The Secret History of Chicago Movies: Inquiring Nuns


Chicago-based Kartemquin Films has made a name for itself over the past couple decades for producing acclaimed, socially conscious documentaries such as Hoop Dreams (1994), Vietnam, Long Time Coming (1998), Stevie (2002) and The Interrupters (2011). But only the most seasoned cinephiles — or Chicago-philes — are likely to know that Kartemquin’s roots stretch all the way back to the mid-Sixties when the company was formed by University of Chicago alumni Stan Karter, Jerry Temaner and Gordon Quinn (who named their brainchild after the first three letters of each of their last names). The most well-known of Kartemquin’s early features is probably Inquiring Nuns, which was shot over the course of one long Sunday in 1967 and released the following year. It is a fascinating time-capsule of both Chicago and America during the height of the Vietnam war, a work of urban anthropology clearly inspired by Jean Rouch (whose Chronicle of a Summer is referenced by one of the offscreen filmmakers in the opening scene). It also remains a great and truly under-appreciated document of its time, especially in comparison to the work of more famous contemporaneous cinema verite directors like D.A. Pennebaker, Richard Leacock and the Maysles brothers. Fortunately for movie lovers, Inquiring Nuns is available in a superb-quality DVD put out by Facets Multimedia in 2009, which means the film is at least easy to track down for those lucky enough to know about it.

The compelling premise of the movie, directed by Gordon Quinn, is that the filmmakers follow two young Catholic nuns, Sister Arne and Sister Campion (the latter of whom will make my long-threatened list of Cinema’s Hottest Nuns whenever I get around to compiling it), as they travel around Chicago asking random people the question “Are you happy?” The sisters manage to cover a lot of ground in just one day, stopping at the Museum of Science and Industry, the Art Institute, a South Side church, a co-op grocery store and more, and interview an array of subjects of impressively diverse races and ages. One particularly fortuitous interview is a random encounter with Stepin Fetchit, the controversial black comedic actor and veteran of films by John Ford. The sisters clearly have no idea who Fetchit is but he nonetheless plies them with photographs of himself with the likes of Will Rogers and Shirley Temple and talks of how he pissed away a fortune of seven million dollars (he was the first African-American millionaire) but still considers himself happy because he goes to “communion” every day. Ford fans will want to see the movie for this interview alone: it represents a rare chance to hear Fetchit speak in his “real” voice (as opposed to the cartoonish slur he always used in Hollywood movies).

In addition to offering the appealing prospect of seeing a now-vanished Chicago, the film is also noteworthy for the unique responses that the nuns receive to their questions. Most respondents answer thoughtfully and seriously (with some even ruminating philosophically on the nature of happiness) and talk about what they would require in order to be happier. Interestingly, many of the interview subjects (including a man and a woman who identify themselves as belonging to a band called “The Bubblegum Orgy”) express dissatisfaction with various social and political ills — especially the U.S. government’s involvement in Vietnam — and it’s hard not to imagine that a comparable survey of random Chicagoans today would yield responses that seem less well-informed. But, then again, maybe not. We’ll never know how many uninteresting or superficial interviews ended up on the cutting room floor when Quinn was editing his film; or, perhaps more importantly, how many of the interview subjects in the finished product wanted to come across as morally serious individuals precisely because they were being interviewed by nuns instead of, say, a random guy in a suit. Regardless, the end result is captivating and should be seen by anyone who cares about the documentary form. Also of interest is that the original score, a typically repetitive organ doodle, was composed by a then-unknown Philip Glass.

Check out Kartemquin’s official trailer for Inquiring Nuns via YouTube here:


About michaelgloversmith

Filmmaker, author and Film Studies instructor. View all posts by michaelgloversmith

106 responses to “The Secret History of Chicago Movies: Inquiring Nuns

  • John Charet

    Thank you so much for this post. I have actually heard and seen “Inquiring Nuns” The documentary itself is a real gem and a must-buy. I will agree that while all the segments are fascinating, the one about John Ford stalwart Stepin Fetchit was the best of all. In fact, I think PBS showed this documentary earlier in the year If I am not mistaken. Anyway on my site I have some Directors lists you might be interested in. Here are the links below.

    I have others that you can easily view on my website. I just feel that right now these are the most essential. Anyway, keep up the great work as always and thank you for bringing up this documentary. It is great to know that I am not the only one who heard of it.

