Institutional 2018

Institutional Award: Kartemquin Films

The philosopher John Dewey once said that “artists are the real purveyors of the news,” an idea that resides at the heart of Kartemquin Films. From its humble beginnings in Chicago through the present day, Kartemquin Films has indelibly shaped the contemporary documentary form and values through its commitment to nonfiction storytelling as a form of art and its dedication to the ethos of social justice and equity.

KTQ, as the organization is affectionately known, was founded in 1966 by University of Chicago graduates Stan Karter, Jerry Temaner, Gordon Quinn, and later, Jerry Blumenthal, who were deeply inspired by the social justice demands of the time, as well as the opportunity for film to illuminate unseen stories. Birthed during the early days of the cinema vérité revolution that opened up new possibilities for storytellers within movements, Kartemquin established a reputation as a hub for filmmakers and communities to learn from one another while also producing some of the most important exemplars of the form over the ensuing decades, a roster of more than 60 films that includes 1994’s Hoop Dreams, directed by Steve James and widely credited as a pathbreaking film that sparked a revolution in documentary filmmaking, as well as The Interrupters, Life Itself, The Trials of Muhammad Ali, Abacus: Small Enough to Jail, and this year’s Peabody-winning Minding the Gap.

Deeply committed to documentary as a community, KTQ is equally revered for its fierce commitment to nurturing independent filmmakers and their work, seen through its KTQ Labs Rough Cut Screening Program, and its Diverse Voices in Documentary (DVID) initiative, where filmmaker Bing Liu developed and shaped this year’s Peabody Award-winning Minding the Gap. As an artistic powerhouse, KTQ films have garnered every journalistic and artistic prize, including multiple Peabody Awards, Emmys, duPont-Columbia and Robert F. Kennedy awards, Independent Spirit, IDA, DGA, and PGA Awards, and numerous Oscar nominations, as well as a MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions.

At its core, Kartemquin—under the helm and vision of its continuing longtime artistic director, Gordon Quinn—remains dedicated to “democracy through documentary,” the belief that publics must be permitted to contemplate the intimacy of the lived human experience in order to make informed decisions about the world in which we inhabit. For its commitment to artistic excellence in nonfiction storytelling, its leadership in the tradition of independent documentary and its community, and its values rooted in social justice and democracy, Kartemquin Films receives an Institutional Award.