Sparking democracy through documentary since 1966, Kartemquin is a collaborative community that empowers documentary makers who create stories that foster a more engaged and just society.

Kartemquin's films have received four Academy Award® nominations and won many more major prizes, including six Emmys® and two Peabody Awards. Recognized as a leading advocate for independent public media, Kartemquin has helped hundreds of artists via its filmmaker development programs and championing of documentary.

Watch all our films individually or through a subscription to the entire Kartemquin catalog.

Edith + Eddie

Edith and Eddie, ages 96 and 95, are America's oldest interracial newlyweds. Their unusual and idyllic love story is disrupted by a family feud that threatens to tear the couple apart.

Directed, produced and edited by Laura Checkoway.
Produced by Thomas Lee Wright.
Executive Producers: Steve James, Gordon Quinn, Betsy Steinberg, and Cher.
A Kartemquin Films / Heart is Read, LLC production.

*NOMINEE - 2018 Academy Awards® - Best Documentary Short*
*NOMINEE - 2018 News and Documentary Emmy® Awards - Best Short Documentary*
*WINNER - 2017 IDA Awards - Best Documentary Short*
*NOMINEE - 2018 Cinema Eye Honors - Outstanding Achievement in Nonfiction Short Filmmaking*
*Recipient of a 2017 NBCU / AFI DOCS Impact grant*

True/False 2017 (World premiere)
Montclair FF 2017 (WINNER - Audience Award)
Sheffield Doc/Fest 2017 (JURY HONORABLE MENTION - Short Doc Award)
Palm Springs International ShortFest 2017 (WINNER - Best Documentary)
Rhode Island International Film Festival 2017 (WINNER - Youth Jury Award for Best Documentary)
Nevada City Film Festival 2017 (WINNER - Best Short Documentary)
Hamptons International Film Festival 2017 (WINNER - Best Short Documentary)
Tallgrass Film Festival 2017 (WINNER - Best Short Documentary)
Coronado Island Film Festival 2017 (Audience Favorite)
Virginia Film Festival 2017 (WINNER - Best Short Documentary)
Destiny City Film Festival 2018 (WINNER - Excellence in Documentary Storytelling)
Doc Edge Film Festival 2018 (WINNER - Best Documentary Short)

Eating Up Easter (Haka Puai Te Kainga)

Eating Up Easter, directed by native Rapanui filmmaker Sergio Mata’u Rapu, explores the dilemma his people are facing. Crafted as a story passed down to his newborn son, Sergio intertwines the authentic history of the island with the stories of four islanders. In their own voices, these Rapanui reveal the reality of modern life and the actions they are taking to preserve their culture and environment amidst rapid development.

'63 Boycott

On October 22, 1963, more than 250,000 students boycotted the Chicago Public Schools to protest racial segregation. Many marched through the city calling for the resignation of School Superintendent Benjamin Willis, who placed trailers, dubbed ‘Willis Wagons,’ on playgrounds and parking lots of overcrowded black schools rather than let them enroll in nearby white schools. Combining unseen archival 16mm footage of the march shot by Kartemquin founder Gordon Quinn with the participants’ reflections today, ’63 Boycott connects the forgotten story of one of the largest northern civil rights demonstrations to contemporary issues around race, education, school closings, and youth activism.

A film by Rachel Dickson, Tracye A. Matthews, and Gordon Quinn.
Directed by Gordon Quinn.
Produced by Rachel Dickson, Tracye A. Matthews, and Gordon Quinn.
Edited by Liz Kaar.

Shortlisted for Best Documentary Short at the 91st Academy Awards

Select Festivals/Screenings:
Chicago International Film Festival (world premiere)
Virginia Film Festival
Pan African Film Festival 2018 (WINNER: Audience Award)
MoMA Documentary Fortnight (NYC premiere)
Sarasota Film Festival
33rd Berlin Black International Cinema Exhibition (WINNER: Best Short Documentary)
Jacob Burns Film Center - special screening
Festival International du Film Pan-African de Cannes
Nashville Film Festival (WINNER: Best Short Documentary)
Adrian International Film Festival (WINNER: Best Short Documentary)
Roxbury International Film Festival (WINNER: Best Short Documentary)
Martha's Vineyard African American Film Festival
DOC NYC (Short Film Short List)

Raising Bertie

Recorded over six years, Raising Bertie delivers an authentic and tender portrait of the lives of three young boys as they face a precarious coming of age within Bertie County, a rural African-American community in North Carolina.

This raw and starkly poetic vérité documentary weaves the young men’s stories together as the boys navigate school, unemployment, violence, first love, fatherhood, and estrangement from family members and mentors, all while trying to define their identities.

Intimate access depicts an honest portrayal of the boys' perspectives and an in-depth look at issues facing rural America's youth and what happens in the everyday lives of young people caught in the complex interplay of generational poverty, economic isolation and educational inequity. Raising Bertie is an experience that asks us to see this world through their eyes and incites recognition and empathetic understanding of lives and communities too often ignored.

A co-production of Kartemquin Films and Beti Films. The film is funded in part by the MacArthur Foundation and Ford Foundation.

Almost There

For many, Peter Anton’s house embodies an end-of-life nightmare: the utility companies long ago shut off the heat and electricity, the floorboards are rotting, and the detritus of a chaotic life is precariously stacked to the ceiling. But for the filmmakers Dan Rybicky and Aaron Wickenden, Anton’s home is a treasure trove, a startling collection of unseen and fascinating paintings, drawings, and notebooks, not to mention Anton himself, a character worthy of his own reality TV show. Though aging, infirm, cranky, and solitary, Anton also is funny and utterly resilient. The film’s remarkable journey follows a gifted artist through startling twists and turns. By its quietly satisfying ending, Almost There has provided enough human drama for a season of soap operas, plus insights into mental illness, aging in America, and the redemptive power of art.

On Beauty

From Emmy-nominated filmmaker Joanna Rudnick (In the Family) and Chicago’s Kartemquin Films comes a story about challenging norms and redefining beauty. On Beauty follows fashion photographer Rick Guidotti, who left the fashion world when he grew frustrated with having to work within the restrictive parameters of the industry’s standard of beauty. After a chance encounter with a young woman who had the genetic condition albinism, Rick re-focused his lens on those too often relegated to the shadows to change the way we see and experience beauty.

At the center of On Beauty are two of Rick's photo subjects: Sarah, who left public school for homeschool after being bullied so harshly for the Sturge-Weber birthmark on her face and brain; and Jayne, who lives in Eastern Africa where witch doctors hunt people with albinism to sell their body parts and the society is blind to their unique health and safety needs. Rick’s photos challenge both mainstream media’s narrow scope of beauty and the dehumanizing black-bar convention of medical textbooks.

A Good Man

A Good Man follows acclaimed director/choreographer Bill T. Jones (Last Supper at Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Still/Here, FELA!) as he and his company create their most ambitious work, an original dance-theater piece in honor of Abraham Lincoln’s Bicentennial. Through two tumultuous years, we witness raw moments of frustration as Jones struggles to communicate his vision to his dancers and collaborators, as well as moments of great exhilaration when movement transcends the limitation of words. Jones and his company come face to face with America’s unresolved contradictions about race, equality and the legacy of our 16th President. Initially an indictment of The Great Emancipator, the work evolves into a triumph of hope for our struggling democracy, with Jones revealing that Lincoln was “the only white man I was allowed to love unconditionally.” Premiering on the heels of Jones’s Tony Award for FELA! and 2010 Kennedy Center Honor, A Good Man is a window into the creative process and, indeed, the creative crisis of one of our nation’s most enduring, provocative artists as he explores what it means to be a good man, to be a free man, to be a citizen.

