The Chicago Underground Film Festival is an annual event showcasing independent, experimental and documentary films from around the world. Widely recognized as a world-class event, the festival showcases the best in new American and international cinema and providing the movie-loving public with access to some of the most critically acclaimed filmmakers and emerging talent from around the world. Our mission is to promote films and videos that dissent radically in form, technique, or content from the “indie” mainstream and to present adventurous works that challenge and transcend commercial and audience expectations. 25 programs comprised of narrative, documentary and experimental features, shorts, and music videos, representing more than 20 countries, make up the main body of the festival, along with nightly parties and live music, discussions and other networking and community building events.
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 after two decades, 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.
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.
“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
“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