    Great Film Festival. Thank you very much.

    November 2020
  • Amazing history with this festival. It was an honor to be a part of their legacy. Great hospitality. Rockstar treatment.

    November 2018
  • Stephen Takashima

    I was incredibly honored to attend and had a fantastic time. The communication leading up to it was great, the films were awesome, and I especially enjoyed getting to know the team.

    November 2017