Onion City is one of the premiere international festivals exclusively devoted to experimental film and video.

Onion City was founded in the 1980s by the Experimental Film Coalition. Chicago Filmmakers assumed responsibility for the festival in 2001, and expanded the size and opened it up to video work as well as film. Onion City presents 8-10 programs over four days in Chicago and features roughly 60-70 works from around the world. Aside from the competition programs, there are occasional special presentations of new or older films of note or guest presentations. Screenings take place at Chicago Filmmakers or virtually, if necessary.

The mission of Onion City is to provide local and regional audiences with an opportunity to view a wide variety of contemporary experimental works, focused on artistic excellence but also with an eye towards representing differing styles, forms, and nationalities.

For more information contact onioncity@chicagofilmmakers.org.

Onion City is a juried festival with cash prizes.

A discount code is available upon request for students and additional entries by the same entrant by emailing onioncity@chicagofilmmakers.org.

Early Deadline: $25 ($20 student) for the first entry and $5 for each additional entry by the same entrant.

Regular Deadline: $30 ($25 student) for the first entry and $10 for each additional entry by the same entrant.

Late Deadline: $35 ($30 student) for the first entry and $10 for each additional entry by the same entrant.

Any experimental works completed between 2020 and 2023 are eligible. No length restrictions. Chicago premieres are highly preferred but not always required.

***Preview Screeners***
Entries should be submitted for preview as an online streaming video, either on FilmFreeway or via a password-protected streaming URL (such as Vimeo).

***Exhibition Formats***
Acceptable formats for VIRTUAL SCREENING include: Digital File (.mp4 and/or .mov under 10GB)

Acceptable formats for IN-THEATER SCREENING include: Digital File (.mp4 and/or .mov under 10GB) or 16mm film.

***Subtitles and Captioning***
Acceptable formats for CAPTIONING include: .srt or .vtt files

Foreign language work must be subtitled in English.

***Receipt of Exhibition Copy: February 23, 2023***
If your film is accepted for exhibition, your exhibition film or digital copy should arrive in our office by February 23, 2023. Please inform us if this will be a problem.

By entering the festival, the entrant authorizes a public screening of the work in the festival and agrees to provide an exhibition copy for the period of the festival. Should the distribution rights for the work change by the time the festival takes place, it is still the responsibility of the entrant to provide an exhibition copy to the festival without charge. Once a film/tape is submitted for entry, it may not be withdrawn. Additionally, the entrant authorizes the festival to make copies of their preview copy for press use.

Entrants will be notified of their judging status by February 16, 2023. This date is approximate and may change.

Exhibition copies must be sent to the festival prepaid. Return shipping via UPS or US Mail will be covered by the festival. Additional charges for express shipping or transshipments to foreign film festivals must be paid by the entrant or the recipient. The festival cannot accept nor assume responsibility for damage or loss of materials while in transit. All film reels, cans, discs, and cases must be labeled with the title of the entry. Please do not use fiber filled shipping envelopes; fibers damage media and equipment.

Exhibition copies (physical media) will be returned to the entrant by April 6, 2023 unless we are requested in writing otherwise. Transshipments of exhibition copies to other U.S. festivals must be requested in writing. Onion City cannot transship to other international festivals.

Foreign entries must be shipped prepaid. Exhibition copies must be sent directly to the festival office with all transportation charges, delivery fees, and any duties or taxes prepaid by the shipper. The entrant will have to bear financial responsibility in the event that the festival is charged any brokerage fees. Please be sure to include all proper customs documentation. We recommend that the following declaration be printed on the outside of the package and on customs forms: TEMPORARY IMPORTATION – FOR FILM FESTIVAL EXHIBITION ONLY. NO COMMERCIAL VALUE. Exhibition copies will be returned to the entrant at the expense of the festival.

Overall Rating
  • Alexandra Kaucher

    So fun! Zach the festival programmer, curated a really cohesive group of films. A great festival to be a part of.

    April 2022
  • Philip Thompson

    Such an amazing festival! Zach Vanes has such a great eye for finding some great experimental films, and the category programming had such a great flow, each film really had a moment to shine. A great way to celebrate some fresh new works.

    April 2022
  • Sid Branca

    Onion City is great! I really enjoy this festival, it's an excellent showcase of video art and experimental film -- it was a thrill to get to share my own work as a part of it this time through.

    April 2022
  • Kathryn Mockler

    Excellent festival. Organizers were terrific. Love the work in the festival. Thrilled to be a part of it.

    June 2021
  • Dana Duff

    2021: This was such a high quality festival: excellent films and programming, smart Q & A's. I appreciated having a few days to see the films. It was great to have a chance to interact with other filmmakers. Zach Vanes is brilliant. Loved the experience!

    June 2021