Gordon Quinn interviewed at Virginia Film Festival

Listen to a Virginia Film Festival interview with Kartemquin co-founder and artistic director Gordon Quinn from this past weekend. Virginia Film Festival honored Kartemquin's 45th anniversary with screenings of 8 of our films (plus the special Bill T. Jones performance film 100 Migrations), and Gordon Quinn, executive director Justine Nagan, and senior producer Steve James all attended.


In conversation with Sean McCord, Gordon traces the 45 year history of Kartemquin. Here's some highlights:

  • On Kartemquin's early years:

"We were very influenced and excited by the things that Ricky Leacock, the Maysles Brothers, Pennebaker, Drew Associates [did]. All of those early verite documentaries were just electrifying to us. And if you look at our early work you'll see it has a very verite quality. We felt that if you could just hold a mirror up to society... that that would be enough. If people could see how they were acting, that would lead to social change. So our early films were very purist."


"They were two, and then soon three, young guys, just out of film school, never made a film before, and they came in to Kartemquin with just an idea and a title. A great title. And $2,000 from a public agency, the Illinois Arts Council, in funding, which told me they had it together to at least write a proposal. And we took the project on and it was a huge success."


  • On Kartemquin's current model:

"Our model now is to work with a group of filmmakers. We're trying to develop younger filmmakers to tell the more powerful kind of story like you saw in Hoop Dreams. Hoop Dreams really changed our thinking about what our niche should be. In the 1970's we were working mostly with organizations that were directly engaged in tyring to induce social change. I think what we saw with Hoop Dreams is we have a particular skill and ability to make very emotional films, that can draw people in on an emotional level, and maybe change the minds of people who aren't sympathetic to what you're talking about. A lot of people saw Hoop Dreams who would never watch a film about , quote, 'inner-city families.' They spent three hours with those families, they came to care about them. We see that as one of our priorities, trying to make those films that will get people to see something they didn't expect to see, or connect with someone they didn't necessarily expect to connect with."


  • On no longer leading Kartemquin as Executive Director:

"One of the nice things about not being the Executive Director any more is that there are a lot of things that surprise me now. It's "oh, are we doing that? Oh, OK!" And I like that!"


Listen to the full 18 minute interview. Watch Gordon Quinn's latest film as director, A Good Man, this Friday at 9pm on PBS American Masters.