Telling Truth in Chicago:
A Survey of Local Docmakers, Part I

Drawing on a rich tradition of bluntness and iconoclasm, Chicago is home to a wealth of documentarians, from TV powerhouses like Towers and Kurtis Productions to national theatrical and TV leaders Kartemquin to a range of small to mid-size companies capturing public imagination and affecting social change by telling true stories. This is the first in a two-part survey of the local docmaking scene. Part two, covering companies M-Z, in our next issue.

Akaal Productions
Harvind Kaur, 312/629-0240
Emmy-winning executive producer Harvind Kaur and director Chris Bayard are in production on the feature doc “Democracy in India.”

Anti-Moloch Productions
4831 N. Seeley
Ted Hardin, 773-561-8909
Ted Hardin and Elizabeth Coffman’s feature doc on Bosnian nation building, “One More Mile,” was broadcast on Bosnian national TV in 2003. They’re at work on “Citizen Nader” about progressive activist/ presidential candidate Ralph Nader.

Bulletproof Film
1741 N. Western Ave
Ilko Davidov, 773/394-8170
Ilko Davidov and Carmine Cervi run the production collective Bulletproof Film, producing and providing production services for narrative and doc. Davidov started Bulletproof as a post house in 1995. Productions include Ronit Bezalel, Laurie Little and Sree Nallamothu’s “A Day on the Force,” about Chicago’s first pro women’s tackle football team; David Mulvihill’s “Teaching the Vietnam War,” Giovanni Piperno’s “Il Mio Nome e’ Nico Cirasola,” and “Tea on the Set, “Nallamothu’s “Patriot Acts,” about oppressive conditions for Pakistani immigrants after 9/11/01; Cervi’s “Drums Around the World,” “Sacred Sounds,” and “Jon Jost: A Fight for Independence”; Michael Shur’s “Hostages of Death: True Stories from Russian Prisons”; Christopher Swider’s “I Remember It Exactly: the Epic Story of Siberian Imprisonment”; Michael Thompson’s “Henry Darger, Lee Godie, Mr. Imagination: 3 Self-Taught Chicago Artists”; Davidov’s “Revolutionary Comics: A Rock’N’Roll Documentary” and “Identity”; Mark Siska and Davidov’s “Ghetto Ambition: A Study of Street Organizations in Chicago”; Steven Karras’ “About Face: German and Austrian- Jewish G.I.s in the Second World War”; Crap Shoot Prodons’ “America’s Greatest Parties ? Sturgis, SD”; Hakim Belabbes’s “When Men Sing”; Franci Slak’s “Spirit of the Great Lakes”; Paul Sills’ “Black Panthers at Yale,” and Siska’s “Barkeep” and “Circus Life.”

Chicago Media Works
Peter Thompson
Since the early ’80s, Peter Thompson has specialized in historical and anthropological documentary. Works, many of which recently screened at the Film Center, include “El Movimiento,” about the relationship between an American anthropologist and a Mayan shaman; “Universal Hotel,” based on photos of Nazi experiments at the Dachau concentration camp; “Universal Citizen,” about a former Dachau prisoner who has become a smuggler in Guatemala; “Two Portraits,” about the marriage of the filmmaker’s parents; and “Wynn Bullock ? Photographer.”

Eshel Productions
3600 N. Lake Shore Dr., Suite 1205
Shuli Eshel, 773/868-4140
Shuli Eshel’s work focuses on Jewish and Israeli culture and politics. Eshel has also run Cavalcade Communications Group since 1993. Her 2003 “Maxwell Street: A Living Memory,” explores the contributions of Jewish immigrants to the growth of the open-air market, has aired locally. Also: “To Be a Woman-Soldier,” “Women’s Peace in the Middle East,” the artistic portraits “Agam ? Creation in Movement,” “Mudpeoples,” and “Gutman”; “Perception of the ‘Other’: Exploring Cultural Diversity,” and “One Step Ahead: Israeli and Palestinian Women.”