  • John Charet

    You are quite welcome and yes Stepin Fetchit is “a misunderstood and underrated performer.” I replied to your comments on my site. Very insightful as always:)

  • Mitchell

    Great post. I was lucky enough to see ‘Inquiring Nuns’ last year on WTTW. It was such a treat for me to see what my beloved Hyde Park looked like two decades before I arrived. What also struck me was that the cultural divide between whites and African-Americans seemed much smaller then.

    • michaelgloversmith

      Thanks, Mitchell. I agree the “time capsule” element is a big part of what makes this such a blast for us Chicagoans to watch today. As a far north-sider, I only wish there were a comparable document from this era of my beloved Edgewater!

  • John Charet

    On my site, I just posted two new entries- one entitled “My Favorite Stanley Kubrick Films” and the other entitled “My Favorite Akira Kurosawa Films”

  • Luke Chirayil

    This movie is truly a relic of the past and must be recognized for its unidentified potential. Through every question asked, the public didn’t have to hesitate before they answered because it was two nuns that approached the individual whereas if it was “a man in a suit” things may have turned out a bit different, but not for sure. It also reflects upon the care and grief that people had towards the Vietnam War and just wanted it all to end. There were a few significant others that were being quite personal which allowed for the nuns’ question to be answered thoroughly. To ask,”Are you happy?”, seemed like a very appropriate question because it brought upon a variety of answers and allowed the nuns and whom ever watches the film to know how people felt. It is a question that can be asked every day to any person because everyday is a new day and emotions can change dramatically. But in all essence, this film not only succeeded in making history, but it can be used to reference the past and be replicated to see how times have changed and compare the results.

  • Alexis Soto

    While watching Inquiring Nuns I was excited to hear what people’s answers would be. I actually expected more political and technical answers too. I would probably have to disagree with you on claiming that today would be different based on the language used in the answers. Based on the political awareness, I would say people today would not be politically aware like the ones in the 60s were. People today who would answer would probably try to sound “smart” for the camera. Even if they use words in the wrong context, there will be answers such as “what is happiness?” or “which facet of my life are you questioning?” One thing that may be different though is if there were a hot nun, some person might hit on her in this age. Overall I did enjoy the documentary because I have always wondered if people were happy. A lot of the times when I’m on the train during rush hour, everyone looks unhappy. It really puts things into perspective when you start questioning people of different cultures as well, which I feel like this film could’ve used. Not necessarily interviewing people from the projects but interviewing people from more ethnic neighborhoods.

  • Giovanna Mule

    I have never seen this movie but thought it was very interesting. I was interesting to see what different people said about weather there happy or not. I think it would be cool to see if someone did a version of this today and to compare the answers. If people are unhappy I think now a days people would talk more about there problems and there family problems like cancer or a loved one who lost there job and some would talk about a global issue. For the positive reasons I think they would be similar to the ones in the movie. In the movie a lot of people answered that they were happy because of church or God (weather it being true or not) so I found it surprising that the nuns left the convent after completing this film. I would think that the nuns hearing so many religious answers that would be reaffirmed and want to stay in the convent. I think they did a good job in interviewing a lot of people but I think they should of interviewed people of different nationalities and cultures. I think it would have been interesting to see them also have a regular guy in a plain suit ask people the same question and see if they would have been more willing to share information, kinda like what you said in your review.

