Sunday service: Thumbs Down at Doc Films

Thumbs Down screens at 10pm on Sunday as part of their ongoing University of Chicago Doc Films retrospective of Kartemquin at 45.

The 1968 cinema-verite documentary shows a teenage youth group called Thumbs Down who aim "to bring Christ to their neighborhood" by holding an anti-war Mass at their conservative Chicago parish. Neither militants nor hippies, they simply believe that Christianity means social action and concern with issues. They present this belief to the community and the confrontation reveals the deepening crisis of communication between the young Christians and their parents, priest, and neighbors. The film was co-directed by Kartemquin founders Jerry Temaner and Gordon Quinn, and screened at the 1968 Chicago International Film Festival and the Festival Dei Popoli, Florence, Italy.

Roger Ebert gave the film a thumbs up in his 1968 Chicago Sun-Times review, stating: “Thumbs Down offers a great deal of understanding about the nature of a neighborhood that is often talked about in the most oversimplified way... Temaner and Quinn are filmmakers and 'inquiring reporters' with great insight, and they have a lot to tell us about ourselves."

Thumbs Down is on DVD as part of the Kartemquin Collection: The Early Years, Vol 1, with Parents. In reviewing the DVD for Sight & Sound, critic Michael Atkinson described Thumbs Down as "Truly inspiring." Watch a trailer for the two films below.