Home For Life

Home for Life depicts the experiences of two elderly people in their first month at a home for the aged. One is a woman whose struggle to remain useful in her son and daughter-in-law's home is no longer appreciated. The other is a widower, without a family, who suddenly realizes he can no longer take care of himself. The film offers an unblinking look at the feelings of the two new residents in their encounters with other residents, medical staff, social workers, psychiatrists and family. A touching, sometimes painfully honest dramatic experience, it is valuable for in-service staff training, and for all other audiences both professional and non-professional, interested in the problems of the aged.

The original 16mm print was restored in 2007 thanks to a prestigious National Film Preservation Foundation grant.

Extras included in this package:
- Short video: "What is Kartemquin?"
- Short video: Ever wondered about the history behind the strange name, "Kartemquin"? Find out in this interview featuring founding members Gordon Quinn and Jerry Temaner.
- DVD cover
- Behind the scenes still: Gordon Quinn and Jerry Temaner (FILM!) editing.
- Info sheet: Information on events throughout the life of the film.
- The full Roger Ebert Review: "Extraordinarily moving...recording moments of deep human emotion."
- Behind the scenes still: Rocking chair photo.

The Interrupters

The Interrupters tells the moving and surprising stories of three Violence Interrupters who try to protect their Chicago communities from the violence they once employed. From acclaimed director Steve James and bestselling author Alex Kotlowitz this film is an unusually intimate journey into the stubborn persistence of violence in our cities. Shot over the course of a year out of Kartemquin Films, The Interrupters captures a period in Chicago when it became a national symbol for the violence in our cities. During that period, the city was besieged by high-profile incidents, most notably the brutal beating of Derrion Albert, a Chicago High School student, whose death was caught on videotape.

The film’s main subjects work for an innovative organization, CeaseFire. Founded by an epidemiologist, Gary Slutkin, who believes that the spread of violence mimics the spread of infectious diseases, and so the treatment should be similar, they go after the most infected, and stop the infection at its source. One of the cornerstones of the organization is the “Violence Interrupters” program, created by Tio Hardiman, who heads the program. The Interrupters — who have credibility on the streets because of their own personal histories -- intervene in conflicts before they explode into violence.

In The Interrupters, Ameena Matthews, whose father is Jeff Fort, one of the city’s most notorious gang leaders, was herself a drug ring enforcer. But having children and finding solace in her Muslim faith pulled her off the streets and grounded her. In the wake of Derrion Albert’s death, Ameena becomes a close confidante to his mother, and helps her through her grieving. Ameena, who is known among her colleagues for her fearlessness, befriends a feisty teenaged girl who reminds her of herself at that age. The film follows that friendship over the course of many months, as Ameena tries to nudge the troubled girl in the right direction.

Cobe Williams, scarred by his father’s murder, was in and out of prison, until he had had enough. His family – particularly a young son – helped him find his footing. Cobe disarms others with his humor and his general good nature. His most challenging moment comes when he has to confront a man so bent on revenge that Cobe has to pat him down to make sure he’s put away his gun. Like Ameena, he gets deeply involved in the lives of those he encounters, including a teenaged boy just out of prison and a young man from his old neighborhood who’s squatting in a foreclosed home.

Eddie Bocanegra is haunted by a murder he committed when he was seventeen. His CeaseFire work is a part of his repentance for what he did. Eddie is most deeply disturbed by the aftereffects of the violence on children, and so he spends much of his time working with younger kids in an effort to both keep them off the streets and to get support to those who need it – including a 16-year-old girl whose brother died in her arms. Soulful and empathic, Eddie, who learned to paint in prison, teaches art to children, trying to warn them of the debilitating trauma experienced by those touched by the violence.

The Interrupters follows Ameena, Cobe and Eddie as they go about their work, and while doing so reveals their own inspired journeys of hope and redemption. The film attempts to make sense of what CeaseFire’s Tio Hardiman calls, simply, “the madness”.

Hard Earned

Hard Earned, a six-hour documentary series for Al Jazeera America, puts aside economic debates and follows five families around the country to find out what it takes to get by on eight, ten or even 15 dollars an hour. The series turns an intimate lens on this group of 21st century American dreamers. They fight against all odds to thrive, when it takes everything they have to simply survive.

Episode 1
As Emilia celebrates her 50th birthday, she takes stock of her career as a waitress and struggles to hold onto her house. DJ gets frustrated with working conditions at Walgreens and starts talking to his co-workers about how to make a change. Clerical worker Jose and his girlfriend Elizabeth look for a way to move out of their parents’ basements and give their son his own bedroom.

Episode 2
Hilton juggles two full-time jobs, and returns home at night to the one-car garage he calls home in the heart of Silicon Valley. Jose and Elizabeth try to qualify for a mortgage, Emilia reveals a troubling part of her past, and DJ and Takita try to start over in a new neighborhood.

Episode 3
A surprise on the housing front leads Jose to think about his future with Elizabeth in a new light. Hilton and Diana prepare for the birth of twins, while Hilton works hard for a promotion at work. Emilia pounds the pavement for a better-paying job.

Episode 4
Percy and Beverly face their fading dreams of retirement before gathering their family together for a holiday meal. Emilia tries to keep up Christmas traditions in the midst of her deepening financial crisis. Hilton takes unpaid time off from his cafeteria job at Google to accompany Diana to doctors’ appointments for complications in her pregnancy.

Episode 5
DJ steps up his union activity, Jose and Elizabeth put everything on the line to improve their living situation, and Emilia gets an unexpected call about a job opportunity. Takita prepares for a celebration at church.

Episode 6
Diana overcomes her fears to forge a new path in the U.S. Percy gets a $1.50/hour raise at a new custodial position, though he worries about Beverly’s declining health. Takita struggles with abdominal pain and DJ attempts to reconcile with his father. Emilia gets ready to tell her story in front of a group of high school kids.

The Homestretch

An Emmy award winning film, The Homestretch follows three homeless teens as they fight to stay in school, graduate, and build a future. Each of these smart, ambitious teenagers - Kasey, Anthony and Roque - will surprise, inspire, and challenge audiences to rethink stereotypes of homelessness as they work to complete their education while facing the trauma of being alone and abandoned at an early age. Through haunting images, intimate scenes, and first-person narratives, these teens take us on their journeys of struggle and triumph. As their stories unfold, the film connects us deeply with larger policy issues of juvenile justice, immigration, foster care, and LGBTQIA rights.

With unprecedented access into the Chicago Public Schools, The Night Ministry’s “Crib" Emergency Shelter and Teen Living Programs, The Homestretch follows these kids as they move through the milestones of high school while searching for a warm place to sleep, a quiet place to study, the privacy to shower. The film goes beyond high school, to focus on the crucial transition after graduation, when the structure of school vanishes, and homeless youth struggle to find the support and community they need to survive and be independent. A powerful, original perspective on what it means to be young, homeless and building a future in America today.

Saving Mes Aynak

Saving Mes Aynak follows Afghan archaeologist Qadir Temori as he races to save the Mes Aynak site from imminent demolition by China Metallurgical Group Corporation (MCC), a Chinese state-owned mining company ready to harvest an estimated $100 billion dollars worth of copper. Located within Afghanistan’s Taliban-controlled Logar Province, Mes Aynak is a 5,000 year-old Bronze age site and 2,000 year-old Buddhist Silk Road city of historical and cultural importance archeologists have stated could potentially be comparable to Machu Picchu or Pompeii. Only 10% of the site has so far been excavated, but corruption is rampant, and the site could be destroyed at any time.

A Kartemquin film, directed by Brent E. Huffman and produced by Zak Piper.

Help us #SaveMesAynak for future generations!