  • Darcy

    I found it interesting how at the start of the film the nuns wanted a concrete answer as to what they were doing and the purpose of going around asking people why they were happy, which contrasted to how people (for the most part) answered their questions definitely. There were some incidents where people were questioning why the nuns were asking them why they were happy, or asked them to define happiness (in general or in categories), but for the most part the people being interviewed didn’t struggle too much with their answers. I think the reason for this contrast is because the nuns felt a greater pressure to ask the questions, because after all, in order to elicit a good response, you after to ask a good question, and because they knew the magnitude of the project. Also, it could have something to do with their upbringing, because the nuns came from a nunnery full of rules and regulations that could lead them to being fearful of doing the wrong thing. In one of the interviews at the Museum of Science and Industry, a man said that fear causes you to do the thing that you should be doing, which contributes to unhappiness, but just because the nuns were fearful of asking questions at first and doing the wrong thing, that doesn’t mean they were unhappy, because different people have different definitions of happiness. Since this was an authentic documentary and the responses were unplanned, it was a privilege to see the nuns grow throughout the film, and the more comfortable they got with asking questions, the more in depth their responses became.
    It was interesting how, like Luke mentioned, this film is a relic of the past, and it added another layer to people’s responses. For example, one of the people at the beginning, who I think was a member of the Bubblegum Orgy band, said that “President Johnson is a crook and phony”, and talked about how he was unhappy with the Vietnam situation and the way the government was being run, and other people had similar responses as well when they were asked what makes them unhappy. It was also interesting to see the dated language, such as when the nuns asked the question, “Are you happy?” at the beginning, and got the answer of “Groovy”. Also, as a lover of fashion, it was intriguing to see the 1960’s fashion as well, from Jackie O coats from the wealthy women in the Art Institute, to the bonnet-like garments worn on women in the street. In your review you speculated as to what the responses would be like had the film been shot in the present day, and I think there would be a mixture of informed and uninformed responses, depending on what areas it was filmed at. If I were in charge of shooting the film I would ask more kids questions, because in INQUIRING NUNS only one kid was interviewed, and I found their response compelling because they saw happiness as a mood, and not a physical state, and I would be curious to see more children’s opinion on happiness. I would also shoot in less affluent areas, in hopes of eliciting unhappy responses to balance out the film, and bring up the question of why they are unhappy. Oh, and nobody is allowed to direct the film but Richard Linklater.

  • Voyo Gabrilo

    I think it’s undoubtedly important that the filmmaker chose nuns to conduct the interviews. This perhaps led to more thought-provoking, and introspective answers, not to mention more serious, as well. But like any documentary, or any interview, I think you are correct in exhibiting some skepticism as to the level of editing involved. Perhaps Gordon Quinn knew that responses involving the war in Vietnam would be more popular with viewers as it was prevalent in culture at the time. When you say, “We’ll never know how many uninteresting or superficial interviews ended up on the cutting room floor when Quinn was editing his film,” this is absolutely true. But, to defend the past, and shamefully accuse our present population, I still believe that the interviewees were not only more involved in their respective current events, but on the whole more intellectually savvy and astute. But we’ll never know unless a similar film is made today. Lastly, I think that the variety of people interviewed throughout the film is just another example of the multi-cultured population that Chicago is home to; the film as a study of the city, the people of the city, is wonderful. Chicago has an eclectic mix of peoples, and the film showed this as there were multiple foreigners, and arguably every interviewee had something worthy to say on such an existential question.
    (Afterward) The trajectory of the interviews is also noteworthy. At the beginning both Sister Arne and Sister Campion were patchy with their questioning; they were nervous, and it showed as the interviews were simply question and answer. But as the film progressed, as the Sunday progressed, and the Sisters grew comfortable with the microphone and the question at hand, the interviews transformed into conversations. Each new interviewee was simply engaging in a philosophical question with two nuns. (If looked at objectively, this observation can be somewhat comical.) The film matured as it continued, and that only strengthened the legitimacy of not only the filmmaker, but the film as its own entity.

  • Salwa Merchant

    I enjoyed watching the film because we got to see the different responses that people answered. The Nuns were an interesting choice because usually you would see reporters. The Nuns were asking people a question which was “are you happy?” I found the responses to be interesting because many people said that they were happy because they were with the people whom they love. The Nuns had also asked another question which was followed by the previous question which was “are you unhappy?” Many of the people had responded by saying yes because of the Vietnam War. If a war is occurring any country people would be unhappy because you kind of want everything to go back to normal.
    If we think about doing an experiment like this today we would most likely get similar answers but there could be a chance that people would say no to the question are they happy.

  • Sahar Lakhani

    The film was about two nuns interviewing people on a Sunday in 1967. They asked “Are you happy?” to which they received many responses. I found it interesting to see nuns ask questions instead of a man in a suit, which would’ve been more common. Perhaps, the reason behind this is to gain more serious, and honest answers. I’m sure some people may have replied differently if they weren’t speaking with nuns. Also, during the documentary, we were able to see the nuns develop and get better at their mission. During the beginning, their interviews would usually be only asking are you happy? There was often an awkward silence after the person would reply, and the nuns usually smiled and moved onto the next interview. However, as the film went on, the nuns got better at coming up with a follow up question, and eliminating the awkward silence. As the nuns began to be more comfortable, so did the interviewees. They began to open up more, and reply with more personal stories of themselves. Showing interest in the conversation motivated people to share what was really on their mind as opposed to just straight answers. I was shocked at how many people actually brought up the war in their answers, because I believe that if this was recreated now, the war probably would not be brought up as much. Overall, the documentary seemed to achieve its goal through the interviews.

