About Kartemquin

Kartemquin is a collaborative community empowering documentary makers who create stories that foster a more engaged and just society. In 2016 Kartemquin celebrated 50 years of sparking democracy through documentary.

Kartemquin is internationally recognized for crafting quality documentaries backed by innovative community engagement. The organization's films have received three Academy Award® nominations and won several major prizes, including five Emmys, two Peabody Awards, multiple Independent Spirit, IDA, PGA and DGA awards, and duPont-Columbia and Robert F. Kennedy journalism awards. Kartemquin is recognized as a leading advocate for independent documentary media, and has helped hundreds of artists via its filmmaker development programs that help further grow the field, such as KTQ Labs, Diverse Voices in Docs, and the acclaimed KTQ Internship. Kartemquin is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization based in Chicago. www.kartemquin.com

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Our History

Kartemquin Films, originally established in 1966, is a 501 (c) 3 non profit organization with a history of producing a wide range of acclaimed documentary films. From its inception, it has served as a home for filmmakers to develop their craft and produce films that promote dialogue and democracy. Kartemquin makes documentaries that examine and critique society through the stories of real people. A community of socially-responsible filmmakers, we nurture emerging talent through a commitment to a collaborative, mentorship-based model of filmmaking practice. Our model places an emphasis on high ethical standards, particularly with regards to filmmaker-subject relationships, and in grassroots distribution through community partnerships.

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.

Initially motivated by the philosophies of Dewey that "artists are the real purveyors of the news," Kartemquin was formed amid the 1960s Chicago social issue film scene. Eschewing auterism, Kartemquin quickly evolved into a left-wing collective, sharing credits as they produced agit-prop works about labor struggles that were meant for immediate distribution, directly affecting the live issues. After the dissolution of the collective in the late 1970s, co-founders Gordon Quinn and Jerry Blumenthal (who sadly passed away in late 2014) pushed the organization to its current model, producing high quality works that still had a political edge and mentoring a new generation of young documentary makers. This model remains, but Kartemquin has now formalized many filmmaker development programs to train young documentary makers in the midwest, while acting as a leading advocacy organization for the entire field on issues such as fair use and defending public funding and broadcasts of documentary, while releasing a steady and rising amount of award-winning films in a variety of styles.

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, and Kartemquin's Gordon Quinn and Steve James were honored with career achievement awards by Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival and Full Frame, respectively. In 2015, Gordon Quinn was named the 2015 International Documentary Association Career Achievement Award recipient, and also honored by the Houston Cinema Arts Festival.

In 2016, Kartemquin's 50th Anniversary was recognized with awards and retrospective screenings from several venues and festivals, including: Hot Docs; Museum of Moving Image NYC; UCLA Film & Television Archive; St. Louis International Film Festival; Ashland International Film Festival; Dallas Videofest; Chicago International Music and Movies Festival (CIMMfest); Peace on Earth Film Festival; Chicago Latino Film Festival; Columbia College Chicago; University of Chicago Doc Films; University of Chicago Center for Human Rights; Northwestern’s Block Cinema; Getting Real 2016; DePaul University; Chicago Filmmakers; Black Cinema House; and on Chicago's PBS Station WTTW and Turner Classic Movies; and with a unique art and equipment exhibition at the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events' Expo 72 gallery. Kartemquin also marked the achievement by offering free streaming of their entire back catalog at Http://watch.kartemquin.com, by hosting a party for over 1,000 alumni and fans in Chicago, and by hosting a Fall Festival in partnership with ArcLight Cinemas that showcased entirely new work, particularly from emerging filmmakers graduating from our filmmaker development programs.

Learn more about the history of Kartemquin