June 3, 2011 5:15 pm
The esteemed film magazine Sight & Sound gave our recently released DVDs The Kartemquin Collection: The Early Years Volumes 1 & 2 a great review in its May 2011 issue.
The review by critic Michael Atkinson isn't online, but the magazine is out now. However, we thought we'd share it with you here since it is such a nice vindication of our mission to release our entire back catalog on DVD so new audiences can see the continued relevance of our early films.
"Still in business, Kartemquin Films was begun in 1966 by University of Chicago grads Gordon Quinn, Stan Karter and Jerry Temaner, and their non-profit mandate in that tumultuous era was on-the-spot, confrontational documentaries that furthered progressive causes and interrogated the role of the artist in society, all while maintaining a devoted allegiance to Chicago proper. Many of their first films had no credits (indeed, according to IMDb, Karter has never put his name on any film), and as the years wore on Kartemquin became an expressly educational production studio fostering features such as Hoop Dreams, The Last Pullman Car and the PBS miniseries The New Americans. But at the beginning the fumes of collective purpose and social rage were in the air, whether the team was chronicling the efforts of Christian teens to put on an 'anti-war mass' (the truly inspiring Thumbs Down, 1968), or participating in and reflecting on the 1969 student strike and administration-building occupation at the the university (Hum 255 and What the Fuck are These Red Squares?, both from 1970) in response to the invasion of Cambodia.
Ethnographically specific, the films are 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. (The contrast between these fiery co-eds and committed youth-groupers and the American undergraduates of today is horryfingly extreme). Quinn and co didn't pioneer the form, nor did they attain the mysterious eloquence of Chris Marker's Vietnam-era shorts. But the practical Kartemquin agenda was always social change and awareness over cinema, and the films fairly pulse with immediacy and consquence."
The Early Years, Volumes 1-3 are now available on DVD individually or as a complete set from the Kartemquin store. We are working to raise funds to release The Kartemquin Collection, Volume 4: The Collective Years, covering the 1970's era, on DVD in a few months.
Check out a YouTube playlist of trailers for our Early Years films and DVDs.