Calling all movie lovers, young and less young! The Chicago International Children’s Film Festival (CICFF), the largest annual film festival entirely for kids, is back for its 34th year with films the entire family (ages 2 & up) will enjoy. Read on to find out how to enjoy these flicks that range from feature-length live action to child-produced, participate in one-of-a-kind workshops and meet filmmakers from across the globe. How lucky are we that CIFCC calls Chicago home?

photo: ‘Peppercorns and the Curse of the Black King’ movie still

From October 27-November 5, Chicago families have the unique opportunity to screen 287 films from 47 countries.

A Quick History
After a series of multi-cultural film exhibitions for children, Facets, a leading national media arts and education organization based in Chicago, began the annual Chicago International Children’s Film Festival to both recognize excellence in children’s filmmaking and to bring culturally diverse films to America. The Festival was the first children’s film festival to be recognized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which means films screened at CICFF can go on to win Oscars®.

Every year the films are judged by both an adult and children’s jury and awards are given at the end in various categories. The Festival is open to both the general public and educators through field trips and has helped springboard classroom discussions since its inception.


Where To Go
The Festival spreads out across the city to theaters such as Facets in Lincoln Park, University of Chicago Logan Center in Hyde Park, the Music Box Theatre and more. Be sure to check the schedule with location and screening information. Many of the screenings may play a few times across the venues in order to accommodate busy schedules.

The Bottom Dollar
If you plan on going to 2 or more shows, be sure to check out the $45 Festival Family Pass. A family pass will give 4 people (children or adults) access to every screening across the city. This deal can’t be beat!

Without the Family Pass, Festival screenings are priced per screening ($6/ages 2-18; $10/adults) and seating is guaranteed.

photo: ‘Napping Princess’ film still

Just a Taste of the Films You’ll See
Many of the feature films showcased in the festival are highly anticipated and considered the world’s best. Among those, you’ll find Peppercorns and the Curse of the Black King, the story about a team of high-tech sleuths looking to solve the mystery of a legendary curse and bring a corporate conspiracy out into the open. You’ll also dive into the world of a Kokone, a teenage girl who should be preparing for university exams, but would rather sleep, in Napping Princess. Her dreams send her to world where she’s a princess who casts spells with a special magic tablet. Hold your breath as you wait to see if her dreamscape identity can save her father from being wrongfully accused of a crime.

CICFF Documentary Workshopphoto: CICFF Documentary Workshop

Don’t want to feel like you’ve spent an entire weekend in front of a screen? CICFF has you covered there, too. In addition to the great films from around the world, you can register your little ones (ages 3 & up) for special workshops to dive deeper into the filmmaking world. Workshops are still being finalized and details will be released leading up to the fest, so be sure to check the schedule often!

Sample workshops from last year include:

  • Animate This! Stop-Motion Animation — Learn how to create stop-motion animation and other special effects. Workshop participants will become familiar with easy-to-use and innovative special effects techniques. With these tips and tricks there is no end to the imaginative stories that you can create on screen. 
  • Light It Up: Costume Character Creation — Learn how to create fully formed characters – costumes and all. After developing their characters, participants will design costumes, weaving L.E.D.s through fabric, cutting cardboard armor plating, or using whatever their imagination can muster to create that 21st century appeal! 
  • Animating the Amazon — Learn how animation comes to life. If you’re using a pen and paper, clay, or even a computer, animation is a complex task. Workshop participants will get an in-depth overview of the animation process, from art direction to lighting and music scoring.
  • Building Robots: Animatronics in Film — Learn how to conceptualize and build working animatronics. Interested in robots? Workshop participants will be introduced to electronic and circuit building techniques used to build animatronics for films.

CICFF Q&Aphoto: CICFF Filmmaker Q&A

Good to Know

  • No matter your kiddo’s film interest, you’re bound to find something that peaks their interest – animated features, child-produced shorts, documentary short films, live-action features and more! (Even some that will appeal to the teens in your house.)
  • Many countries are represented in this festival, which means you’ll come across subtitles.  But no worries for your non-readers! Subtitles will be read aloud by media educators for films targeting the 7 & under crowd.
  • The festival hosts dozens of international filmmakers each year.  If a filmmaker is present for their screening, a Q&A where your little film critics are encouraged to question away will follow.

Get Out There!
CICFF is the largest festival in Chicago and whether you make an entire weekend out of it or squeeze in a show or two in between your other commitments, it can be done. This is a great way to experience other cultures without leaving our own great city.

For more information and to purchase tickets or the Festival Family Pass, visit

Which screenings are you most looking forward to? Have any tips and tricks for getting the most out of the festival? Share in the Comments below.


— Maria Chambers & Amy Bizzarri