  • Ryan Robinson

    Inquiring Nuns is quite the interesting film, espicially at the start of the movie. It’s interesting because the first few people that the nuns ask the question, “Are you happy?” to kind of just answered the question, and didn’t really elaborate on why they were, because they were in a hurry to get where they going. It wasn’t until later on, when the Nuns became a bit more comfortable, and gave follow up questions that the responses became more personal. It was interesting to hear what most of the people responses were to whether or not they were not happy. The response I found to the most intriguting was the woman who was sunglasses indoors that the nuns talk to. She said that she was unhappy, mostly because she didn’t have a significant other to love. This is interesting because most of the other who had answer the question, never really said anything about love, although there were few that had mentioned their families. Also, it was to see what the Sisters giving their thoughts about the whole experience.

  • Brian Skeggs

    The documentary “Inquiring Nuns” is definitely a captivating film and gives great insight to the philosophy and character of the people in the Chicagoland area circa the late 1960’s. The interviews the two nuns conduct throughout the film provoke great responses from the citizens which provoke the modern day viewer to think about the question themselves. The interviewees also pass on a shocking amount of wisdom in their answers to the question “Are you happy?”. While most of the citizens discuss what makes them happy and what would make them more happy a select few go beyond that and offer a deeper perspective on what happiness actually means. One man goes on and states that happiness is not something that could describe an overall picture but more of a particular moment in life and that satisfaction is a better word to describe how he feels about life. While he may be considered a bit full of himself and trying to impress the filmmakers with his intellect he does make a good argument and provides a response that engages the viewer. Inquiring Nuns is by far one of the most interesting documentaries I have seen and manages to keep the viewers attention whereas other documentaries can drag on and disengage the audience.

  • Jim Downing

    While I personally found the film as a whole to admittedly be quite dry, it is still a great work of “urban anthropology” as you put it. The different responses the nuns received are exceptionally articulate and thought-provoking. Of course the editing process as well as the nature of the interviewers being nuns had a large impact. The interview subjects seemed to be very conscientious of what they were saying and likely chose to somewhat “censor” themselves as well as emphasizing the importance of religion within their own lives.

    The fact that so many people seemed to know what was going on in the world at the time (not to mention actually being concerned with it) is eye-opening. Undoubtedly, I’d have to assume that far less people would have as profound and important things to say if a similar film was created today. A great final project idea!

  • John Betsoleiman

    This film was a very interesting documentary to watch, and one that I personally enjoyed. What peaked my interest the most was that this wasn’t just a group of people going up to people In Chicago and asking a string of preset questions like people would normally expect from an idea like this. I like the idea that is was just one plain and simple question that was asked, of course with follow up questions. As the film progressed the nuns became more inquiring and better at asking questions and the answers that people gave became more interesting. I do agree with you on the fact that if this was done today, the answers would not be as thoughtful and political as they were by these people from that time. I feel that answers would be somewhat blander than what the nuns received and there may or may not be thoughtful answers to go off of. I also agree with you that the possibility of the people on the streets were being more morally serious because of the fact they were nuns and not a random guy in a suit. A lot of the answers in the beginning of the film had to do with church and being happy because of church. I feel these answers would be different if it were a random guy in a suit because the people wouldn’t feel obligated to give a religious response. It’s because of the fact that the nuns can easily be identified as people of god who work in churches that some answers were religious. Even if it wasn’t a guy in a suit and was still Sisters Arne and Campion but in civilian clothes, the answers wouldn’t be as religious.