The Trials of Muhammad Ali

The Trials of Muhammad Ali is a Kartemquin documentary exploring Ali’s lifelong journey of spiritual transformation. From his Louisville roots, through his years in exile, to receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Trials traces Ali’s path from poet to pariah to global ambassador for peace. At each stage, the challenges Ali faces go far beyond the boxing ring and ultimately encompass issues of power, race, faith and identity that confront us all.

The Trials of Muhammad Ali is not a boxing film and has no highlight reel. Instead, it focuses on Ali’s toughest bouts: his decision to join a controversial religious group, his battle to overturn a five-year prison sentence for refusing US military service, and his struggle with Parkinson’s. While other Ali films focus on his heroic exploits in the ring, they tragically under-examine some of the most noteworthy, provocative and resonant aspects of Ali’s life, such as his relationship with the Louisville Sponsoring Group, the Nation of Islam, and his Muslim faith. In Trials, most of the interviewees have never been featured in any Ali film before, yet are central to his life story and the global impact he has made.

Prior to becoming the most recognizable face on earth, Cassius Clay became Muhammad Ali and found himself in the crosshairs of conflicts concerning race, religion, and wartime dissent. In 1964, when the 22-year-old, Olympic gold medalist wins his first heavyweight championship, he shouts, “I shook up the world!” But his earthshaking has only begun. Soon he announces he is a Muslim, a member of the Nation of Islam, and takes a new name: Muhammad Ali. After Ali is drafted to fight in the Vietnam War, he makes his defining expression of resistance: “No, I will not go 10,000 miles to continue the domination of white slave masters over the darker people of the earth.”

In 1967, after the US government denies Ali’s conscientious objector claim, he refuses military induction. The government convicts Ali of draft evasion, sentences him to five years in prison, and revokes his passport. Ali is banned from boxing and stripped of his title. He begins life in exile within the U.S., vilified in many corners at home, while becoming an international symbol of opposition to unjust war. As Ali files legal appeals round after round, all the way to the Supreme Court, he supports his family via a nationwide speaking tour, amidst a country divided over the war abroad and racism at home. Rare and riveting archival footage of Ali’s fiery speeches on college campuses and fierce exchanges during TV appearances, show him fearlessly speaking his mind as he fights for freedom.

The Trials of Muhammad Ali delves deeply into a time when an emerging sports superhero chooses faith and conscience over fame and fortune. The fury he faced from an American public enraged by his opposition to the Vietnam War and unwilling to accept his conversion to Islam, has global implications for generations now coming of age amidst contemporary fissures involving freedom, faith and military conflict. Archival scenes highlight the life forces who support and oppose him, including his spiritual mentors, Malcolm X and Elijah Muhammad, and critics of his stance, such as Jackie Robinson and Joe Louis. Interviews shot exclusively for the film feature those who were there: his brother, Rahaman; his bride, Khalilah Camacho-Ali; New York Times writer, Robert Lipsyte; and Nation of Islam leader, Louis Farrakhan. What emerges is the hidden history of Muhammad Ali, an opportunity for audiences worldwide to discover how his journey - toward a full spiritual embrace of Islam and through his humanitarian work around the world - challenges us to overcome today’s fissures of race, faith and identity.

The film is directed by Bill Siegel (The Weather Underground), and executive produced by Justine Nagan and Gordon Quinn for Kartemquin Films, Kat White (KatLei Productions), and Leon Gast (When We Were Kings).

Parents and Thumbs Down

In Parents, a Chicago parish youth group discusses issues of parental authority, growing up, and the struggle to communicate with their parents.

In Thumbs Down, the youth group holds an anti-war Mass and the confrontation reveals the deepening crisis of communication between their generation and that of their parents, priests and neighbors.

Both released in 1968 as part of a series of films the nascent KTQ made for a Catholic Education Group, these two films were originally released on DVD in 2009 as the The Kartemquin Collection: Early Years, Vol 1.

Thumbs Down "offers a great deal of understanding about the nature of a neighborhood that is often talked about in the most oversimplified way. It is also about us – our city, our neighbors – and that is good in a time when most Hollywood movies seem to be about imaginary people in another world... Temaner and Quinn are filmmakers and “inquiring reporters” with great insight, and they have a lot to tell us about ourselves." - Roger Ebert, 1968.

"Vintage artifacts from the bygone heydey of gritty 16mm activist doc-making, when idealism was sky-high, when when film classes made movies out of on-campus crises, and when active protest was doubly worth doing if you were doing it on film."
- Michael Atkinson, Sight & Sound, 2011.

"Beautiful meditations on youth and what that truly means... may very well be two of the most important documentaries for the younger generations to re-visit, or be introduced to for the first time. Absolutely universal, these films haven’t lost a step aesthetically or intellectually."
- Joshua Brunsting, CriterionCast, 2013.

Extras included in this package:
- The original Thumbs Down Discussion Guide.
- The original Roger Ebert review of Thumbs Down and Inquiring Nuns from the Chicago Sun-Times, December 15, 1968.
- Trailer: KTQ Collective Volume 1 trailer.
- Photo: Thumbs Down film still.
- Original Volume 1 DVD cover.

American Arab

In Kartemquin's American Arab, Iraqi-born Director Usama Alshaibi takes a provocative look at the contradictions of Arab identity in post 9/11 America, weaving his own life’s journey and “coming-of-Arab” experiences into the life stories of several diverse characters. Exploring the values, passions, and hopes of his fellow Arab-Americans, Usama tries to make peace with his conflicted chosen homeland.

Arab-Americans are not one monolithic group, but rather a diverse and complex array of many voices and cultures. This film weaves sadness and humor, anger and satire, provocation and understanding, embracing the multifaceted Arab American experience of post 9/11 America. By shedding light and giving clarity to a recent and difficult time for Arabs living in the US, American Arab shows how the struggles over identity within this documentary are universal.

American Arab is a project of Kartemquin's first Diversity Fellowship, sponsored by The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and The Ford Foundation.

Inquiring Nuns

Two young nuns explore Chicago, from a supermarket to the Art Institute and in front of churches on Sunday, confronting people with the crucial question, “Are you happy?” The answers they get range in sincerity and depth. The humor and sadness of these honest encounters lift the film beyond its interview format to a serious and moving inquiry into the concerns of contemporary man, and also into the circumstances in which men will actually express their concerns.

Extras included in this package:
- Short Video: "Camera 1 Video." The story of Kartemquin's first camera including the history, technology and practice behind it. Used to film documentaries from our early years such as Home for Life, Inquiring Nuns, and Marco, the camera is unique due to its custom-modified crystal-sync sound set-up, created by Danny Auerbach in the early 1960's at a fraction of the cost of other similar models in existence.
- Gordon Quinn and Gerald Temaner's academic paper, "Cinematic Social Inquiry."
- Original DVD cover.
- Behind the scenes stills of the film's main participants.

What the Fuck are these Red Squares? + Anonymous Artists of America

Striking students meet at a "Revolutionary Seminar" at the Art Institute of Chicago in response to the invasion of Cambodia and the killing of protesting students at Kent and Jackson State Universities. They explore their role as artists in a capitalist society and issue questions like: What are the implications of the artist's elitist position in America? Is it possible not to be co-opted, as "radical" as one's art may be? What are the connections between money and art in America? Between the "New York Scene" and the rest of the country?

