Inquiring Nuns

Directed by Gordon Quinn & Jerry Temaner, Music by Philip Glass

Inquiring Nuns still

US, 1968, 66 min, in English

One of the earliest examples of Kartemquin co-founders Gordon Quinn and Gerald Temaner’s exploration into the world of cinéma vérité, Inquiring Nuns captures the attitudes, fears, and dreams of everyday Chicagoans, giving audiences and researchers insight into the political and social climate of 1960’s Chicago. The film’s music is composed by Philip Glass in his first credited film score.


Two young Catholic nuns crisscross Chicago, from a supermarket to the Art Institute to church on Sunday, in order to ask random strangers the question, "Are you happy?"


The answers include:

"Groovy!"

"I could be happier."

"Mostly, except about Vietnam."

"Well, certainly, Notre Dame won yesterday!"

"Yeah, because I went to communion this morning."


They meet a lonely girl, a happy mother, young lovers, hippie musicians, a sociologist, and even the actor Lincoln Perry, better known as Stepin Fetchit. The interviewees are sometimes taken aback, nervous, or clamoring to get into view of the camera. The humor and pathos of these encounters elevates the film into a serious and moving inquiry of contemporary society and the manner which people examine their own lives. 

Screenings