  • Young Kim

    What makes Inquiring Nuns great is the fact that it is an authentic relic of a past time of Chicago. It captures the essence of what was the social norm of Chicago at that time. I’m not sure that a similar Documentary would even be interesting if it was made now (who knows… it might be great.). I agree that I would also assume that today’s responses would not be as interesting and deep as the subjects from Inquiring Nuns. But nonetheless, the authentic nature of this film is something that is kind of a rarity now a days. It is always interesting to see the reactions of the subjects, but I think the reactions/evolution of the nuns is even more interesting. Even if the director edited out all the weird and boring responses, I think it says something that we as the audience see a real change in the way that the nuns act and respond by the end of the film. They seem like they were finally free and had a “coming to Jesus moment” and realized that there was a whole world out there that they didn’t really acknowledged till this experiment. I understand that the experience from the day gave them more confidence but, I personally think it was definitely something bigger than that.

  • Maddie Rosenberg

    I had a lot of respect for this movie for taking a different route. It’s always really cool to see a movie with less actors/experience, and more random bystanders. I loved the nuns’ performances in this movie as well, they went from not knowing exactly what to do, to being the exact opposite. I also loved how the nuns were picked to be the ones asking people about their happiness. If the directors themselves did it, or got professional actors, the movie wouldn’t have been as good. At that point, they would probably get false answers and less people involved. Similar to what you brought up about the very interesting responses we got, I also noticed a lot of repetition. Most of the people they interviewed proclaimed they were happy and had no complaints. However, a majority of the people talked about what could make them happier, and talked about how what was happening in Vietnam affected their happiness hitting it’s limit.

  • Jim Alexander

    As you know I have a mild obsession with Sister Campion. Her smile and sex appeal is electric. I don’t even care if it’s wrong to say so, it’s true! She completely changes the dynamic of the interviews and film. The guys take obvious notice to her, especially couple of young guys that are interviewed. The douchy one that goes on a eloquent rant about “happiness” catches her attention. The people seem fairly honest with their responses. It’s interesting to see how people cared about the world around the, such as the Vietnam War, and not on materialistic and selfish things they would today. We have really changed as individuals and a society since the time the movie was made. It’s a really honest and interesting take on what people were like just a mere 50 or 60 years ago.

  • Josh

    Inquiring nuns was a great documentary. I like that fact that the director told the nuns to ask one questions that was, are you happy ? The rest was up to them. Sometimes documentaries are prescripted , and it makes them predictable and boring. In the end a lot of them seem to have the same feel.
    Im the beginning we saw the nuns simply asking random people on the street if they were happy . Then we see a shift in the way the nuns were responding to the answers given. They would ask why ? and be curious about why this person felt happy or why they didn’t . I think they weren’t as comfortable in the beginning but as soon as they warmed up the movies started getting more interesting .
    In my opinion it was better that some of the later interviews happened after they were comfortable asking questions . Since the conversations went back and forth and got interesting . Like the sophisticated guy who gave some long philosophical answer . I’m not sure they would have been ready for that in part one of the filming .
    This was also a brand new experience for the nuns , going from the convent , where the conversations are usually about one topic , to the city where people with different opinions and ideas are . This documentary seemed to have sparked their interest , and helped them understand the world outside .
    I was wondering what would happen if someone else did the interview instead of nuns , I can only assume that whomever was doing the interview the answers would be geared towards their attire . Most people that saw the nuns mentioned God and how they go to Church , and pray . I think this was because there women has nuns clothes on .
    One thing that I noticed was that people on the street couldn’t help themselves , when it came to talking about politics and war . This is no different from today . That is one aspect of the movie that wouldn’t change if someone tried to remake this movie .

  • Max Egan

    I thought that Inquiring Nuns was a really interesting documentary, especially for how early it came out. In my opinion, the plot itself was very unique as these Nuns asked strangers a seemingly simple question: Are you happy? This question at first led to some very simple responses from the strangers that these Nuns were talking to. As the film progressed the Nuns began to ask these strangers another, seemingly simple, follow-up question: Why? Upon asking this follow-up question, the strangers being questioned seemed to realize that these Nuns were actually asking a far more complicated question than they previously thought. And this led to these people really thinking about why they might be happy, with some even coming up with answers that seemed to be vaguely political or quite spiritual.
    The Idea of having Nuns conduct these interviews on the streets was ingenious in my opinion. These were women who really had no exposure to the outside opinions of the urbanized world. At first it was clear that the Nuns were uncomfortable asking strangers these truly deep questions. But as the film progressed the Nuns seemed to be more at ease while conducting these interviews on the street. It was as if the Nuns had begun to accept the reality of this urban world that they hadn’t been exposed to before. Like they were realizing the other side of the world that had been hidden away from them as they studied to be proper Nuns. It really was an ingenious idea by the director to have these nuns conduct these interviews. It felt as if he knew that the change in these Nuns perception of the world, and the changes in themselves, would be captured on film throughout the filming of the documentary. However, there was one issue with casting these Nuns to do the interviewing. It seemed as if people were intimidated in some way by the fact that these women stood as religious figures. I only say that because it felt like many people couldn’t resist mentioning their religious affiliations or how involved they were within the church. Even though I really loved the answers given by the interviewees in this film because the people talking to them were nuns, I couldn’t help but wonder if the answers given would have been different if there was someone less “intimidating” questioning them.