“A fascinating time capsule of radical rhetoric”
- Fred Camper, Chicago Reader

Also included in this package is Anonymous Artists of America (1970) - a near continuous single-take record of a 9 minute jam at the University of Chicago quad shot by Gordon Quinn circa 1969. The story of the AAA the band itself is fantastic. Their endeavor to be a band was jump-started by several gifts: the first was a full set of instruments financed by one of the artists, Lars Kampman, which was followed by Owsley Stanley’s gift of 100,000 micrograms of (then legal) LSD. They were also given the second music synthesizer in the US by Don Buchla, its inventor, which took a year to build out at the highly influential Tape Music Center in San Francisco. The AAA frequently opened for the Grateful Dead and headlined at Ken Kesey’s notorious Acid Test Graduation. Their performances went on for hours and involved costumes and a topless bassist, handmade instruments and spontaneous improvisations that mixed with strobe lights and film projections, turning the show into a multi-sensory immersive experience. Look out for Kartemquin co-founder Jerry Temaner in the crowd, along with a wandering star child…

Extras included in this package:
Trailer: Kartemquin's Early Years Volume 2.


"Informed with love and filmed with skill…It vividly captures the suspense, humor, agony, tenderness and wonder of a human birth."
- Richard Christiansen, The Chicago Daily News

When the wife of one of the filmmakers decides to give birth without pain medication using the Lamaze method of childbirth–and coached by her own husband–she is confronted with disbelief, superstition and downright hostility. In order to find a doctor who will respect their wishes, the parents-to-be have to make arrangements with a hospital in Wisconsin and race over the state line when the baby comes. This frank and sensitive cinéma vérité documentary follows the young couple as they learn about natural childbirth, discuss their plans with friends and medical staff, and experience the actual labor and birth of their son, Marco.

Music composed by Philip Glass (who also scored Inquiring Nuns for Kartemquin). Marco is the son of Kartemquin founder, Jerry Temaner, He would leave the organization soon afterward to get a real job to help pay for the baby.

The film serves as a historical reference for the logistical challenges faced by the Vérité filmmakers shooting in such a delicate, intimate situation, on a converted Auricon 16mm camera with a custom-built crystal-controlled power supply that allowed wireless sync sound, doing away with the cable between the camera and Nagra audio recorder. The camera only took 400ft loads of film, which equated to just 11 minutes of shooting time per load, so cinematographer Gordon Quinn had to extra careful that he did not miss the moment of birth.

Extras included in this package:
- Family photos: Marco as a newborn baby.
- Movie poster: An original poster for the movie with American Film Festival, Chicago Film Festival, and Venice Film Festival laurels.
- Extra video: Behind-the-scenes home video of the Temaners.
- Extra video: Marco and his family revisited their experience making the documentary...40 years later.

Hum 255

In 1969, striking students at the University of Chicago occupied an administration building for 16 days. The protest was sparked by the firing of a feminist sociology professor. The college expelled 42 of the students. A year later, two expelled young women were asked by their former classmates to talk about the experience as a class project. The women confront the students about their convictions and how far they are willing to go to defend their values.

"Hum 255" is the 16mm black-and-white record of a session fueled by wine and Oreos. Topics include the relevance of Black Panthers to whites and the irrelevance of an elite education.”
–Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

This early Kartemquin film was a return to the University of Chicago for filmmakers Gordon Quinn and Jerry Blumenthal, and was developed as part of an experimental film production class they were teaching there titled "Humanities 255 and 256: Documentary Film Workshop."

Extras included in this package:
- Trailer: from the Kartemquin Collective: The Early Years, Vol 2. Check out these 3 classic cinema verite time capsules of student life, art and protest in Anonymous Artists of America, Hum 255, and What the Fuck Are These Red Squares?
- Jerry Blumenthal's written history of Kartemquin.
- The University of Chicago newspaper The Chicago Maroon's article on the expulsions.
- The "Flush-In 1969" article on the expulsions.

Now We Live on Clifton

Now We Live on Clifton follows 10 year old Pam Taylor and her 12 year old brother Scott around their multiracial West Lincoln Park neighborhood. The kids worry that they'll be forced out of the neighborhood they grew up in by the gentrification following the expansion of DePaul University. Roxy now works at Oscar. F. Mayer Elementary School; the school she and her siblings went to.

Extras included in this package:
- Video: Now We Live On Clifton, 40 years later...
A lot has changed in the neighborhood Pam, Scott, and Roxy grew up in. Their childhood home was demolished and a brand new building has since replaced it. The Puerto Rican neighborhood that existed nearby has been replaced, as well.
- Trailer: The Kartemquin Collection Volume 4: The Collective Years (Now on DVD!)
Featuring the 1974 Kartemquin classics NOW WE LIVE ON CLIFTON; WINNIE WRIGHT AGE, 11; VIVA LA CAUSA; and TRICK BAG. Use code KTQvol4 for 25% off your pre-order before March 15th on our website:

Image 1: Collective-era, Kartemquin co-founder, Gordon Quinn.
Image 2: Collective-era members Gordon Quinn and Betsy Martins in Kartemquin's studio at 1901 W. Wellington Ave. in Chicago.

Trick Bag

Gang members, Vietnam vets, and young factory workers from Chicago's neighborhoods tell of their personal experience with racism - who gets hurt, and who profits.

Extras included in this package:
- Audio Interview: Kartemquin Collective member, Peter Kuttner, and Director of Communications and Distribution, Tim Horsburgh, sit down in the storefront at 1901 W Wellington to talk KTQ history and filmmaking.
- Festival Certificates: Trick Bag traveled to Germany's Leipzig International Documentary Film Festival, Chicago International Film Festival "Merit Award", and Los Angeles' Filmmex Festival.

Viva La Causa

Not just a colorful record of the making of a mural in Chicago's Pilsen community led by Ray Patlán, this film traces the mural movement of the mid-1970's back to murals in Mexico. Different people view the mural and reflect on its meaning for themselves as Latinos.

Extras included in this package:
- Video: A preview from the Kartemquin Films Collection: The Early Years Vol. 4 and extras. Compare side-by-side, the original transfer and the restored files of Winnie Wright Age 11, Now We Live On Clifton, Trick Bag, and Viva La Causa.
- Original Poster: Designed by KTQ Collective member, Betsy Martens, for the former "Haymarket Film and Video" screening operation that ran out of 1901 W. Wellington Ave. The event featured back-to-back screenings of Winnie Wright Age 11, Now We Live on Clifton, and Viva La Causa.
- Retro Photo: Gordon Quinn and Collective-era friends group photo in the turret of Kartemquin.

Winnie Wright, Age 11

Winnie, the daughter of a steel worker and a teacher lives in Gage Park, a Chicago neighborhood that is changing from white to black. Her family struggles with racism, inflation and a threatened strike, as Winnie learns what it means to grow up white, working class, and female.

The film was made in conjunction with "Now We Live on Clifton."

Extras included in this package:
- Video: Winnie Wright, Age 51 (5 minutes, 44 seconds).
Forty years after filming Winnie Wright, Age 11, filmmakers Gordon Quinn (camera) and Sue Davenport (sound) pay Winnie a visit at her home during a viewing of the film with friends and family.
- Throwback Photo #1: Kartemquin co-founder and current Artistic Director, Gordon Quinn, and friends.
- Throwback Photo #2: Gordon Quinn in the Collective-era late 60s-70s.


UE/Wells follows an organizing drive by the United Electrical Workers Union at the Wells Foundry in Chicago. The multi-ethnic work force of Polish, Arab, Jewish, Hispanic and African American men and women unite together despite the company's efforts to use race as a wedge to divide them.

Extra included in this package:
- Trailer: The Kartemquin Collection Volume 4: The Collective Years (Now on DVD!) Featuring the 1974 Kartemquin classics NOW WE LIVE ON CLIFTON; WINNIE WRIGHT AGE, 11; VIVA LA CAUSA; and TRICK BAG. Use code KTQvol4 for 25% off your pre-order before March 15th on our website:
- A series of stills from the film:
United Electrical Group picture: The group strikes together.
United Electrical member close up.
United Electrical Solidarity fist picture of UE member.
United Electrical Vote: The UE group t-shirts.