Film Foetus
4043 N. Kenneth Ave.
D.P. Carlson, 773/545-0741
In March D.P. Carlson self-released the DVD of his long-gestating doc “Chicago Filmmakers on the Chicago River” after extricating himself from a licensing quagmire by stripping out clips of his subjects’ work. He also made the doc “I Was There When the Blues was Red Hot.”

Free Range Pictures
939 W. Argyle #1E
Scott Taradash, 773/531-4710
Commercial and feature editor Scott Taradash’s feature directorial debut “Honeyboy” (2002), a music biography of Delta bluesman David Honeyboy Edwards won best doc at the Pan African and Ft. Lauderdale film festivals and screened at dozens of film and blues fests across the country. Taradash’s 1997 children’s video “Our Busy Farm” is distributed by Borders.
caption: Scott Taradash

Future/Now Films
2500 N. Kedzie
Laurel Legler, 773/862-6011
773/ 862-3203
Director David Thomas and producer Laurel Legler’s critically acclaimed doc “MC5: A True Testimonial” about the radical ’60s Detroit rock group was a selection of the Toronto, Gotenborg, Raindance, San Francisco, Amsterdam Documentary, and Tribeca film festivals. “True Testimonial” was just due for an April theatrical run and DVD release in May from BMG’s Private Music, when it was stalled due to an ongoing legal dispute with MC5 member Wayne Kramer. Legler is former business manager for Black Swan Productions.

Glader Productions
Bill Glader, 312/335-1999
429 W. Superior, Suite 605
Bill Glader produced the Chicago Emmy-award winning doc “Inside Streetwise” about the street newspaper.

Kartemquin Films
1901 W. Wellington
Joanna Rudnick, 773/472-4366
Best known for Steve James’ seminal high school basketball doc “Hoop Dreams,” Kartemquin was founded in 1966 by current partner Gordon Quinn, along with Jerry Temaner and Stanley Karter. Current partner Jerry Blumenthal joined a year later. From Quinn’s first film “Home for Life,” Kartemquin established their patented technique of incisive social criticism achieved through long-term studies of the lives of ordinary people. Kartemquin produced the PBS series “The New Americans,” detailing the experience of immigrants from a variety of national and social backgrounds.

Films include “Stevie” and “Refrigerator Mothers” (2002), “5 Girls” (2001), “Vietnam, Long Time Coming” (1998), “Chicago Crossings: Bridges & Boundaries” (1994), “Hoop Dreams” (1993), “Higher Goals” (1992), “Golub” (1988), “Women’s Voices: The Gender Gap” and “Taylor Chain II: A Story of Collective Bargaining” (1984), “The Last Pullman Car” (1983), “Taylor Chain I: A Story in a Union Local” (1980), “Chicago Maternity Center Story” (1976), “Local 70,” “Where’s IW Abel,” “County Hospital,” and “UE Wells” (1975), “Now We Live on Clifton,” “Trick Bag,” and “Winnie Wright, Age 11” (1974), “Marco” and “What the F**k Are These Red Squares?” (1970), “Hum 255” (1969), “The Inquiring Nuns,” “Parents,” and “Thumbs Down” (1968) and “Home for Life” (1967).

Kurtis Productions
400 W. Erie, #500
Founded in 1990 after Bill Kurtis left his position as a “CBS Morning News” anchor, Kurtis Productions makes investigative documentary and one-off long-form reports for PBS (“The New Explorers,”) A&E (“Investigative Reports,” “Cold Case Files”), the History Channel, the Biography Channel, and other cable outlets.

Lost and Found Productions
2068 W. Farwell
June Finfer, 773/338-4340
June Finfer, who is also a playwright, specializes in architectural docs. Her works include “The Tugendhat House: Mies van der Rohe’s Czech Masterpiece,” “The Hall of Man,” “The Farnsworth House,” “Creating Community: Lafayette Park,” and “The Legacy of Genius: The Life and?Work of Alfred Caldwell,”

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