Joshua Reviews The Kartemquin Films Collection: The Early Years Volume 2 [DVD Review]


Some of the biggest things come in the smallest of packages. And this age old adage has never been more true than when discussing the second volume in Kartemquin Films’ look back at their early days of existence.

Collecting three short documentaries clocking in at a total of just over 50 minutes, the trio of releases may not be the most extensive films in length, but they are no less important for fans of non-fiction films and non-fiction filmmaking.

The first of the three isn’t necessarily a brilliant or insightful documentary, but as a bit of performance art, it’s rather intriguing. Entitled Anonymous Artists Of America, the film is directed/photographed by co-founder of Kartemquin Films Gordon Quinn, and it is a 9 minute short focusing on a performance by the titular band. AAoA were a psychedelic rock group and, performing at their alma mater the University Of Chicago, the former openers for the Grateful Dead introduce us to the world of jam music and some still vital music. A tough film to criticize, as it’s simply a glorified music video, the short is really fun to watch, the music is alive and thrilling, and with the cinema-verite style that the company helped foster holding its own here, it’s expertly crafted. Music fans will go nuts, but it’s not much more than a social curio for those uninterested in the roots of psych rock.

Next up is the longest film of the bunch, Hum 225. Directed, at least according to their site, by the majority of the original Kartemquin collective (including co-founders Quinn and Gerald Temaner), the film looks at a pair of students who, the year prior, were part of a group of striking students at the University Of Chicago who were suspended and/or expelled after taking over the administration building. The two former students come back to the school, and chat with former classmates for a project. In what may be this writer’s favorite film of this entire collection, the film is easily the most pertinent film collected in this three volume set. Taking the in your face, aggressive nature found in a film like Thumbs Down, and instead shoving it directly in the face of its own generation, it’s an intriguing meditation on how far one will truly go for his or her beliefs. In a world where the youth generation is often considered passive, this is an exciting look into just how much strength youth can bring someone. Pairing perfectly with the release’s final film, What The Fuck Are These Red Squares, this one-two punch is really a must watch pair. The final film feels like a close relative to Hum, dealing with students in Chicago meeting together to discuss their art, and how it can be used as their voice in a revolutionary way. In the wake of the Kent State shootings and an invasion in Cambodia, these two films were made with true passion and influence, and in a world where violence has only increased, these two pictures are as important a documentary duo as they ever have been.

This may also be the most dense release supplement wise. There is a chat with the Hum 225 filmmakers, and a handful of trailers, but truly, the must-watch supplement here is a chat between the Kartemquin co-founders Quinn and Temaner. The pair chat with one another for half an hour, and discuss the creation of Kartemquin, and its history. It’s a fantastic and intriguing supplement to a release all about the history of this company.

Volume Three will be reviewed on Thursday.

Joshua Brunsting

Josh is a critic, a member of the Online Film Critics Society, a wrestling nerd, a hip-hop head, a father, a cinephile and a man looking to make his stamp on the world, one word at a time.

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