David E. Simpson

David E. Simpson is a documentary filmmaker with over three decades of experience. Films he has produced, directed or edited have garnered three national Emmys, a pair of Peabody awards, two DuPont-Columbia batons, an Oscar nomination, a Sundance jury award and best in category at countless festivals. He has worked in close association with Kartemquin Films since 1997.

An experienced director/producer, David deems editing the heart of documentary-practice and spends the bulk of his time in the cutting room crafting impactful works with talented collaborators. 

David is currently editing the newest Steve James series for ESPN’s 30 for 30. He recently finished post on Messwood, which premiered at DOC NYC. He co-edited City so Real, a kaleidoscopic portrait of Chicago that premiered on National Geographic to rave reviews and two Emmy nominations.  David co-edited James’ prior work, America to Me, a groundbreaking 10-part series about race and education that premiered at Sundance 2018 and aired on STARZ.

All told, David has edited some fifteen projects with Kartemquin Films (see partial list below). He co-edited 2018’s Cooked: Survival by Zip Code; as well as Abacus: Small Enough to Jail, which received a 2018 Oscar nomination, won Best Documentary Editing at the Ashland Film Festival, and was termed “an exemplary piece of filmmaking” by Sight & Sound.

With director Steve James, David co-edited the Roger Ebert biopic Life Itself, 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.

Other key 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 the category of Directing/Producing: David served as series co-director (and editor) on Hard Earned (2015), a six-part television series on getting by in America, which won a duPont-Columbia Award for Journalistic Excellence.

Milking The Rhino (2008), which he produced, directed, wrote and edited, 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, an award-winning snapshot of America through the prism of one multi-cultural street.

David’s documentary feature debut, When Billy Broke His Head (1995), which he co-produced, co-directed and edited, is 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 from St. John’s College, and an MFA in Filmmaking from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He has taught filmmaking at Northwestern University, the University of Minnesota and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. 

Films by David E. Simpson

City So Real 2020
Edited by
Cooked: Survival by Zip Code 2018
America to Me 2018
Edited by
Abacus: Small Enough to Jail 2016
Edited by
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