Distributor:  Kartemquin Films
Length:  33 minutes
Date:  1968
Genre:  Expository
Language:  English
Color/BW:  Black and White
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Inquiring Nuns - Part I

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Two young nuns explore Chicago, from a supermarket to the Art Institute and in front of churches on Sunday, confronting people with the crucial question, "Are you happy?"

Inquiring Nuns - Part I

Two young nuns explore Chicago, from a supermarket to the Art Institute and in front of churches on Sunday, confronting people with the crucial question, "Are you happy?" They meet a lonely girl, a happy mother, another nun, lovers, hippie musicians, a lady sociologist, a professor, and even actor Stepin Fetchit. The answers they get range in sincerity and depth: "Happiness is the absence of fear," "Avoiding people," "Raspberries," "Joy in knowing Christ." The humor and sadness of these honest encounters lift the film beyond its interview format to a serious and moving inquiry into the concerns of contemporary man, and also into the circumstances in which men will actually express their concerns.

"In this fascinating 1968 documentary, one of the earliest by Kartemquin Films, two outgoing Catholic nuns, Sister Marie Arne and Sister Mary Campion, walk around Chicago asking people if they're happy. The answers they get are reasoned, spiritual, sometimes philosophical, and, in one case, frankly sexual, but a recurring motif is hope that the Vietnam war will end soon. The sisters' warmth and interest are reciprocated by their subjects, most of whom show concern for others and little regard for their moment in the spotlight." —Andrea Gronvall, The Chicago Reader

"My favorite Kartemquin film... an engaging and enlightening film... sincere, articulate, and filled with insights into the era's concerns and worries. While the nuns appear to be onscreen "personalities," which is not a cinema verite characteristic, their simple, innocent approach to the interviews make them more like the film's subject than it's crew." —Susan Doll, Facets Features

"Delightful food for thought" —All Movie Guide

"...Inquiring Nuns is the closest thing to a ... pure ... documentary that I have ever seen." —William Routt, Film Quarterly

"Guilessly provocative" —Terry Catchpole, Entertainment Weekly "Inquiring Nuns is handled with such surpassing understanding that it becomes a quite profound and moving experience...a marvelous revelation of our time and ourselves." —Richard Christiansen, Chicago Daily News

"A profound and moving experience for the viewer... we have a chance to meet people talking honestly and openly about themselves... a marvelous revelation of our time and ourselves." —Chicago Tribune

"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 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


Sun Valley Spiritual Film Festival 2010 [edit] Retrospective Rincon International Film Festival (Puerto Rico) 2008 [edit] Screening Chicago History Museum 2008 [edit] Official Selection Chicago International Film Festival 1969


Main credits

Quinn, Gordon (Director)
Quinn, Gordon (Cinematographer)
Quinn, Gordon (Film editor)
Temaner, Gerald (Director)
Westling, Kathleen (Interviewer)
Rock, Catherine (Interviewer)
Glass, Philip (Composer)

Other credits

Camera, Gordon Quinn; editor, Gordon Quinn; music, Philip Glass; consultant, Ronald Holloway.

Distributor credits

InterMedia Kartemquin Films
Gordon Quinn, Gerald Temaner

Docuseek2 subjects

The 1960s and Vietnam Era
Social Psychology
Urban Studies

Distributor subjects

Critical Thinking
Film History
Religion and Spirituality
U.S. History


Nuns; Chicago; Happiness; Social Issues; 60's; Philosophy; "Inquiring Nuns"; Kartemquin Films;

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