  • Jennifer Domkowski

    I thought Inquiring Nuns was a very good film. It was interesting to see how a lot of the answers varied in a wide range, but also how a lot of them did have some things in common. I do agree that the fact that the people asking the question were nuns had an affect on the answers that they would get. I think some of the people wanted to say whatever it is that the nuns would like to hear, or answers that would make them sound morally correct. There were many examples of this in the film such as a woman who started out her answer by saying she sends her children to catholic school, or the man who went on and on about his love of going to church, and the part where someone was telling the nuns a poem about God etc. Instances like these made me think that they might be a bit exaggerated because of the nuns. A lot of people gave them positive answers though but I wonder if any of them thought that maybe if they didn’t say they were happy, the nuns would start lecturing religion on them even though they said it was just for a film they were making. I also found it interesting how majority of the people all had very deep thoughts on a very what would seem simple question. I’m not sure that same reaction would happen today but like the article says, they could have kept a lot of footage out from the film. Overall, I thought it was very interesting to watch and see the answers people had, especially at that specific time period.

  • Kleo

    I think “a random guy in a suit” would have had different responses. This movie feels genuine, even though I wonder if it was purposely edited for that feeling. I think some people would still say religion made them happy if “a random guy” was inquiring. But I don’t think they would’ve gotten such elaborate answers as the man who “looks forward to every Sunday” and finds happiness in “following every word that Jesus wants us to follow.”

    I think a response they heard that might have got them thinking to leave the convent was when parents would talk about their children and family being their main source of happiness. Even the one young child said having kids in their future would make them happy. Someone else mentions that having someone need them made them happy. Another participant assumes “your life to your religion makes you happy” and maybe at this point, they realize that it doesn’t make them as happy as having a family would.

    If this documentary was filmed today by nuns, I think it might be similar in the sense that there would be mainly serious responses. Some people would still feel the need to exaggerate their love for Jesus. I think many would voice their unhappiness about the upcoming election and other political issues. If “a random guy in a suit” were to ask people on the street today if they were happy, he would be told to f- off. I wouldn’t call interviewing people on the street a common occurrence today, but it’s not as surprising as it may have been in 1968 or if it was asked by nuns.

  • Kamelia Gaberova

    In my opinion, Inquiring Nuns was a great educational experience. It shows a lot about what our culture used to be like fifty years ago. Three nuns were just walking around the streets of Chicago asking the same question, “Are you happy?” This is a very broad question that could have different meanings. As short the question, as big its meaning is. Being happy is too general and I would, myself, have hard time finding an answer to it. Every person said something unique based on their values, beliefs, and life experiences but many of them felt like answering it with God and the church being part of their happiness simply because they were asked by nuns. The fact that the film was directed with the idea of having religious figures ask those questions might have lead people answering the question that way. It is amazing how a simple question got people thinking about what actually makes them happy and unhappy. In the movie, some people emphasized on things that made them unhappy rather than happy like the war in Vietnam that guy mentioned or even his career success. The making of this movie, took the nuns out of their everyday routine, showed them the outside world and the opinion of different people.

    My thought throughout this entire documentary was, “What would people in today’s society say to this question?” Quiet honestly, I do not believe that most people would even stop to answer this question. Society has changed so much over the course of fifty years that the answers we would hear from people today would be incomparable to what people said back in the 60’s. Our society has made incredible technological advancements which has changed the way people think and act present day. For example, if you walk around Chicago, asking people “Are you happy?”, a common answer to account for their happiness might be a new cell phone, car, or whatever materialistic. Very few will be the people who would go into deep thought about issues that really matter such as: politics, international affairs, family values, religion, success, etc.

