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 brain.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are uncertain of the final status of the presentation of Mental Filmness. We plan to host a virtual event on the platform just as we did last year, no matter what happens; if we have the opportunity by that point, we would like to host a small gathering in Chicago as well. We always try to plan the festival around World Mental Health Day, which is on Sunday, October 10th, 2021 this year, so we will plan to kick off on October 9th, 2021. The virtual festival will run until November 1st, 2021.

We ask for 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 helps cut down on irrelevant entries and offsets nominal costs like printing programs and streaming fees, 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 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. Filmmakers will be given the opportunity to participate in a 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.

Our festival gives out awards 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 feel best promotes empathy for mental illness. There will be no cash value for these awards--but you can say that you are an award winner and add some nice laurels to your media!

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

Overall Rating
  • Karina Astrup

    Very well curated and thoughtful Festival! It was a pleasure to be part of something that so beautifully explores the topic of mental health with a wonderful diversity of film works on the topic!

    October 2020
  • Badewa Ajibade

    A big "Thank you" to the Mental Filmness Film Festival for recognizing the unique portrayal of mental illness and the message in my film Jumper. I would also like to thank Sharon for being easily accessible and helpful. Thanks again to everyone involved with the festival.

    October 2020
  • mohammad poustindouz

    its wonderfull amezing festival . i hope try once time

    October 2019
    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
    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
    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! =)