HSA Strike '75

A union of interns and residents at Chicago's only public hospital are forced to strike for better patient care. This film documents their eighteen-day strike at Cook County Hospital - the largest and longest doctors' strike in US history.

Extras related to this package:

Four digitized raw film footage clips of HSA Strike '75 was given to Media Burn by director, Judy Hoffman, and is available on

Media Burn Archive collects, restores and distributes documentary video and television created by artists, activists and community groups. Their mission is to preserve these audiovisual records of history and culture for future generations and to make them available to as wide an audience as possible via the internet.

Where's I. W. Abel?

Made by Kartemquin and a rank-and-file steel workers caucus, the film documents the opposition of the rank-and-file to the no-strike agreement between Steelworkers President I.W. Abel and the ten major steel companies, made without a vote by the membership of the union. Featuring Staughton Lynd.

Extras in this package include:
- 1975 Cineaste Article
- More videos and never-before-seen footage available through MediaBurn:

Media Burn Archive collects, restores and distributes documentary video and television created by artists, activists and community groups. Their mission is to preserve these audiovisual records of history and culture for future generations and to make them available to as wide an audience as possible via the internet.

What's Happening at Local 70?

Striking workers in one Chicago unemployment compensation office talk about working conditions that led to a walkout in July, 1975. Workers and claimants suggest possible solutions to the problems of understaffing and compulsory overtime. This tape was used to organize other offices to support the strike.

Extras included in this package:
Series of stills: a selection of behind the scenes stills from the film of the picketing and strike action.

The Chicago Maternity Center Story

For more than 75 years, the Chicago Maternity Center provided safe home deliveries for Chicago mothers. However, when modern medicine's attitude toward home birth changed and funding from Northwestern University declined in 1974, the center was forced to close. This film interweaves the history of the center with the stories of a young woman about to have her first baby and the center's fight to stay open in the face of the corporate takeover of medicine.

Extras included in this package:
- PHOTO of Betsy Martens, an original Kartemquin Collective-era member, during the Chicago Maternity Center Story shoot.
- PHOTO of the Chicago Maternity Center front entrance.
-Chicago Maternity Center Brochure. A brochure used to advertise the 16mm film in the mid-late 1970s.
- ARTICLE by Cineaste. In 1975, the Kartemquin Films Collective was interviewed for Cineaste, "the leading magazine on the art and politics of the cinema."

The interview took place during the filming of The Chicago Maternity Center Story, which receives a mention, amongst a wealth of rich Chicago filmmaking history from the Collective-era members: Jerry Blumenthal, Vicki Cooper, Suzanne Davenport, Susan Delson, Judy Hoffman, Sharon Karp, Peter Kuttner, Betsy Martens, Jenny Rohrer, Gordon Quinn, and Teena Webb.

The Last Pullman Car

In 1864, George Pullman began selling his famous railroad sleeping cars which helped him build a vast industrial empire that was supposed to last forever. In 1981, however, Pullman workers found themselves in the midst of a fight not only for their jobs but the future of the American rail car industry. One hundred years of government, union and corporate policies are traced in this engaging story.

Extras included in this package are:
PHOTOS of behind the scenes production stills of The Last Pullman Car.
STUDY GUIDE for The Last Pullman Car written by KTQ Collective-era member, Jenny Rohrer.

Taylor Chain I: A Story in a Union Local + Taylor Chain II: A Story of Collective Bargaining

Taylor Chain I: A Story in a Union Local tells the gritty realities of a seven-week strike at a small Indiana chain factory during 1973-74. Volatile union meetings and tension-filled interactions on the picket line provide an inside view of the tensions and conflicts inherent to labor negotiations.

Due to a lack of funds and a fire at Kartemquin which necessitated a re-edit of the film, the film was not released until 1980. Filming then began a year later on Taylor Chain II: A Story of Collective Bargaining.

In 1981 and 1982, the Kartemquin filmmakers returned to the Taylor Chain plant to show labor and management working together against the odds, trying to save the plant from becoming the latest victim of anti-union legislation and the globalization of cheap, exploitable labor.

Extras included in this package:
- POSTER original poster art for the film.
- INDUSTRIAL STILLS of Gordon Quinn, Jerry Bluementhal, and Jenny Rohrer hanging out at the factory.

Women's Voices: The Gender Gap

This documentary explores the growing difference in the voting patterns of men and women (the gender gap) that could no longer be denied by the mid-1980's. Issues like compensation equality, environmental preservation, subsidized childcare and healthcare became wedge issues in Ronald Reagan's America as more and more women joined the workforce.

Extras included in this package:
VIDEO: An interview with Nicole Hollander, cartoon artist for Women's Voices: The Gender Gap. Her daily comic strip Sylvia was syndicated to newspapers nationally.
POSTER: Original poster of the film.
ARTWORK: Included in the film, by Nicole Hollander.

Grassroots Chicago

A documentary about neighborhood people creating change. Produced for the MacArthur Foundation by Kartemquin Films, this piece features six vignettes on community organizing in different Chicago neighborhoods: LeClaire Courts, Marquette Park, Roseland, Pilsen, Uptown, Rogers Park, and Garfield Park.

Hoop Dreams

First exhibited at the 1994 Sundance Film Festival, where it won the audience award for best documentary, Kartemquin's Hoop Dreams is the remarkable true story of two American dreamers; an intimate reflection of contemporary American inner-city culture, following two ordinary young men on the courts of the game they love.

Plucked from the streets and given the opportunity to attend a suburban prep school and play for a legendary high school coach, William Gates and Arthur Agee both soon discover that their dreams of NBA glory become obscured amid the intense pressures of academics, family life, economics and athletic competitiveness. But most importantly, both boys remain focused on their dream, no matter how hard tragedy strikes or how desperate their situation becomes. It is their faith in the game that unites their family and gives each person hope. And it is this faith that ultimately allows them to build upon their failures as well as their triumphs and make for themselves a potentially better life.

"At its center, we wanted the film to be warm and emotional," says producer Peter Gilbert. "We want people to see these families as going through some very rough times, overcoming a lot of obstacles, and rising above some of the typical media stereotypes that people have about inner-city families."

What emerges from Hoop Dreams is far more than a sympathetic portrait of two black teenagers reaching for the stars. While remaining epic in scope, it manages to be intimate in detail, chronicling the universal process of growing up, coming of age, the love and conflict between fathers and sons, brothers, best friends and spouses.

It's about success and failure not just on the court, but in school, at home, and ultimately, in society. And it does it in a way that no other film on sports has done before: it gives viewers an intimate look at the pursuit of the basketball dream while it is actually happening. Hoop Dreams won every major critics award in 1994 as well as a Peabody and Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award in 1995. The film earned Steve James the Directors Guild of America Award and the MTV Movie Award’s "Best New Filmmaker." Hoop Dreams was subsequently named to the Library of Congress's National Film Registry, signifying its enduring importance to the history of American film, and has often been voted the greatest documentary of all time.


An educational companion piece to Hoop Dreams, the short film Higher Goals features NBA star Isiah Thomas in a fast-paced, entertaining PBS special that encourages young athletes to put their dreams of professional sports in perspective and focus on getting an education. The real life stories of two high school athletes demonstrate that the sports skills of practice and discipline can be applied to academics as well.

Chicago Crossings: Bridges and Boundaries

A video made to accompany an art exhibit at The Spertus Museum addressing the relationships of African Americans and American Jews. This video takes you in to the studios of 12 artists, six Black and six Jewish, as they prepare their work for the show.