    Great and a very unique film!

  • Jeno James

    I thought Inquiring Nuns was a very interesting film. It was interesting to see how the two Nuns be asking random people if their happy and what makes them happy. After the nun be asking different Individuals that question it started getting interesting to see what their gonna say. This is a everyday question for people to ask another person, because everyday is a new day and people would come up with variety of questions and emotions can change anytime. Whenever I’m out in public I see people either happy and unhappy and it makes me very carious and wanting to approach to them and ask them how are they feeling and what their gonna respond why their either happy or unhappy.

  • Brian Stern

    The format used in this film was somewhat perfect. Using Nuns to ask a simple question and seeing if the response they got was honest or swayed due to who was asking. I would have liked to see an alternative version where someone unassuming wearing normal attire asked the same questions and see how differently the responses would be if at all. Many of the people were swayed to infer religion in their answers due to where they were asked and who was asking like the people exiting Sunday mass outside of the church saying how religion and family make them happy and the man they found on the street earlier who I think was on his way to a sporting event nervously mentioning going to church every Sunday repeatedly. In your posting you made a comment speculating that people of this generation would presumably be less informed than that of the people during the late sixties depicted in this film. I agree with that idea to a point. A great deal of the people in the film had a level of unhappiness due to the US’s involvement in the Vietnam War. My argument to the level of being informed then versus now is that then the limited number media outlets bombarded society with the majority of news broadcasted being about the war where as now we are bombarded by more outlets on a multitude of mediums that make the term being informed a very broad term. If this format was reenacted with today’s society the answers would be significantly different. Assumably the majority would be concerned with what is going on with the Trump/Clinton Presidential election but with the number of other less relevant issues in the media many others would be more concerned with whats going on with Brad and Angelina or keeping up with the Kardashians.
    There was an aspect of the film I found interesting and it comes from the prior knowledge given to us before the film was screened that both of the Nuns in the film didn’t complete the process of becoming nuns and wound up marrying and having children. We were posed the task to see if we could figure out if moments where reactions they gave would give a clue that they were questioning being nuns. Personally I did notice the point where Sister Campion might have questioned nunhood but it was mentioned in the discussion that during an interview of one of the subjects in the film it appeared she was attracted to him. I did notice what I felt was the point where Sister Arne did. It was while they were interviewing a young mother with a baby. Sister Arne fixed the babies hat and was playing with its hands which made me think that sparked the biological need that some have to have children.

  • Joseph Jackson

    Inquiring Nuns is such a brilliantly simple premise for a documentary.Two nuns, going about Chicago asking if people are happy. It doesn’t have an agenda or any real message, it’s just a simple question “are you happy?” If this movie was made today I have feeling either it would have some sort of agenda or the people asked would try to show off for the camera. You see the happiness as well as the sadness of the interviewed people. It also gives a wonderful image of the late 60s for the viewer. I think what really makes this effective are the two nuns asking questions. They aren’t professional interviewers or people with large media experience, just two women asking questions. Had they been “professional” I have a feeling they would pick the strangest characters deliberately. Kinda like with Michael Moore or the like who try to add at least one “Pets or Meat Girl” each time. This documentary honestly is one of my favorites because it’s so simple, kind of like what “A Man Escapes” tried to do last year in class.

  • 5pecialag3ntc00per

    Inquiring nuns is one of the best documentaries I’ve seen. To say nothing of the simpleness of its premise and execution, the really interesting part to me is how honest some of the answers people give. The people they meet on the street feel so much more genuine and human than I’ve ever been used to seeing in a documentary(though then again most of the documentaries I watch are about dinosaurs and other animals so I guess I wouldn’t know. It appears to me that this film could have just been a product of his time. A microcosm of the entire 1960s era appears in this film, the distinction between youth and older Americans is very apparent, as it hadn’t been up until that point. This was a groundbreaking era, the first in which people started realizing the extent of the exponentially growing media. Though, even then, I doubt that they thought being interviewed on the street would lead to them being immortalized forever on a reel of film just by walking to work. If this film was made today perhaps what is discussed would be similar but because of our fast enculturation with the media, occurs to me that people would be far more comfortable in front of a camera today and thus perhaps the result would be far less human than this one is. I liked this film. I want to make a documentary like this film. But this film was made at just the right time and just the right place. I doubt I could have the insight and luck to make something as culturally important if I tried.

