The Chicago Underground Film Festival, the longest running underground film festival in the world, is an internationally recognized program providing a venue for documentary, experimental and avant-garde narrative film and video. The festival’s mission is to select and screen film, video and related works presenting a diverse line up of moving image programming focusing on filmmakers working to reinvent and explore new approaches to established practices, to foster new forms of media art and to build an audience for such work. Our goal is to achieve these aims by presenting a fun, user-friendly and accessible event..if you suspect your film is "underground," it probably is...

"What you get for your money is not just admission to the films but admission to a subculture" -- Roger Ebert

Founded in 1993, The Chicago Underground Film Festival is dedicated to the work of film and video makers with defiantly independent visions. Unlike many other "independent" film events our goal is not to imitate old guard, market-driven festivals such as Sundance. Instead we seek to create our own particular niche by presenting an accessible, user-friendly showcase for Avant-Garde and cult cinema. CUFF presents a wide range of work exploring the many definitions and interpretations of the concept of "underground". From alternative music films and political agitprop to high camp and formal experimentation. We like films that go beyond expectations and genre, films made with passion, obsession and drive.

The festival offers a mix of films and videos of all lengths and genres, focusing on work that is experimental in form or content. Panels and workshops augment this diverse programming. Of course, we also present nightly parties (including our infamous "Take The Filmmakers Bowling" party) as well concerts featuring performances by artists such as Pedestrian Deposit, Brett Nauke, Fire-Toolz, Jeremiah Meece, The Ponys, Bobby Conn & The Glass Gypsies, Plastic Crimewave Sound, The Cheater Slicks, The Demolition Doll Rods, Califone, Frontier, Terre Thaemlitz, The Handsome Family, The Wesley Willis Fiasco, Maureen Tucker, The Gaza Strippers and the Waco Bros.

Recent programming highlights include the world premieres of Triple Trouble by The Residents and Homer Flynn, Circus of the Scars by Cory Wees, Endless content Forever by Jacob Gregor, Tony Conrad: Completely In The Present by Tyler Hubby and Chicago Premieres of Provo by Emma Thatcher, Jonas In The Fields by Peter Sempel, The Love Witch by Anna Biller, The Alchemist Cookbook by Joel Potrykus, Ruined Heart by Khavn, Blood Below The Skin by Jennifer Reeder, Evaporating Borders by Iva Radivojevic, For The Plasma by Bingham Bryant and Kyle Molzan, Sailing A Sinking Sea by Olivia Wyatt, Speculation Nation by Bill Brown and Sabine Gruffat, Atlantis by Ben Russell, See You Next Tuesday by Drew Tobias, The Color Wheel and Impolex by Alex Ross Perry and American Arab by Usama Alshaibi,

In addition, CUFF has consistently honored the history of underground and independent cinema by presenting tributes and retrospectives of filmmakers such as Tom Palozzolo, Richard Kern, Kenneth Anger, George Kuchar, John Waters, Jack Smith, Paul Morrissey, Melvin Van Peebles, Doris Wishman, Larry Cohen, Alfred Leslie, Nick Zedd and Alejandro Jodorowsky.

Although the art of filmmaking is not competitive, The Chicago Underground Film Festival does give awards. The festival jury will present six awards to films and videos selected as best or most interesting in whatever categories they see fit. Additionally “Made in Chicago” and Audience Choice awards will also be presented.

Foreign language work must be dubbed or subtitled in English. CUFF requests all submissions be made as online screeners. Please do not send DVDs.

Entry fees must be in U.S. funds only.

Entry Fees are not required from filmmakers who have screened at CUFF in the past. If you are working in a part of the world where an entry fee would prohibit you from submitting your film, contact us at to request a fee waiver. Please understand that we rely on entry fees for the operation of the festival and only request waivers when necessary.

The cost of shipping exhibition prints to the festival is the responsibility of the entrant. Exhibition copies must be sent to the festival prepaid. All film reels, cans, videotapes, and cases must be labeled with the title of the entry. The festival will cover return shipping via FedEx or US Mail. The entrant or the recipient must pay additional charges for express shipping or transshipments to foreign film festivals. The festival cannot accept responsibility for damage or loss of materials while in transit. Please use only plastic or bubble pack envelopes when shipping entries.

The festival selection committee makes all programming decisions. If accepted we will notify filmmakers by email and phone. Films not selected will receive notification by email. If accepted, the print of your film or presentation video will need to be in our office by May 1, 2019. Be sure to indicate aspect ratio of your film/video as well as any other special screening/presentation information we might need to know, such as language and subtitles. CUFF requires DCP files for the exhibition of video work.

Please select only ONE category for your entry when completing your entry form. For our purposes ‘feature’ refers to films 40 minutes and over. ‘Experimental’ refers exclusively for non-narrative, non-documentary works. We reserve the right to re-categorize submissions as we deem appropriate.

Overall Rating
  • MM Serra

    I was honored to be included in this amazing film festival - Chicago Underground Film is one of my very favorites. MM Serra

    August 2022
  • Chicoy Wees

    Had a grand time at the CUFF in July of 22. Bryan and the crew at the Logan were super responsive even as they wrangled all the films, talent and attendees across multiple days. The programming was punchy and provocative, the Q and As were fun and insightful, and the after parties were off the charts.

    This experience will live on as one of my fondest memories.

    August 2022
  • Joshua David Blum

    Of all the festivals we were hoping to get into, CUFF was very much at the top of our list. Their collective curatorial instinct year after year makes this festival one of the most exciting and vibrant for seeing new works and we were honored to be included. They have kept their focus on introducing new talent while also elevating the whole festival experience for their audience and filmmakers alike.

    August 2022
  • Starr Sutherland

    The Residents recently enjoyed a fantastic WORLD PREMIERE of Triple Trouble, their first feature film, at the lovely and welcoming Chicago Underground Film Festival. 2022 is The Residents' 50th Anniversary; and, since the logo on their 50th logo proudly states "Holding Up the Underground Since 1972," the group saw the CUFF festival as the perfect destination for the film's premiere. Brian Wendorf, CUFF's director and Taila Howe, the festival producer, were perfect hosts and The Logan Theater, with its strong indie, cult film vibe, was the perfect venue for Triple Trouble.
    Homer Flynn - Director

    August 2022
  • Michael Lyons

    Thanks for this great long-running festival!

    August 2022