Steve James in conversation with Ashley O'Shay in first KTQ Community Conversation

Since 1966, Kartemquin has prided itself on cultivating "a collaborative community that empowers documentary makers who create stories that foster a more engaged and just society." In that time, we have championed the making of documentaries that examine and critique society through the stories of real people. 

As the field of documentary shifts and new models of nonfiction filmmaking emerge, the questions of "authorship, representation, safety, inclusion, consent, access, and accountability" as noted by Sonya Childress and Natalie Bullock Brown, are being renewed with an understandable urgency. In the last several months, Kartemquin has been engaged in internal conversations around the ways we as an organization can engage more critically with our filmmaker community and the documentary community at-large. It is from those questions and conversations that KTQ Community Conversations was born.

In remaining true to our goal of promoting dialogue and democracy, our first KTQ Community Conversation is Sparking Democracy Through Documentary, a line that has been the foundation of Kartemquin FIlms for over 50 years. 

What does it mean to spark democracy through documentary? Is democracy more an ideal than an actualization? Is democracy, more simply put, the power of the people? How are these ideas engaged and enacted in documentary filmmaking?

We're excited to have director Steve James (City So Real) in conversation with director Ashley O'Shay (Unapologetic) to discuss their approaches to the idea of "sparking democracy through documentary" as they discuss the overlapping themes in each of their latest projects. 

KTQ Community Conversations: Sparking Democracy Through Documentary will be a LIVE conversation moderated by Chicago-native Natalie Bullock Brown, lead strategist at Story Shift on Friday, August 28th at 4:00PM CT.

Register for the event.



City So Real

An impressionistic, mosaic portrait of current-day Chicago which delivers a deep, multifaceted look into the soul of America’s third-largest city, set against the backdrop of its history-making 2019 mayoral campaign.


After two Black Chicagoans are killed, millennial organizers challenge an administration complicit in state violence against its residents. Told through the lens of Janaé and Bella, two fierce abolitionist leaders, Unapologetic is a deep look into the Movement for Black Lives, from the police murder of Rekia Boyd to the election of Mayor Lori Lightfoot.