#ChiStories Podcast: Kartemquin Films

Chicago is on the road to the Oscars! Local Chicago-based film company Kartemquin Films, which has been making powerful independent films for over 50 years, has just been nominated for not one but two Academy Awards this year for Abacus: Small Enough to Jail (nominated for Best Documentary), and Edith+Eddie (nominated for Best Short Documentary).

Freshly returned from the Sundance Film Festival, hear from Betsy Steinberg, Executive Director and Tim Horsburgh, Director of Communications and Distribution, as they talk to Mayor Emanuel about Kartemquin Films, one of Chicago’s best-kept secrets.

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Tim Horsburgh and Betsy Steinberg on Chicago Stories podcast. Photo by Brooke Collins.

Founded in 1966 by Gordon Quinn, Jerry Temaner and Stan Karter, Kartemquin has produced over 60 films, winning major critical and journalistic prizes including multiple Emmy, Peabody, and RFK Journalism awards. Kartemquin’s best-known work is the seminal 1995 documentary Hoop Dreams, which chronicled the lives of two aspiring basketball players in inner-city Chicago. The highest grossing documentary at the time, it received countless awards and critical acclaim, and has since been included in the National Film Registry.

Abacus: Small Enough to Jail (Nominated for Best Documentary Feature) is about an Asian American bank based in New York’s Chinatown, the only financial institution to face criminal charges following the housing crisis, but it many ways it’s not about that at all. Its title “Small Enough to Jail” places it directly in the context of the financial crisis. It was directed by Steve James, the director of Hoop Dreams.

Edith+Eddie (Nominated for Best Documentary Short) is about America’s oldest interracial newlyweds.

“There are extraordinary stories in the ordinary everyday lives of people.” — Betsy Steinberg

Kartemquin’s mission is three-fold: First, to produce socially and politically engaged films. Second, to serve as a training ground for young documentary filmmakers in the Midwest. And third, to be a leading advocacy organization on issues such as fair use and defending public funding and broadcasts of documentary. It is a not-for-profit organization.

Last year was a record year for film and media production in Chicago. In 2017, eight full-season television series were among the many film and media projects produced in Chicago last year, resulting in an estimated $423 million economic impact. The Film Office issued a total of 2,127 permits in support of these projects, a 10 percent increase from 2016. Chicago has seen steady year over year increases in media production since 2011.

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