Left-Handed Pianist


gordon-quinnArtistic Director and founding member of Kartemquin Films, Gordon has been making documentaries for over 50 years. Roger Ebert, of the Chicago Sun Times, called his first film Home for Life (1966) “an extraordinarily moving documentary.” With Home for Life, Gordon established the direction he would take for the next four decades, making cinéma vérité films that investigate and critique society by documenting the unfolding lives of real people.  At Kartemquin, Gordon has created a legacy of making high-quality, social-issue documentaries. Kartemquin’s best known film, Hoop Dreams (1994), executive produced by Gordon, was released theatrically to unprecedented critical acclaim.  Gordon is a supporter of public and community media, and has served on the boards of several organizations including The Illinois Humanities Council, Chicago Access Network Television, and The Public Square Advisory Committee, The Illinois Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. He is also a key leader in creating the Documentary Filmmakers Statement of Best Practices in Fair Use.

LESLIE SIMMER, Co-Director / Editor

Leslie  is Kartemquin’s Director of Editing as well as Senior Editor on staff. For over nineteen years Leslie has worked at Kartemquin in various capacities. She is currently working on the multi-part series America to Me. Her most recent project before that was Raising Bertie, which she edited and co-wrote, and which premiered at Full Frame in 2016. Leslie edited and co-wrote the Emmy Award-winning film, The Homestretch, which world premiered at Hot Docs 2014 and screened on PBS’s Independent Lens in 2015. She edited and co-wrote the Emmy-nominated feature documentary As Goes Janesville, a co-production which screened on PBS Independent Lens in 2012 and edited with Steve James on the ESPN film No Crossover: The Trial of Allen Iverson.  She edited the Emmy-nominated In the Family (for which she received the Best Editing prize at the “Best of the Midwest Awards”). In 2005 Leslie was co-editor with Steve James on The War Tapes. From 2001-2004 she wore dual hats on the seven-part PBS series The New Americans as both Series Story Editor and Post Production Supervisor.

Prior to putting on her editing hat full-time, Leslie worked in various different production and post-production roles on a number of Kartemquin Films, including Stevie, Refrigerator Mothers, 5 Girls, and Vietnam Long Time Coming. Leslie got her BA in Communication/Theater Arts (Phi Beta Kappa) from Kalamazoo College in Michigan. She did graduate work in film at Columbia College, Chicago, where she began her long and passionate relationship with the Avid. When not in the edit room, she enjoys travel, music, good food and liquor, snorkeling and then long naps on the beach afterward, and helping animals.

HOWARD REICH, Producer/Writer

chinews-howard-reich-20130507Howard Reich has covered the arts for the Chicago Tribune since 1978 and joined the staff in 1983. He has written five books: “Portraits in Jazz,” “Let Freedom Swing,” “Jelly’s Blues” (with William Gaines), “Van Cliburn” and “Prisoner of Her Past” (originally published as “The First and Final Nightmare of Sonia Reich”). The latter inspired the Kartemquin documentary film Prisoner of Her Past, which Reich wrote, narrated and co-produced. He has served on the jury for the Pulitzer Prize in Music four times, including the first time a jazz work won: Wynton Marsalis’ “Blood on the Fields.” Reich has won an Emmy Award; two Deems Taylor Awards from ASCAP; Alumni Merit Award from Northwestern University; Bravo Award from Dominican University; the Anne Keegan Award and eight Peter Lisagor Awards from the Society of Professional Journalists; and an Excellence in Journalism Award from the Chicago Association of Black Journalists. The Chicago Journalists Association named him Chicago Journalist of the Year in 2011 and has given him three Sarah Brown Boyden Awards.


dianeDiane worked in LA for over 17 years before moving back to her hometown of Chicago. While in LA, Diane had a successful career at NBC and at Paramount Pictures where she was last the Vice President of Marketing. Since early 2015, Diane has been working on multiple documentaries with the award-winning Kartemquin Films. She is the producer of Minding the Gap, the Norman Malone project and The Dilemma of Desire. She has also developed the marketing and outreach strategy for Unbroken Glass and In the Game. In addition, Diane’s short documentary, Cliff, Superfan! began its festival run October 2016. In early 2016, Diane joined Peabody-winning filmmaker, Maria Finitzo’s production company, FilmArts Productions.


ZBIGNIEW BZDAK, Cinematographer

zbigniewZbigniew joined the Chicago Tribune as a staff photographer in 2002. His assignments include the war in Iraq, the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the 2008 campaign of President Barack Obama. He left his native Poland to photograph a kayaking expedition exploring white-water rivers in Mexico and Peru and settled in the US in 1979. His photographs documenting the first kayaking team to successfully navigate the entire length of the Amazon River were published by National Geographic and the book “Running the Amazon” by Joe Kane. A book of his photographs was published after his first job as photojournalist at the Casper Star-Tribune in Wyoming. He contributed pictures to the Kartemquin Films documentary, Prisoner of Her Past. In 2015 he won an Emmy Award from the Chicago/Midwest chapter for Kenwood’s Journey, a documentary film by the Chicago Tribune.

Kartemquin Films

KARTEMQUIN FILMS is a collaborative center for documentary media makers who seek to foster a more engaged and empowered society. With a noted tradition of nurturing emerging talent and acting as a leading voice for independent media, Kartemquin is building on over 50 years of being Chicago’s documentary powerhouse. Kartemquin sparks democracy through documentary. Their films such as The Interrupters, Hoop Dreams, and The New Americans have left a lasting impact on millions of viewers. A revered resource within the film community on issues of fair use, ethics, story and civic discourse, Kartemquin is internationally recognized for crafting quality documentaries backed by audience and community engagement strategies, and for its innovative media arts community programs.  www.kartemquin.com