Mission & History

About Cinema/Chicago

Our Mission

Cinema/Chicago, the presenting organization of the Chicago International Film Festival, is a year-round non-profit cultural and educational organization dedicated to fostering better communication between people of diverse cultures through the art of film and the moving image. We serve Chicago’s diverse and under-served citizenry by providing access to world-class cinema. We aim to enrich Chicago’s cultural environment by presenting film in contexts that encourage discussion and debate.

Through the Film Festival, our Education Program, and our year-round programming and membership program, we enhance the cultural assets of the city of Chicago by exhibiting film from around the world. We also strive to promote a deeper understanding of a diverse body of cultures, thus contributing to Chicago’s identity and orientation as an international city.

Our Beginning

The Chicago International Film Festival was started in 1964 by filmmaker and graphic artist Michael Kutza to provide an alternative to the commercial Hollywood movies that dominated the city’s theaters. Seeking out the best in international cinema, the Festival has opened windows to a world of film previously or otherwise unavailable in Chicago.  In addition, at more than half of the screenings each year, filmgoers have the rare and exciting chance to meet directors, producers, writers and cast members who introduce their films and hold discussion sessions after the screenings.

The Festival has a rich history of discovering hundreds of ground-breaking directors including Martin Scorsese, John Carpenter, Taylor Hackford, Susan Seidelman, Victor Nunez, Wim Wenders, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Bertrand Tavernier, Peter Weir, Dariush Mehrjui, Mike Leigh, Alan Parker, Michael Apted, Peter Greenaway, Vincent Ward, Krzysztof Kieslowski, Krzysztof Zanussi, Dusan Makavejev, Victor Erice, Jan Troell and Maria Louisa Bemberg.

Our Logo

cinema_eyes Some have thought they were Charlie Chaplin’s eyes (including Mr. Chaplin), others thought they were Liza Minnelli’s (including Ms. Minnelli). However, those eyes on the Chicago International Film Festival logo belong to a combination of silent screen sirens: Theda Bara, Pola Negri and Mae Murray. These actresses starred in countless films at the dawn of cinema and the logo is a rendering of all three. Created by Festival Founder Michael Kutza, our logo has become internationally recognized as an image that represents both the allure of the silver screen and the cinematic celebration that takes place every year in Chicago. The silent star Celluloid hero, with her heavily mascared eyes, continues to be the Festival’s guiding vision since 1964.