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 Jackie Robbins at jrobbins@chicagofilmmakers.org.

Onion City is a juried festival with cash prizes.

Entry Fees

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

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 2018 and 2021 are eligible.
No length restrictions. Chicago premieres are highly preferred but not always

Eligible Formats

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). Contact Onion City if you prefer to submit film prints for preview - please do not submit film prints prior to notification as in-theatre screenings may not be possible, depending on public health considerations at the time of the festival.

Exhibition Formats
Acceptable formats for VIRTUAL SCREENING include: Digital File.

Acceptable formats for IN-THEATRE SCREENING (when possible) include: DCP, Digital File, 16mm film and Super-8mm film.

Foreign language work must be subtitled in English.

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.

If your entry is accepted for exhibition you will be notified by
April 29, 2021. If your entry is not accepted for exhibition you
will be notified by May 6, 2021. These dates are approximate and
may change.
Receipt of Exhibition Copy: May 6, 2021
If your entry is accepted for exhibition, your exhibition film or
digital copy should arrive in our office by May 6, 2021. Please
inform us if this will be a problem. Exhibition copies (physical
media) will be returned to the entrant by June 20, 2021 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.

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.

International Shipping
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
COMMERCIAL VALUE. Exhibition copies will be returned to the entrant at
the expense of the festival.

Overall Rating
  • 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
  • Jessie Darnell

    So honored to be a part of Onion City - The program was incredible and I was so excited to receive a Jury Award for my piece. Thank you!

    April 2019