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Film festivals are a great way to discover new and unique films. There are hundreds of great movies made every year that are only seen by a small group of people because they lack the funding to get huge releases. Film festivals are one of the only ways these small independent films can find an audience, so they are vitally important to the entire industry. These are the four best film festivals in Chicago.

Chicago International Film Festival
One of the largest competitive film festivals in the world has been held in Chicago for the last 56 years. The festival showcases nearly 200 films from around the world every year. In addition to screening the movies, there are also exclusive interview sessions and panels with writers, directors, and actors. All of the festival entrants are screened for two weeks at the AMC River East 21 theater.

CineYouth Festival
CineYouth is a wonderful film festival that allows young filmmakers the opportunity to tell their stories to a large audience. Everyone submitting a film must be under the age of 23. A total of 60 short films are chosen every year. The festival also allows aspiring filmmakers a chance to learn more about their craft through workshops and discussion panels. The CineYouth Festival is held every April at the Music Box Theatre.

Blue Whiskey Independent Film Festival
While this event has only been going on for ten years, it has quickly become one of the best independent film festivals in the United States. Blue Whiskey has a meticulous selection process to ensure only the best films are shown to the attendees. There may be only a handful of films screened during the eight-day event, but they are all guaranteed to move everyone that watches. Attend this festival at the Music Box Theatre in July.

Millennium Park Film Series
While it is not a traditional festival, the Millennium Park Film series is one of Chicago’s best celebrations of film. Previously released feature films are shown on a giant 40-foot screen every Tuesday during the summer months. Local theater groups choose all of the movies, so they are guaranteed to entertain. There is nothing quite like watching a great movie in one of the country’s most beautiful parks.