Media Burn Archive was awarded a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to digitize a collection of 100 tapes of camera original footage shot for Chicago Crossings. This exclusive footage can be viewed at

Vietnam, Long Time Coming

The last American officials were airlifted out of Vietnam from the embassy roof in Saigon in 1975. Most have never returned. In 1998, World T.E.A.M. (The Exceptional Athlete Matters) Sports organized a 16-day, 1100 mile bicycle expedition through once war-torn Northern and Southern Vietnam. A non-profit organization that focuses on events for the disabled, World T.E.A.M. Sports drew an array of veterans from the U.S. and Vietnam, as well as celebrity riders like Greg LeMond and Senator John Kerry. Those without use of their legs used special hand-powered bikes, while blind riders pedaled from the back of tandem bikes. What is immediately apparent on the veterans' arrival in Vietnam is that their biggest handicaps are the ghosts of their pasts. Past enemies ride as one team in peace across a landscape they once killed to stay alive on. Much more than a race, the ride is an exorcism; the real finish line is the painful emotional confrontation each must make alone along the way.

Cooked: Survival By Zip Code

In her signature serious-yet-quirky connect-the-dots style, Peabody Award winning filmmaker Judith Helfand takes audiences from the deadly 1995 Chicago heat disaster deep into one of our nation’s biggest growth industries - disaster preparedness. Along the way she forges inextricable links between extreme weather, extreme wealth disparity and extreme racism, daring to ask: What if a zip code was just a routing number, and not a life-or-death sentence.

Adapted from Eric Klinenberg’s ground-breaking book HEAT WAVE: A Social Autopsy of Disaster in Chicago.

5 Girls

For two years, filmmaker Maria Finitzo followed five strong young women between the ages of 13 and 17. Unlike the myriad reports, books and "specials" that focus on young women as passive and powerless, 5 Girls explores the ways these girls discover the resources necessary to successfully navigate the rocky waters of adolescence. It focuses on the positive ways girls learn to adapt to challenge in their lives by understanding and exercising choices, by believing in their strength when others do not and by resisting powerful cultural messages, which urge them to be silent.

Refrigerator Mothers

It is America of the 1950s and 1960s, when a woman's most important contribution to society is generally considered to be her ability to raise happy, well-adjusted children. But for the mother whose child is diagnosed with autism, her life's purpose will soon become a twisted nightmare. Looking for help and support, she encounters instead a medical establishment that pins the blame for her child's bizarre behaviors on her supposedly frigid and detached mothering. Along with a heartbreaking label for her child, she receives a devastating label of her own. She is a "refrigerator mother".

Refrigerator Mothers paints an intimate portrait of an entire generation of mothers, already laden with the challenge of raising profoundly disordered children, who lived for years under the dehumanizing shadow of professionally promoted "mother blame."

Once isolated and unheard, these mothers have emerged with strong, resilient voices to share the details of their personal journeys. Through their poignant stories, Refrigerator Mothers puts a human face on what can happen when authority goes unquestioned and humanity is removed from the search for scientific answers.


In 1995, filmmaker Steve James returns to Pomona, a beautiful rural hamlet in Southern Illinois to reconnect with Stevie Fielding, for whom James once served as an advocate Big Brother. He finds that the once difficult, awkward child has become -- ten years later -- an angry and troubled young man. Part way through filming, Stevie is arrested and charged with a serious crime. He confesses to the crime and then later recants. The filmmaker himself is drawn into the film as he tries to sort out his own feelings, past and present, about Stevie and how to deal with him in the wake of his arrest. What was to be a modest profile of Stevie, turns into an intimate four and a half year chronicle of a dysfunctional family's struggle to heal.

The New Americans

The New Americans follows four years in the lives of a diverse group of contemporary immigrants and refugees as they journey to start new lives in America. We follow an Indian couple to Silicon Valley through the dot-com boom and bust. A Mexican meatpacker struggles to reunite his family in rural Kansas. Two families of Nigerian refugees (including the sister of slain Ogoni activist, Ken Saro-Wiwa) escape government persecution. Two Los Angeles Dodgers prospects follow their big dreams of escaping the barrios of the Dominican Republic. A Palestinian woman who marries into a new life in Chicago only to discover in the wake of September 11, she cannot leave behind the pain of her homeland's conflict.

Kartemquin assembled a team of talented directors including the creators of Hoop Dreams, Who Killed Vincent Chin, and Vietnam, Long Time Coming. The detailed portraits that resulted were woven into a seven-hour miniseries that presents a kaleidoscopic picture of immigrant life and a first impression of the U.S. that few born in America can imagine.

Golub: Late Works Are the Catastrophes

Leon Golub's massive canvasses depict scenes most of us would prefer not to see – mercenary killings, torture, and death squads. Golub offers not simply a profile of a painter with a political conscience, but an investigation into the power of the artist to reflect our times and to change the way we think about our world.

This one-hour film juxtaposes scenes of violence and political repression around the world, statements by American politicians and others, the responses of viewers to Golub's exhibitions and an extended sequence capturing the artist at work. In his New York studio, he creates a huge canvas that depicts a brutal assassination – a reminder, he says, of U.S. subsidized activity in El Salvador.

While tracking a major retrospective of Golub's work across the United States and Canada, the documentary also follows the creation of his monumental canvases, detailing his complex and unorthodox techniques. It then accompanies the finished painting, White Squad X, to its European opening in Derry, Northern Ireland in a joint exhibition with Nancy Spero, Golub's wife.

Interviews and discussions filmed in Derry raise questions about First Amendment rights and the venues available for art to speak to these issues. When a women in the audience talks about a lack of safety for Irish artists who "reflect reality" Nancy Spero says, "'s different in the United States. I don't think that they're afraid of what an artist has to say." And Golub responds, "Society does not censor you until it really thinks you're dangerous, and we have not been considered sufficiently dangerous."

Kartemquin Films completes its chronicle of the work and times of the American artist, Leon Golub. Begun in 1985, the film ends with Golub's death in 2004, taking us from searing images of interrogations and torture to the ironies and dark humor of old-age.

Jonathan Rosenbaum described an earlier, shorter version of the film as "virtually perfect, conveying the exhilarating sense that art is inseparable from the world that engenders it and the world that receives it." Over-sized canvasses with screaming mercenaries and rioters urninating on a corpse; photographic fragments used as information and inspiration; the making of one of Golub's death-squad series from start to finish and to its exhibition in Derry, Northern Ireland; news footage from around the world; museum-goers' responses; disturbing music: out of these disparate elements the film creates a dialogue between image and audience that reflects what Golub calls the "disjunctiveness" of modern life. We are horrified, detached, and at the same time strangely complicit. In the aftermath of September 11, and now with the photos from Abu Ghraib prison scandal, Golub's ferocious, monumental work of the 70's and 80's (used to this day by human rights groups such as Amnesty International) remain prophetic and essential, even as they give way to the snarling dogs, erotica, and wise-cracking meditations on mortality which began to appear in his paintings in the 1990's.

When we revisit Golub in 2001, the aging artist tells us "my work these days is sort of political, sort of metaphysical, and sort of smart-ass. I'm playful and hostile. Let's see if you can keep up with my slipping around." So we make our way through half empty canvasses dotted with birds of prey, smoking skulls, neon chorus girls, pierced hearts, and snickering text: "Bite your tongue. Save your ass."

The film captures an historic artistic journey, shared with his wife and studio partner of 50 years, the prominent anti-war and feminist artist, Nancy Spero. In some wonderfully comic and touching scenes we see them as each other's most valued critic and most ardent supporter. Golub continued in his later paintings to "report" on what's going on in the world, but he does it with the kind of dissonances and discontinuities that led Theodor Adorno in his essay on Beethoven to proclaim, "In the history of art, late works are the catastrophes."

