Kartemquin Films and Argot Pictures are thrilled to present the first-ever theatrical release of the beloved 1968 Kartemquin film Inquiring Nuns.
Inquiring Nuns will begin its distribution with runs in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, showing from a newly restored 16mm print and DCP, supported through a grant by the National Film Preservation Foundation.
New York, NY | Museum of the Moving Image | Nov 23 – Dec 2
- Co-director Gordon Quinn in-person Nov 23-25
Chicago, IL | Gene Siskel Film Center | Nov 30 – Dec 6
- Co-director Gordon Quinn in-person Nov 11, Dec 1 and Dec 5
Los Angeles, CA | Billy Wilder Theatre | Dec 7
- Co-director Gordon Quinn in-person Dec 7
About the Film
A beloved but unknown gem of pure cinéma vérité, the film stars Sister Marie Arné and Sister Mary Campion as they tour Chicago during the Summer of Love, asking strangers the question, “Are you happy?”
They meet a lonely girl, a happy mother, young lovers, hippie musicians, a sociologist, and even the actor Lincoln Perry, better known as the infamous Stepin Fetchit. Each interview is a complete and thoughtful piece of the person’s life, with no intercutting. The humor and sadness of these honest encounters lift the film beyond its experimental conceit into a serious and moving inquiry into contemporary society and the circumstances under which people examine their lives.
One of the earliest examples of Kartemquin co-founders Gordon Quinn and Gerald Temaner’s exploration into the world of cinéma vérité, Inquiring Nuns captures the attitudes, fears, and dreams of everyday Chicagoans, giving audiences and researchers insight into the political and social climate of 1960’s Chicago. The film’s music is composed by Philip Glass in his first credited film score.
Watch the Trailer:
History and Restoration
Inquiring Nuns is the second-ever film by Kartemquin Films. Operating from a manifesto of “Cinematic Social Inquiry” and inspired by Jean Rouch’s Chronicle of a Summer (1961), the film was shot in 1967 and premiered at the 1968 Chicago International Film Festival, where it was reviewed by a young Roger Ebert. Funded by InterMedia, a Catholic arts-supporting organization that was interested in using cinéma vérité to foster democratic virtues, the project was not intended for a commercial market. It was split into two 34 minute parts, which made it easier for the film to be taken to church basements and to other educational, discussion-based screenings.
The newly restored 16mm print, supported through a grant by the National Film Preservation Fund, combines the halves into a single film, which is the directors’ longstanding preference and matches its original festival showing. The preservation by ColorLab showcases the beauty of Quinn’s cinematography, shot on Kartemquin’s “Camera #1”, a custom-modified crystal sync Auricon with a used manual zoom lens Quinn purchased from Albert Maysles, and to which he added a World War II gunner handle bought from a pawn shop as an extra grip for steadiness.
Inquiring Nuns provides an opportunity to learn about the attitudes of everyday American citizens during a time of political and social tensions. Many of the answers given by interviewees involve the Vietnam War, economics, or religion. These are not political pundits or opinions columnists, but rather mothers with their children, students on their way to recitals, and couples on dates. Though the respondents are nearly all Chicago residents, their answers resonate with opinions of Americans all over the country during this time period, many of whom were growing frustrated with America’s involvement overseas.
Selected Press Coverage
“Inquiring Nuns is the closest thing to a ‘pure’ documentary that I have ever seen.”
— William Routt, Film Quarterly, 1968
“A lovely, weirdly potent time capsule… a single, polyphonic ode to late ’67 Chicago and what was on the mind of its collective citizenry.”
— Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune, 2016
“Quinn and Temaner are filmmakers and “inquiring reporters” with great insight, and a lot to tell us about ourselves.”
— Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times, 1968
“A provocative meditation on the complexities of happiness as well as a moving ode to the vitality of human connection. It serves as a refreshing rebuke to our modern political climate favoring bullying and division over understanding and unity.”
— Matt Fagerholm, RogerEbert.com, 2016
“Handled with such surpassing understanding that it becomes a quite profound and moving experience for the viewer… a marvelous revelation of our time and ourselves.”
— Richard Christiansen, Chicago Daily News, 1968
Find all upcoming screenings for Inquiring Nuns here.