About Kartemquin

Kartemquin Films is a collaborative center for documentary media makers who seek to foster a more engaged and empowered society. With a noted tradition of nurturing emerging talent and acting as a leading voice for independent media, Kartemquin is building on over 48 years of being Chicago's documentary powerhouse.

Kartemquin sparks democracy through documentary. Our films, such as The Interrupters, Hoop Dreams, and The New Americans have left a lasting impact on millions of viewers. A revered resource within the film community on issues of fair use, ethics, story and civic discourse, Kartemquin is internationally recognized for crafting quality documentaries backed by audience and community engagement strategies, and for its innovative media arts community programs.

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

Read our mission statement

Our History

In 1966, Kartemquin Films began making documentaries that examine and critique society through the stories of real people.

Kartemquin's first film, Home For Life - a powerful chronicle of two elderly people entering a home for the aged that was called "extraordinarily moving" by Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times - established the direction the organization would take over the next four decades.  With a record number of films currently in development and production, Kartemquin is poised to continue this legacy for years to come. 

The organization has won every major critical and journalistic prize, including Emmys, Peabodys, duPont-Columbia and Robert F. Kennedy journalism awards, Independent Spirit, IDA, PGA and DGA awards, and an Oscar nomination. A proud recipient of one of eight international 2007 MacArthur Awards for Creative and Effective Institutions, Kartemquin has been described by the Chicago Reader as a “documentary powerhouse.” In 1997 The Chicago Film Critics Association gave Kartemquin their Big Shoulders Award for outstanding service to the film community and the world, and in 2010 Kartemquin was honored with the Altgeld Freedom of Speech Award for “unflinchingly holding up a mirror to American society.” Additional awards include the 2009 Ron Sable Award for Activism from the Crossroads Fund, a 2013 Media Pioneer Award from the Benton Foundation, and Community Media Workshop's 2014 Studs Terkel Award. In 2014, the Riverrun film festival gave Kartemquin their "Master of Cinema" Award.

Learn the history of Kartemquin