CHF 2013: Animal

Ethics Behind the Lens

There are no set rules in documentary filmmaking, only decisions about where to draw the line. Pioneer documentarian and Kartemquin Films cofounder Gordon Quinn explores examples from films such as Hoop Dreams, Prisoner of Her Past, and The Interrupters to illustrate how the documentary process relies upon a constant negotiation of power relationships among the story, subject, and viewer. In an interactive session mixing video with audience discussion, Quinn will cover ethical issues ranging from how to protect subjects' privacy while intimately exposing their lives, to filmmakers’ responsibility to make their method and intent transparent to the audience. He will talk about what is often kept quiet, such as if—and how—subjects should be compensated. Quinn argues that, despite similarities between their codes of ethics, there are crucial differences between documentary and journalism that stem from factors such as trust and empathy. He also addresses pertinent intellectual property issues in the digital age, specifically the importance of ethics when exercising Fair Use.

University of Chicago film scholar Jacqueline Stewart will join Quinn for the discussion.

Images by Alissa Zhu

Speakers and Performers

Gordon Quinn

Gordon Quinn is the artistic director and founder of Kartemquin Films, a 47-year-old media arts organization, and the 2007 recipient of the MacArthur award for Creative and Effective Institutions. Recently he directed Prisoner of Her Past and A Good Man, a film about Bill T. Jones for American Masters. His latest project is '63 Boycott, about the Chicago Public School Boycott of 1963 when more than 200,000 Chicagoans, mostly students, marched to protest racial segregation in CPS.

Jacqueline Stewart

Jacqueline Stewart is a professor in the department of Cinema and Media Studies at the University of Chicago. Her research and teaching explore African American film history; moving image archiving and preservation; and “orphan” media histories (including nontheatrical, amateur, and activist film and video). Stewart is the author of Migrating to the Movies: Cinema and Black Urban Modernity, and her essays have appeared in journals including Critical Inquiry, Film Quarterly, Film History and The Moving Image. She directs the South Side Home Movie Project, serves on the board of Chicago Film Archives, and is co-curator of the L.A. Rebellion Preservation Project at the UCLA Film and Television Archive. She is currently researching the racial politics of moving image preservation, and completing a study of the life and work of African American actor/writer/director Spencer Williams.

CHF Suggests      Related links and resources for further study

Leaders And Thinkers

Gordon Quinn

Good Reads

The Chicago Reader interview
Gordon Quinn and Judy Hoffman talk about the influence of Jean Rouch on their work

Online Resources

A Good Man
Gordon Quinn talks about his project, Bill T. Jones: A Good Man [video]
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