Mapping Stem Cell Research: Terra Incognita

Terra Incognita is a feature length documentary film and companion civic engagement campaign featuring the story of Dr. Jack Kessler, the current chair of Northwestern University's Department of Neurology and Clinical Neurological Sciences, and his daughter, Allison, an undergraduate student at Harvard University. When Kessler was invited to head up the Neurology Department at Northwestern, his focus was on using stem cells to help cure diabetes. However, soon after his move to Chicago, Allison -- then age 15, was injured in a skiing accident and paralyzed from the waist down. In the moments following the accident, Dr. Kessler made the decision to change the focus of his research to begin looking for a cure for spinal cord injuries using embryonic stem cells. Through Kessler's story, we bring the stem cell debate to the public for discussion. The film follows the constantly evolving interplay between the promise of new discoveries, the controversy of modern science and the resilience and courage of people living every day with devastating disease and injury.

In the Family

In the Family is a documentary film about predicting breast and ovarian cancer, the consequences of knowing, and the women who live with the risk. Beginning with her story of testing positive for the familial breast cancer mutation (BRCA), Filmmaker Joanna Rudnick chronicles the lives of several women currently undergoing the process of genetic testing -- following them from their decision to seek testing, through the testing process, and in the aftermath when they are coming to terms with the information they receive. These stories of the first generation of women to live with the knowledge that they are predisposed to a life-threatening disease will teach us what it means to survive a diagnosis of high risk without being consumed or defined by it. They will help us to understand the psychological, legal, ethical, cultural and social complexities of genetic testing for a mutation, which affects the entire family, for which there is no cure, and wherein the only treatments currently available involve enormous quality-of-life sacrifices.

At the Death House Door

At the Death House Door follows the remarkable career journey of Carroll Pickett, who served 15 years as the death house chaplain to the infamous "Walls" prison unit in Huntsville, Texas. During that time he presided over 95 executions, including the very first lethal injection done anywhere in the world. After each execution, Pickett recorded an audiotape account of that fateful day. The film also tells the story of Carlos De Luna, a convict whose execution affected Pickett more than any other. Pickett firmly believed the man was innocent and two Chicago Tribune reporters turn up evidence that strongly suggests he was right.

At the Death House Door marks the first time the filmmaking team of Steve James and Peter Gilbert have produced and directed a film together. They began their filmmaking partnership on the landmark Kartemquin documentary, Hoop Dreams, on which James was producer and director and Gilbert served as producer and director of photography. A Kartemquin Films production for the Independent Film Channel.

Milking the Rhino

A ferocious kill on the Serengeti… dire warnings about endangered species… These clichés of nature documentaries ignore a key feature of the landscape: villagers just off-camera, who navigate the dangers and costs of living with wildlife on a daily basis. When seen at all, rural Africans are often depicted as the problem – they poach animals and encroach on habitat, they spoil our myth of wild Africa.

Milking the Rhino tells a more nuanced tale of human-wildlife coexistence in post-colonial Africa. The Maasai tribe of Kenya and Namibia's Himba – two of Earth's oldest cattle cultures – are in the midst of upheaval. Emerging from a century of "white man conservation," which turned their lands into game reserves and fueled resentment towards wildlife, Himba and Maasai communities are now vying for a piece of the wildlife-tourism pie.

Community-based conservation, which tries to balance the needs of wildlife and people, has been touted by environmentalists as "win-win." The reality is more complex. "We never used to benefit from these animals," a Maasai host of a community eco-lodge explains. "Now we milk them like cattle!" His neighbor disagrees: "A rhino means nothing to me! I can't kill it for meat like a cow." And when drought decimates the grass shared by livestock and wildlife, the community's commitment to conservation is sorely tested.

Charting the collision of ancient ways with Western expectations, Milking the Rhino tells intimate, hopeful and heartbreaking stories of people facing deep cultural change.


In rural Wisconsin, a lone employee waits in a cavernous old museum for visitors to come. A few individuals straggle in every few days and then, come Friday, the museum fills with life. Machines hum, presses print, artists buzz about. One weekend each month, the quiet of Two Rivers is interrupted as carloads of artisans drive in from across the Midwest. The place comes alive as printmaking workshops led by, and filled with, some of the nation's top design talent descend on the sleepy enclave.

In a time when people can carry computers in their pockets and watch TV while walking down the street, Typeface dares to explore the twilight of an analog craft that is freshly inspiring artists in a digital age. The Hamilton Wood Type Museum in Two Rivers, WI personifies cultural preservation, rural re-birth and the lineage of American graphic design. At Hamilton, international artisans meet retired craftsmen and together navigate the convergence of modern design and traditional technique. But the Museum's days may be numbered. What is the responsibility of artists and historians to preserve a dying craft? How can rural towns survive in a shifting industrial marketplace where big-box retailers are king?

Prisoner of Her Past

Imagine surviving a war, earthquake, flood, or other disaster only to be stricken by nightmares, paranoia and a very real sense that it's happening over and over. What would you do? Frightening events can leave lasting invisible scars on the psyches of survivors, particularly children. Sometimes the effects take years to fully manifest. Survivors are often faced with the sensation that they are reliving the events of years or decades before.

This devastating and little understood condition, known as Late Onset Post Traumatic Disorder, is at the heart of Prisoner of Her Past.

Prisoner of Her Past tells the haunting story of a secret childhood trauma resurfacing, sixty years later, to unravel the life of Holocaust survivor Sonia Reich. The film follows her son, Chicago Tribune jazz critic Howard Reich, as he journeys across the United States and Eastern Europe to uncover why his mother believes the world is conspiring to kill her. Along the way, he finds a family he never knew he had. Howard also finds psychiatrists in New Orleans helping traumatized children who survived Hurricane Katrina, so they will not re-experience their childhood terrors as his mother now does.

No Crossover: The Trial of Allen Iverson

"The Trials of Allen Iverson" is Kartemquin Films production for ESPN Films' critically acclaimed "30 for 30" series. On February 13, 1993, 17-year-old Bethel High School basketball star Allen Iverson entered a Hampton, Virginia bowling alley with several classmates. It was supposed to be an ordinary evening, but it became a night that defined Iverson's young life: a quarrel soon erupted into a brawl pitting Iverson's young, black friends against a group of older white men. The fallout from the fight and the handling of the subsequent trial landed the nation's best high school athlete in jail and sharply divided the city along racial lines. Oscar nominee Steve James (Hoop Dreams) returns to his hometown of Hampton, where he once played basketball, to take a personal look at this still disputed incident and examine its impact on Iverson and the shared community.

As Goes Janesville

As Goes Janesville reports from ground zero of the recession-ridden heartland — the town of Janesville, Wisconsin. When bankrupt GM shuts down the community’s century-old plant, forcing workers to leave their families in search of decent jobs, local business leaders seize the moment to woo new companies with the promise of lower wages, reduced regulation and tax breaks. Their powerful alliance with newly-elected Republican governor Scott Walker, whose “open for business” manifesto morphs into a “divide and conquer” anti-union strategy that rips apart the state, triggers an historic recall election, and thrusts Wisconsin’s civil war onto front pages nationwide. A cautionary tale for a polarized country falling short of the American Dream, the film follows three years in the lives of laid off workers struggling to survive, business leaders trying to reinvent their local economy, and a state senator caught in the middle, trying to bring peace to his warring state while protecting workers’ rights. As Goes Janesville, so goes America.

Saving Mes Aynak (Free in Afghanistan)

The film is free to watch within Afghanistan ONLY. Please ignore the $1 price and click - you will not be charged for access.

For those outside Afghanistan, please select the "Global" option below.

Saving Mes Aynak follows Afghan archaeologist Qadir Temori as he races to save the Mes Aynak site from imminent demolition by China Metallurgical Group Corporation (MCC), a Chinese state-owned mining company ready to harvest an estimated $100 billion dollars worth of copper. Located within Afghanistan’s Taliban-controlled Logar Province, Mes Aynak is a 5,000 year-old Bronze age site and 2,000 year-old Buddhist Silk Road city of historical and cultural importance archeologists have stated could potentially be comparable to Machu Picchu or Pompeii. Only 10% of the site has so far been excavated, but corruption is rampant, and the site could be destroyed at any time.

