David E. Simpson is a highly-awarded filmmaker who brings to his projects a collaborative spirit, proven storytelling chops and formidable attention to detail. Films he has produced, directed or edited have garnered two Emmys, two DuPont-Columbia batons, a pair of Peabody awards, an Oscar nomination, a Sundance jury prize and best in category at countless festivals. He has worked in close association with Kartemquin Films since 1997.
An experienced director/producer, David considers editing the heart of documentary-making. As a result, he has chosen to spend the bulk of the last ten years in the edit room, crafting impactful works with talented collaborators. He is currently wrapping up work on America to Me, a groundbreaking 10-part series about race and education, the first half of which premiered at Sundance 2018. and which will air on STARZ this fall.
David recently co-edited director Steve James’ Abacus: Small Enough to Jail, which received a 2018 Oscar nomination, aired on PBS’ Frontline, won Best Documentary Editing at the Ashland Film Festival, and was termed “an exemplary piece of filmmaking” by Sight & Sound.
David co-edited Life Itself, about Roger Ebert, which screened at Cannes and Sundance, and won an Emmy for Outstanding Editing. He co-edited Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise, which premiered at Sundance, aired on American Masters and won a Peabody.
David has edited a dozen films and two television series for Kartemquin (see partial list below). Other editing credits include: Frontline's Shtetl (grand prix - Cinema du Real), the Emmy-nominated NOVA: Mysterious Crash of Flight 201, Living in Tall Trees for WGBH/TV Asahi-Japan, episodes of Cold Case Files for A&E, and an episode of The People’s Century for BBC/PBS.
In addition to editing, David is a veteran director/producer. He served as series co-director and co-editor on Hard Earned (2015), a six-part television series on getting by in America, which won a duPont-Columbia Award for Journalistic Excellence.
He produced, directed, wrote and edited Milking The Rhino (2008), which took a pioneering look at community-based conservation and the myth of wild Africa. The film aired nationally on PBS and screened at scores of festivals on six continents.
David directed, co-produced and edited Refrigerator Mothers (2002), about a generation of mothers who raised autistic children under the shadow of professionally-promoted mother-blame. The film won top honors at the Florida, Indiana, and Sedona film festivals and aired on PBS’ P.O.V.
He co-produced and edited Forgiving Dr. Mengele – about an Auschwitz survivor's controversial campaign of forgiveness – which won the 2006 Slamdance Grand Jury Prize for Documentaries. He produced, directed, wrote and edited Halsted Street, USA (1999), an award-winning snapshot of America through the prism of one multi-cultural street.
David co-produced, co-directed and edited When Billy Broke His Head (1995), a groundbreaking film about disability rights and culture, which garnered a jury prize at Sundance, a duPont-Columbia Award, and dozens of other honors.
Prior to documentaries, David spent his formative filmmaking years creating experimental narratives. Dante’s Dream, a re-working of Dante’s cosmology, earned 1st-Place awards at half a dozen film festivals.
David received a BA in Philosophy and an MFA in Filmmaking. He has taught filmmaking at the University of Minnesota and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Films by David E. Simpson
- America to Me 2018
- Edited by
- Abacus: Small Enough to Jail 2016
- Hard Earned 2015
- Series Editors / Co-Directors
- Life Itself 2014
- The Homestretch 2014
- thank you
- A Good Man 2011
- Milking the Rhino 2008
- Mapping Stem Cell Research: Terra Incognita 2007
- The New Americans 2003
- Refrigerator Mothers 2002
- Director, Co-Producers, Editor
- 5 Girls 2001
- Producers, Editor
- Vietnam, Long Time Coming 1998
- When Billy Broke His Head 1995
- Director/Producers, Cinematography, Editor
The People of Kartemquin
With a noted tradition of nurturing emerging talent and acting as a leading voice for independent media, Kartemquin is building on more than 50 years of history as Chicago’s documentary powerhouse.
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