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Amir George Named as First Black Artistic Director of Kartemquin Films

Kartemquin Films, the award-winning Chicago-based documentary organization known for its cutting-edge films, has named award-winning filmmaker, curator and programmer Amir George its artistic director to lead the artistic vision of the organization and to work collaboratively in strategic planning, advocacy and organizational decision making. Tomorrow, November 1st, he becomes the second artistic director in Kartemquin’s storied history and the first person of color to hold one of two top leadership positions at the organization. George will also serve as executive producer on all of Kartemquin’s documentaries.

“Kartemquin has been instrumental in taking documentary filmmaking into the public eye by showing how story can lift social issues and serve as a tool for influencing public debate and public-policy making around some of the most pressing issues of the day,” said Betsy Leonard, executive director, Kartemquin Films. “Under the new creative leadership of Amir we are once again taking a visionary approach to building a multi-racial and multi-ethnic organization that reflects members of the film making community and elevates the voice of Black, brown, queer and other voices that have been historically excluded in the arts. This is an important moment as we build the future trajectory of Kartemquin.”

George brings more than 15 years of experience in filmmaking, programming, film fundraising and artistic consultation. For the past four years he served as programmer for the True/False Film Festival, where he is credited with supporting the festival in expanding and diversifying the circle of artistic talent supported institutionally and programmatically. Previously, he served as the first programmer in residence at Black CinemaHouse, created in 2012 by Theaster Gates’ Rebuild Foundation on Chicago’s South Side. He is the co-founder of the touring film series Black Radical Imagination, a contributor at this year’s dok.incubator workshop in Prague and a board member at Chicago Filmmakers. 

Gordon Quinn, Founding Artistic Director of Kartemquin.

“To get the chance to collaboratively lead an organization with such a long-standing reputation that deeply shares my care and values around documentary is profound,” George said. “I care about community. I care about people. I care about the things on the margins not being said. I care about the stories that haven’t been explored, the unknown possibilities and the opportunities that lie within - whether that be creatively, structurally or industry wide. I care about possibility. And Kartemquin represents possibility to me.”

George was selected after an extensive search that considered a deep pool of applicants. He will replace Gordon Quinn, the current and founding Artistic Director, who moves into a new part-time role as senior advisor.

“With his cross-disciplinary background and generous spirit of collaboration, Amir is the right person to take the creative leadership mantle at Kartemquin as we strive to fulfill our evolving mission,” Quinn said. “He has a strong history and deep roots in the Midwest and new approaches to storytelling that will propel the organization into the future.”

Three acclaimed Kartemquin releases: "Hoop Dreams," "Life Itself" and "Minding the Gap."

Kartemquin has long been known for producing high-quality works that retained a political edge from illuminating works like "Hoop Dreams" to the masterful Academy Award nominated "Minding the Gap." Kartemquin received an Institutional Peabody Award "for its commitment to unflinching documentary filmmaking and telling an American history rooted in social justice and the stories of the marginalized." In addition to its extensive film production work, Kartemquin has been an incubator for young talent, running innovative media arts community programs, including the acclaimed Diverse Voices in Docs mentorship program and the KTQ Labs, acting as a resource for the local and national media communities.

“Anyone who cares about the future must ensure we are listening to the generation of leaders to whom it belongs,” said Kartemquin’s board of directors Chair Sylvia Ewing. “Amir brings a deep love for documentary, comprehensive knowledge of cinema past and present and the collaborative spirit to navigate new partnerships and collaborations in the region and internationally. Amir is a quiet and beloved force, much like our co-founder Gordon Quinn. We are well-positioned to bring our staff’s ambitious goals to life in partnership with our community of filmmakers and supporters.”

Kartemquin will celebrate the extraordinary career of Gordon Quinn and the exciting future of Kartemquin at "A Roast and a Toast" on Monday, December 5th, 2022, at Billboard Showroom in Ravenswood, Chicago. For more information, visit

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