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, 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 Chicago premieres of Tony Conrad: Completely In The Present by Tyler Hubby, 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 several 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
  • This has been an especially difficult year, but Bryan and the CUFF team really delivered ! This is an excellent festival. If it weren't for the pandemic, I would have eagerly traveled to Chicago to present my film

    November 2020
  • The best film festival in the world.

    October 2019
  • Susan DeLeo

    I had an awesome time at CUFF and am grateful to have shown my short there with so many inspiring films. Alot of opportunity to meet and network with all involved and the brunch for filmmakers was amazing as well as the after parties.

    June 2019
  • Also Sisters

    It was an honor to screen our film in this festival! They really understand underground cinema and were very supportive of our work. Bryan and his team are outstanding, they really show respect and care for our film and treated us as if we were the most important people there. Gracias CUFF!

    September 2018
  • Nicole Wegner

    It was such a pleasure to be screened and invited to CUFF. The team is so much fun and really well organised. I was able to see a lot of amazing films and had a great chance to do some networking in a very casual environment. The parties and the music program were also great. I had a lot of fun at CUFF 2018. Thanks so much!!

    June 2018