A Kartemquin film, directed by Brent E. Huffman and produced by Zak Piper.

#SaveMesAynak Day on July 1 will spark worldwide protest, conversation, and action. It will launch a long-term educational campaign to reach as many people as we can. After the world watches the film together on July 1, I hope to travel to Kabul and present both the film and a petition of 100,000 signatures to President Ghani, his government, and to the people of Afghanistan. We plan to show the film to UNESCO officials, and the international community of those with the power to ensure this magnificent Buddhist archeological site is preserved.

Please donate extra if you wish; 10% of all donations will go directly to the Afghan archeologists at the site to aid them in their efforts.

Help us #SaveMesAynak for future generations!

The School Project

The School Project is an independent cross-platform media project committed to the idea that a healthy public education system is essential to a vital American democracy. A collaboration between a group of Chicago filmmakers, the project will create media that contextualizes and humanizes issues such as standardized testing, charter schools, privatization, and the effects of school closings to promote an informed conversation about the past, present, and future of public education in Chicago, a city on the front lines of America’s education struggles.

The transmedia project and feature documentary will look at how decisions are made and their consequences as they play out in our communities. The team includes Free Spirit Media, Kartemquin Films, Kindling Group, Media Process Group, Siskel/Jacobs Productions and freelancers Rachel Dickson and Melissa Sterne. Media partners include Catalyst Chicago, Chicago Sun-Times, and WTTW/Channel 11.

Life Itself

Based on his memoir of the same name, Life Itself recounts the surprising and entertaining life of world-renowned film critic and social commentator Roger Ebert – a story that’s by turns personal, wistful, funny, painful, and transcendent. A centerpiece of the film is the story of how Ebert and Gene Siskel revolutionized film criticism and became the most recognized, criticized, and powerful movie critics in the world. Part critical biography and personal history, the film’s spine is the last four months of Roger’s life when the filmmakers had exclusive access as he heroically battled – and ultimately failed – to overcome a hip fracture that turned out to be cancer. From this unfolding story, the film will travel through Roger’s past life, his own words as our guide, detailing his precocious start in Urbana, Illinois; his migration to Chicago to start a career at the Chicago Sun Times; his unexpected promotion to movie critic; the creation of the television show that would revolutionize film criticism; and his difficult and inspiring fight with cancer.

The film will dig deeper beyond the public’s perception of Roger as Pulitzer Prize winning film critic and star of Siskel & Ebert. We will reveal his ribald sense of humor, his passions for politics and justice, as well as Russ Meyer and big-breasted women; his wild days at the legendarily rough and tumble O’Rourke’s Pub, where he learned verbal combat but succumbed to alcoholism before joining AA in 1979; his marriage to Chaz which changed his life; and how he championed and befriended such filmmakers as Errol Morris, Werner Herzog, Ramin Bahrani, Gregory Nava, and Martin Scorsese. Roger has been rightly lionized in death. Life Itself will show the real man himself and the rich, complicated, and ultimately inspiring life he led.

In the Game

In The Game is a Kartemquin documentary film directed by Peabody award-winner Maria Finitzo (Mapping Stem Cell Research: Terra Incognita, 5 Girls) that follows the ups and downs of a girls’ soccer team to reveal the very real obstacles that low-income students confront in their quest for higher education. Set in a primarily Hispanic neighborhood, Kelly High School on Chicago’s south side is an inner city public school struggling to provide the basics for their students, many of whom do not make it to college, either because they cannot compete academically or because their families do not have the financial resources to send them to college. The girls face an uneven playing field - or in the case of the girls at Kelly High School, no soccer field at all - little or no support, problems at home, uncertain futures, discrimination, and poverty, but remain undaunted thanks to their teammates and the dedicated mentoring of their coach.

Stranded by the State: The 8-Part Web Series

Illinois did not pass a real budget for over a year, the first state to do so since the Great Depression. The fight over the budget between Governor Bruce Rauner and the Illinois General Assembly has been covered widely, but what do the effects of this lingering crisis look like in people’s day-to-day lives? This new video series—a collaboration between In These Times and Kartemquin Films—follows the families, workers and students living through the de facto budget cuts, showing the ways it deteriorates the fabric of Illinois communities.

Each episode focuses on a different aspect of the crisis—from higher education to social services to housing—as well as who is benefiting from the crisis and what kinds of solutions could ultimately solve it. The series incorporates data connecting the situation in Illinois to long-term trends of austerity affecting the country at large, and how it ultimately costs taxpayers more in the long run.

Stranded by the State: The 2-Part Broadcast

Illinois did not pass a real budget for over a year, the first state to do so since the Great Depression. The fight over the budget between Governor Bruce Rauner and the Illinois General Assembly has been covered widely, but what do the effects of this lingering crisis look like in people’s day-to-day lives? This new video series—a collaboration between In These Times and Kartemquin Films—follows the families, workers and students living through the de facto budget cuts, showing the ways it deteriorates the fabric of Illinois communities.

Each episode focuses on a different aspect of the crisis—from higher education to social services to housing—as well as who is benefiting from the crisis and what kinds of solutions could ultimately solve it. The series incorporates data connecting the situation in Illinois to long-term trends of austerity affecting the country at large, and how it ultimately costs taxpayers more in the long run.

'63 Boycott (for high school licensing)

In protest of racial segregation, 250,000 students boycott the Chicago Public Schools in 1963.

This package is for high school classroom licensing.

Minding the Gap

Three young men bond together to escape volatile families in their Rust Belt hometown. As they face adult responsibilities, unexpected revelations threaten their decade-long friendship.


Sparking democracy through documentary since 1966, Kartemquin is a collaborative community that empowers documentary makers who create stories that foster a more engaged and just society.

Our films have received four Academy Award® nominations and won several major prizes, including five Emmys® and two Peabody Awards. Recognized as a leading advocate for independent public media, Kartemquin has helped hundreds of artists via its filmmaker development programs.

Recent productions include 2019 Oscar® nominee Minding the Gap, and 2018 Oscar® nominees Abacus: Small Enough to Jail and Edith + Eddie, and 2018's best reviewed TV series, America to Me. Other recent productions include the Emmy-winning Life Itself, The Homestretch, The Interrupters, and The Trials of Muhammad Ali, the Dupont award-winning series Hard Earned; and Raising Bertie, All the Queen’s Horses, Keep Talking, and ‘63 Boycott.

Kartemquin is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization based in Chicago.

Subscribe to our mailing list


  • Thanks for watching on #SaveMesAynak Day - and beyond!

    Jul 02, 2015

    Thank you to the thousands of people who have watched Saving Mes Aynak today.

    Your support is making an impact on the global public awareness of this 5,000 year old site of enormous cultural importance, and will help us to #SaveMesAynak.

    Because of you, our efforts on #SaveMesAynak day were featured in Newsweek, Al Jazeera, and on Huffington Post Live, sharing the Mes Aynak story with millions who might have never heard of this site until it was too late. 

    But we still have work to do. As our next goal, Saving Mes Aynak director Brent E. Huffman hopes to travel to Kabul and present both the film and a petition of 100,000 signatures to President Ghani, his government, and to the people of Afghanistan. We plan to show the film to UNESCO officials, and the international community of those with the power to ensure this magnificent Buddhist archeological site is preserved. 10% of all donations to this film will go directly to the Afghan archeologists at the site to aid them in their efforts. Help us #SaveMesAynak for future generations by sharing the film and the campaign!

    Thank you!