About the Festival

Kids at theater

The Chicago International Children's Film Festival was founded in 1983 to introduce new, thoughtful, provocative, and culturally diverse films for children to American audiences, to recognize excellence in children's filmmaking, and empower children by involving them directly in the jurying process.

Today, the Festival is one of the top film festivals for kids in the world and the largest film festival for children and youth in the country. Each year, selected from thousands of entries, the Festival features over 250 films from over 40 countries. Engaging kids of all ages, the festival includes post screening Q&As with filmmakers, interactive workshops with special guests, peer-to-peer dialogues, and filmmaker-led seminars.

The Festival was the first competitive festival of films for children in the U.S. and, from its inception, has had independent juries of children and adult media professionals awarding prizes in multiple categories. In addition, the Festival is the first festival of children's film to be honored as an Academy Award® qualifying festival. Winners of the Festival Juried prizes are eligible for consideration at the annual Academy Awards®.

The Festival is a rare opportunity for Chicagoans to experience award-winning global films before anyone else and as they should be seen: on the big screen!

The Chicago International Children's Film Festival provides screenings both for schools and the general public.

Educators bring their classes to school screenings during the fall Festival for the thoughtful, provocative, and intelligent films from around the world. Films are used as a springboard to class-work in a wide number of subject areas, including geography, math, music, social studies, art, health and language studies. After screenings, children are engaged in discussions with filmmakers and the Festival's trained Media Educators. These discussions are designed to lead children and teachers toward powerful dialogue about the role of television and film in their lives. The impact of violent films, and alternatives to them, are frequently explored.

Children attending the Festival are instructed to view each film carefully and critically, so that they may cast an informed ballot for the Best of the Fest award. These interactive experiences enrich Festival audiences with a wide range of cultural perspectives and give them "behind-the-scenes" understanding of the art and craft of filmmaking.

Leaders in the Field of Media Education:

  • The Chicago International Children's Film Festival is the only festival in the world that publishes a 140+ page curriculum to accompany festival programs, making every festival screening a class in media literacy.
  • In contrast with scores of festivals who hold small children's juries of 4–10 children, Facets trains a 60-member children's jury divided into two age groups.
The unique curriculum developed to train the Chicago International Children's Film Festival children's jury has been refined to create a media literacy matrix focused on helping children to read the media. This powerful training approach was integrated with production workshops for children.