Mental Filmness is a Chicago-based film festival highlighting works that portray a realistic depiction of mental illness. The festival is dedicated to breaking the stigma surrounding mental illness by sharing stories and promoting empathy for those who live with these chronic psychiatric conditions. We are especially interested in challenging stereotypes, showing different perspectives on mental illness, and informing and enlightening the general public about mental health.

We define “mental illness” as a broad umbrella that encompasses any psychiatric diagnosis, emotional disorder, addiction, or other disorder of the mind.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Due to the rapid spread of COVID-19 in Chicago, which is in the process of transitioning out of a shelter-in-place order, Mental Filmness will be a streaming event this year. We are planning around the same dates, around World Mental Health Day, from October 9th through October 11th, 2020. Please consider if you would like to be part of a streaming event now before you submit.

This year we are instituting a small fee of $10 to submit your film. Mental Filmness is *not* a money-making venture, but we learned our first year that this may cut down on irrelevant entries and help offset nominal costs like catering and printing programs, and may possibly help in flying out visiting filmmakers. All leftover money will be donated to NAMI. However, if you feel you cannot afford the submission fee, please write to Sharon@mentalfilmness.com to request a waiver. Our main goal is to increase awareness and understanding of mental illness and to be open to everyone. The most important thing is to have these films seen by an audience for that purpose. Visiting filmmakers will be given the opportunity to participate in an audience Q & A.

By participating in Mental Filmness, you will be an exciting part of the continuation of Chicago's first film festival based around mental health.

The Facebook event is here: https://www.facebook.com/events/612330842556372

Our festival does plan to give out awards at the festival based on some of our objectives. There will be a Stigma Breaker award for the film we feel most effectively battles the stigma of mental illness. There will be a Realism Award for the film we feel most realistically depicts its condition. There will be an Empathy Award for the film that we best feel promotes empathy for mental illness. There will be no cash value for these awards.

All films submitted must have some depiction of mental illness within them. All films must depict mental illness in a respectful and empathetic way.

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  • mohammad poustindouz

    its wonderfull amezing festival . i hope try once time

    October 2019
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    Response from festival:

    Thank you so much, Mohammad! We were proud and excited to have such a darkly humorous film all the way from Iran. It got a lot of love from the audience, and I even heard a few people say it was a favorite!

  • This was absolutely the best experience with festivals in my whole live. Mrs. Gissy help me with kindness in every passage and also with some technical issues we had.
    Perfect festival!

    October 2019
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    Response from festival:

    Luca, you are so enthusiastic, kind, and supportive. It was a joy to work with you, and you truly made a beautiful film that captured the experience of panic and anxiety so poetically. I think it was very much appreciated by the audience. I did take a couple of pictures of it playing but unfortunately left my cell phone in an Uber about a week later. But rest assured, it was well-received.

  • Philip Brubaker

    I was so thrilled to be able to come to Chicago and attend the first-ever Mental Filmness Festival! This is a much-needed event and I know that future incarnations will grow and grow. My documentary on artists with mental health diagnoses won an award and I was so pleased to be there to accept it and speak at a Q&A.

    October 2019
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    Response from festival:

    Philip, your documentary is exactly what we were looking for, an empathetic and realistic glimpse into mental illness. The stories your artists told were all so unique and interesting, and it was so very gracious of you to come out to Chicago on your own dime and give an extremely insightful Q & A. We do really hope to grow the festival and are charging a small entry fee in the hopes that we can do things like fly filmmakers out, I think having them there and talking to them was my very favorite part. And now you can say you were an award-winner! And you can always say you were part of the first! =)

  • JoeBert Entertainment

    We truly regret not being able to attend this festival. The communication was beyond great and their analysis of our film was spot on. Clearly this is a festival that cares about art. We respect the fact that they recognize how important it is to not shy away from the serious subject of mental health but face it head-on. We are honored to have been a part of their inaugural festival and hope they continue on for many years.

    October 2019
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    Response from festival:

    Thank you so much, and thanks for making such a unique dark dramedy about suicide! I truly do love the film. It's easy to review such a gem, especially when you can relate so much to it. It shows a pretty keen understanding of the topic even though it is sometimes done in a humorous way, a really difficult balance to pull off. I really appreciate your support and understanding of our mission, engaging with the filmmakers was one of my very favorite parts of doing this. I also really appreciated your insightful responses about the different cuts. Thanks for the memories!