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 36th 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. How lucky are we that CIFCC calls Chicago home?

photo: courtesy of Facets

From November 1-November 10, Chicago families have the unique opportunity to screen 248 films from 49 countries.

The Festival sets out, and encourages kids, to Be Bold, Be Breathtaking. Within the film selections, you’ll see topics covering international perspectives, anti-bullying, refugees and immigration, LGBTQIA+, girls’ point-of-view and STEM. The films are breathtaking in their beauty, skill and innovation and give kids the opportunity to engage with empathy-driven storytelling that speaks directly to their experiences.

They operate the fest under the core belief that by presenting diverse programming with high artistic value that reflects the current culture of today’s kids and teens, they can create a platform that empowers them to form a deeper engagement with the world.

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.

photo: CICFF Teen Jury Member, credit Facets

Where To Go
The Festival spreads out across the city to theaters such as Facets in Lincoln Park, Music Box Theatre, Davis Theater, Alliance Francais de Chicago and University of Chicago Logan Center in Hyde Park. 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 several showings, be sure to check out the $75 Festival Family Pass, which gives you a 20 ticket bundle. Each ticket offers admission for one child and one adult.

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

photo: “My Extraordinary Summer with Tess” film still

Just a Taste of the Films You’ll See
Many of the feature films showcased are highly anticipated and considered the world’s best. Among these, you’ll find My Extraordinary Summer with Tess, where Sam meets Tess on a family beach vacation and learns that living in the present wins out over memories of the past and anxiety about what’s ahead.

For films that address a spectrum of identity-based issues with compassion, look for Girl Boss; No Bullies, Please!; Out and About; and Immigration Stories.

If your kid can’t get enough of high-quality animation, Oscar winner Koji Tamamura’s Notes on Monstropedia, which presents an animated archive of imaginary monsters, is a good bet.

photo: credit Jiayu Yang

Good to Know

  • No matter your kiddo’s film interest, you’re bound to find something that piques 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 film 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

— Maria Chambers & Amy Bizzarri