The Chicago Underground Film Festival is an annual event showcasing independent, experimental and documentary films from around the world.

—————————————————————– “It oftentimes takes as long as a decade for film festivals to become established with audiences and moviemakers alike, but in just six years, the Chicago Underground Film Festival transformed itself from a hole-in-the-wall operation focusing almost exclusively on local product to the largest underground film fest in the country, with films and tapes being submitted from around the globe. The reasons, of course, are savvy programming and solid marketing.”

– John Petrakis, The Chicago Tribune

“What you get for your money is not just admission to the films but admission to a subculture”
– Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times


Founded in 1993, The Chicago Underground Film Festival (CUFF) is a year-round organization dedicated to the work of film and video makers with defiantly independent visions. Unlike many other “independent” film events our goal is not to imitate old guard, market-driven events such as Sundance but Instead to focus on the artistc, aesthetic and fun side of independent filmmaking. CUFF promotes works that dissent radically in form, content and technique from both the tired conventions of Hollywood and the increasingly stagnant IndieWood mainstream.

While the acclaimed annual international film and video festival remains our primary activity, CUFF has expanded to include a post-production grant and year-round screenings and events.

This year’s festival at the Chopin Theater will offer a complementary mix of independent features, shorts, documentaries and experimental films augmented by panels, workshops and nightly parties and concerts. Our programming is innovative and unique, ranging from the lowbrow entertainment of John Waters, Doris Wishman and Coffin Joe to fine art films/videos of the current avant-garde. With an exponential growth each year in both attendance and film submissions, the Chicago Underground Film Festival is an undeniable success.

Much more than film festival, we’ve gained a reputation as one of Chicago’s most anticipated cross-cultural events of the summer. Every day of screening is followed by a great night of parties, events and concerts. Live music events have always been an important part of the festival as well, with past performances by the Demolition Doll Rods, Califone, Big Chief, Bobby Conn, The Wesley Willis Fiasco, Maureen Tucker, Ken Vandermark, The Gaza Stripper and DJs Terre Thaemlitz and Tommy Sunshine to name just a few.



“I’d like to think the work Chris Gore and I did at Film Threat helped inspire the lunatics behind CUFF but now they¹re the ones inspiring me – not just a great “underground” festival but a great film festival PERIOD.”
– Dave Williams, Former Editor Film Threat Video Guide

“I like the word ‘underground’ as in the Chicago Underground Film Festival. The word ‘independent’ carries a stigma of whininess. ‘Underground’ means a good time.”” – John Waters, receiving the Director’s Tribute award

at the 1997 Deauville Film Festival

The Chicago Underground Film Festival was founded in 1993 by Jay Bliznick, a Columbia College film student who was fed up with the exclusivity of the existing film festival circuit. He enlisted partner Bryan Wendorf to work with him and create a festival for the kind of films they wanted to see, primarily films that the established film festival circuit – increasingly dominated by distributor product – refused to show. Their first three-day event was an undeniable success with both audiences and attending filmmakers, receiving much positive press coverage. Now in its tenth year, festival attendance and press coverage continue to grow at an exponential rate, making CUFF a major stop on the international festival circuit.

When the festival was established, most film festivals catered to an older, elitist crowd. Our festival was founded to open up the film festival experience to a younger, hipper audience of film-lovers and filmmakers. We have grown into one of Chicago’s major film events, a destination of choice for cutting-edge filmmakers and established the festival as an important date in Chicago’s cultural scene.


“Defiantly independent and deliberately scandalous” –Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

“What you get for your money is not just admission to the films but admission to a subculture” –Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

“The hottest and most ambitious festival on the local scene” –John Petrakis, Chicago Tribune

“The biggest and best of the subterranean screen-events” –New York Independent Film Monitor

“If you care at all about the state of culture on the margins, this is probably the most important project in the country reflecting its evolution” –Lumpen Magazine

“This festival continues to have more of an above-ground presence year after year. The festival’s focus, meanwhile remains consistent” -Mark Caro, Chicago Tribune

“The most refreshingly offbeat film event in Chicago” – Adam Langer, The Film Festival Guide

“A cultural mainstay on its home turf” –Ray Pride, Filmmaker Magazine

“Without CUFF my movie would not be coming out in America” –Peter Hall, Director of DELINQUENT

“I’d like to think the work Chris Gore and I did at Film Threat helped inspire the lunatics behind CUFF but now they’re the ones inspiring me…not just a great “underground” festival but a great film festival PERIOD.” –Dave Williams, former editor FILM THREAT

“The pinnacle event of the underground scene” –FilmZone Online  

“A highlight on Chicago’s film festival circuit” –Erik Piepenberg, MSNBC-Online

“I love how CUFF can blend so many genres into one festival, from punk to gay, leather to feminist, narrative to experimental, current to classic, scatological to spoof and much, much more” — Sarah Jacobson, Punk Planet

“I had the best time of my life at this festival. Your lives are so much better than all those people who think they’re having a good time in Hollywood” — Penelope Spheeris, Hollywood Filmmaker

“CUFF gave me hope for the future” –George Kuchar, Underground Filmmaker

“There are still a few out there for whom the indie flame burns bright. Right on!” –Peter Howell, Toronto Star

New voices mark Chicago Underground Film Fest – Kevin Lovelace Chicago Flame

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For information regarding the Chicago Underground Film Festival email

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