Facets Children’s Programs and the Chicago International Children’s Film Festival

Facets Children’s Programs and the Chicago International Children’s Film Festival


History of Facets Children’s Programs

For over 35 years, Facets Multi-Media has focused on developing innovative programs for children. Film critic Roger Ebert has called Facets’ children’s programs, “One of the great movie treasures of Chicago.” The American Academy of Pediatrics refers to the Chicago International Children Film Festival as “a jewel representing the very best in international children’s video, film and television programs.”

The Impact of Your Support – Watch Facets’ Children’s Programs In Action!


Facets launched the Nation’s first multi-cultural film exhibition program for children with weekly, year-round screenings throughout Chicago neighborhoods and suburbs. A massive outreach program was also initiated, involving 300 Chicago daycare centers, schools, hospitals and community centers. The program provided films, equipment, study guides and workshop leaders free of charge.

  • Almost 1,000 children’s films were tested with child audiences, resulting in the first comprehensive study of films particularly suited for young (preschool) children.
  • The Children’s Film Distribution Network, a low-cost rental library of the best children’s films, was created and distributed to schools and community centers throughout the Chicagoland area.
  • Facets established a video library of 800 of the best children’s films worldwide available for low-cost rental and sale at Facets.
  • Facets released Facets Non-Violent, Non-Sexist Children’s Video Guide, in 1995, a 234-page book, that helps parents and educators identify the best children’s films available on home video.

The Chicago International Children’s Film Festival

In 1983, Facets founded the Chicago International Children’s Film Festival, the first competitive festival of films for children in the U.S. The impetus for the Festival came from a need to introduce new, culturally diverse films for children to American children’s audiences, and to recognize excellence in children’s filmmaking. In addition, the Festival sought to empower children by involving them directly in the jurying process. From its inception, the Festival has had independent juries of children and adult media professionals awarding prizes in multiple categories.

The Chicago International Children’s Film Festival provides screenings both for schools and the general public.

Educators bring their classes to school screenings during the fall Festival to view international films. Films are used as a springboard to class-work in a wide number of subject areas, including geography, math, music, social studies, art, health and language studies. After screenings, children are engaged in discussions with filmmakers and Festival personnel. These discussions are designed to lead children and teachers toward powerful dialogue about the role of television and film in their lives. The impact of violent films, and alternatives to them, are frequently explored.

Children attending the Festival are also instructed to view each film carefully and critically, so that they may cast an informed ballot for the Best of the Fest award. These interactive experiences enrich Festival audiences with a wide range of cultural perspectives and give them “behind-the-scenes” understanding of the art and craft of filmmaking.

Festival Highlights

For over 30 years, Facets’ Chicago International Children’s Film Festival has developed into a world-class event that is widely recognized as the major Festival of films and videos for children in North America:

  • Over 80,000 children, the majority from low-income Chicago communities, have attended free of charge.
  • Over 350,000 children have attended the Festival on school field trips.
  • More than 2000 new films have received world premieres at the Festival.
  • Hundreds of films discovered at the Festival have gone on to gain commercial U.S. distribution.
  • Hundreds of filmmakers, media professionals, and celebrities from places as far away as Sri Lanka, Iran, Russia, Senegal, Mongolia, and New Zealand have led workshops and discussions with Chicago-area children.

Leaders in the Field of Media Education:

  • The Chicago International Children’s Film Festival is the only festival in the world that publishes a 140+ page curriculum to accompany festival programs, making every festival screening a class in media literacy.
  • In contrast with scores of festivals who hold small children’s juries of 4-10 children, Facets trains a 60-member children’s jury divided into two age groups.

The unique curriculum developed to train the Chicago International Children’s Film Festival children’s jury has been refined to create a media literacy matrix focused on helping children to read the media. This powerful training approach was integrated with production workshops for children.

Media Smart

In 2005, the launch of this program enabled the Chicago International Children’s Film Festival to expand its program offerings into CPS schools year-round. The Media Smart program exposes children to multi-cultural short films in curriculum supported screenings designed to help build and improve fundamental skills required for success in school.

Facets Kids Film Camp

Since 1994, Facets has offered the only film program in the country teaching  film aesthetics, vocabulary, history, production technique and critique to children ages 7-14. This multi-day program is the cornerstone of Facets media education and the gateway for participation in the Children’s Jury and the Facets Film Ambassadors programs.

Dream Screen Animation Program

In 1993, Facets piloted a ground breaking animation workshop for children, created in collaboration with the Swedish Film Institute. Films made during the Dream Screen project have been screened at festivals worldwide and on HBO.

Adult Outreach: Workshops for Educators, Parents, Pediatricians, Public Health Experts

In 1995, Facets created its first media literacy workshop for educators and parents, offering specialized outreach workshops in media education for families, educators, health care and childcare specialists. These workshops show parents how to teach children to watch TV and movies “the right way”. The seminars offer CPDU’s for educators and teach unique methodologies for using media to improve classroom learning.

2002 : Recognition by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

The Chicago International Children’s Film Festival becomes the first children’s festival in the world to be recognized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences as an Academy qualifying festival. Top prize winners from the Adult juries in the categories of live action short film and animated short film qualify to be seen by the Academy’s nomination committee.

2004: Facets Invited to Address World Summit on Media for Children

Facets Children’s Program standards and criteria for excellence were presented at the World Summit on Media for Children in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in a special session to encourage the increased production and distribution of high quality children’s media.

2008: The Chicago International Children’s Film Festival Celebrates its 25th Anniversary

Twenty-five years since the Chicago International Children’s Film Festival became an annual, competitive Festival, with over 10,000 Festival entries and 325,000 Festival attendees, Facets’ Children’s Programs look toward the future of media education and showcasing the best in children’s media, worldwide!

2012 and Beyond…

It continues to be the mission of Facets Children’s Programs to foster an appreciation of media, teaching children, parents & educators to recognize their emotional response to media to help them understand media’s messages, articulate their thoughts and opinions, and develop original ideas into short films. Further, it is our mission to set an internationally recognized standard of excellence in film and television production for children; to support the work of talented and dedicated filmmakers by showcasing films of the highest quality; and by providing a professional forum through which their work may gain increased distribution and access to wider audiences. Facets Multi-Media is committed to engaging young viewers with positive media images and to using media as a tool to stimulate critical thinking – essential to living in a digital age.