The Chicago International Film Festival is the longest-running competitive film festival in North America. Films programmed in these competitions are eligible for awards across a variety of categories.
International Feature Film Competition
Representing a wide variety of styles and genres, these works compete for the top honor, the Gold Hugo – as well as awards for best actor, actress, director, writer, and more – in North America’s longest-running competitive film festival.
New Directors Competition
This selection of first and second feature films, receiving their U.S. premiere in Chicago, celebrates the spirit of discovery and innovation upon which the Festival was founded. To be eligible for the competition, films must be at least a U.S. premiere if selected for the Festival.
Global in scope and representing a wide range of approaches to documentary form, this program offers a diverse cross-section of contemporary non-fiction filmmaking in both competitive and non-competitive sections. To be eligible for the International Documentary Competition, films must be at least a U.S. premiere if selected for the Festival.
From the edgy to the tender, these bold LGBTQ-themed films exhibit new artistic perspectives on sexuality and identity, and compete for the Q Hugo Award.
Short Film Competitions
Annually showcasing the best short films from around the globe, this competition highlights the work of both upcoming artists and masters of the short subject form. Programmed films are eligible for awards in the following categories: Animation, Documentary, and Live Action. The winners of the Best Live Action and Best Documentary Short awards are eligible to be considered by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for the Academy Awards®.
City & State
This program celebrates Illinois’ rich filmmaking tradition, showcasing the best features, documentaries, and short films with their roots right here in Illinois. Films in this section compete for the Chicago Award, given to the year’s best Illinois film.
All films in the Festival are eligible for the Founder’s Award, presented to one film or performance that captures the spirit of the Chicago International Film Festival for its unique and innovative approach to the art of the moving image.
The Chicago International Film Festival screens a wide range of films out of competition every year. All non-competition films at the Festival are programmed under one of the following categories.
Gathering genre films from horror and thrillers to edgy animation and dark comedies, this showcase of future cult classics and midnight favorites offers an exciting mix of late-night fare.
Now in its 22nd year, this program showcases films that celebrate the richness of African American filmmaking and the diversity of black cultures around the world and the filmmakers behind them.
Cinemas of the Americas
With films from Cuba and Colombia to Brazil, Uruguay, and Argentina, this program spotlights the fresh and vibrant work of emerging and veteran filmmakers from South and Central America, Mexico, and the Caribbean.
A mix of classic narratives and cutting edge forms, this program offers a snapshot of the contemporary cinematic landscape. Serving up the sights, sounds and stories from cultures around the globe, this section presents the latest from established masters, festival award winners, box-office hits, and hidden gems.
These independent films represent the freshest and most innovative narrative filmmaking today. With budgets both large and small, films programmed in this section highlight great storytelling from across the U.S.