  • Kitty Richardson

    I think the comparison between Inquiring Nuns to the French New Wave bears a lot of truth. Seeing Sister Campion and Sister Arne hearing of the plan to interview Chicagoans and develop a form of strategy is as much about exposition as it is about the joy of seeing two young women nervous and excited driving into the city. Immediately, the nuns get interesting answers. A young woman tells them about her passion for music. “Music is an expression of love. This is what I can give to people.” Much like the other subjects to follow, the woman talks about how she would be happier if the war in Vietnam ended. I couldn’t help but think that perhaps the pressure, danger and constant reminder that we all have a draft date, an expiration day created her beautiful response. When talking about love it’s most often about what we want or deserve or whom we think the perfect romantic partner would be but this young woman talked about giving love and in a platonic, but still 100%, valid way. The radicalism of the era is harshly contrasted to ours within the first interview. One person soon after spoke of happiness as “knowing yourself. Having a sense of self identity.” A man at the museum campus went even deeper by saying he could be happier if he were more “consistent with his beliefs” and that when he wasn’t it was out of fear of showing himself. Later on at the Art Institute a man who was perhaps coming on a little strongly to his date said he was happy because he was “sharing a lot of things with a person [he liked] to be with.” Noticeably a woman in black sunglasses looked dead in the camera and said she was unhappy because her life was unbalanced in the three things that according to her constituted a happy life “sex, social life and work.” While these things do have something to do with happiness I think she may have been unhappy because she was looking at these things like check off boxes. The other answers seemed to be more upfront and open as they all had the common thread of the importance and every day struggle of human connection running through them. There are many ways to know yourself, through discovering an enthusiasm you can translate into a career, through a religious belief in the divine, through developing a set of morals and ethics to live your life by etc. This is only half of the job. The point to discovering these truisms about yourself seem to be, through the answers of these most genuine of subjects, to know yourself in order to pursue the noblest of causes which is to share yourself and be available to others.

  • Tyler

    This is why I love your class. This film is truly amazing and you’re right when you describe it as under appreciated. I also think you’re right in your thought that it would be difficult to get answers that are as informed and unique as the ones you see in these interviews. As you can tell from many of the interviews Vietnam dominates the conversation and I think you get such honest and serious answers from these people because these people like the young kids in first interview are most affected by what is going on in Vietnam. It could be them in Vietnam next or their friends or their brothers or family next. I think the fact that it’s the Sister’s asking the questions definitely influences some of the peoples responses.

  • Nick Weimer

    I wonder how many interviews were not used. I wonder if there were a lot more ‘unhappy’ answers that didn’t end up in the film, or if there was just a shortage of unhappy answers. And if there was a shortage of ‘unhappy’ answers, is it because of just where and when they were, or is it because of their nunness, or both? Both probably? What about the ‘generic’ answers, (Family/Work/Kids (or for unhappiness: Vietnam/World Peace)) (and this is not to say that those answers are ‘bad’ or absolutely-untelling, just that they were the goto sorts of canned answers that kept coming up for nun reasons or no reasons) were there a lot more of those? I wonder how long they spent interviewing.

    I’d like for there to be a series using Inquiring Nuns basic, minimal format of someone (probably a different, but still identifiable sort of someone) asking essentially one question “Are you happy (and why)?” (maybe with different questions too (but one per interview)). Ideally you’d have a bunch of different sorts of people asking the same questions, but they’d all be with different people. They’d ideally be asking the same people the same questions, but having been asked the questions, their subsequent answers would be compromised, and though that could be interesting in itself, the ideal ideal-situation would be the same people being asked the same questions by different people, without remembering that they’ve been through this exact situation before. This is unfortunately impossible, and while I would happily settle for something more within the scope of the real, the impossible option is still preferable.

  • Marisa Cygan

    When watching this film for the furst time. I was really interested to see how the people were going to respond to to nuns asking them if they are happy. I would love to see people from today their reaction. Because I feel like people would just pass them by and pretend to be on their phone or like why are you talking to me. I took a tally on how many people said something about the war, god, and love. The war and god were tied with 12 tallys. I feel like the people felt like they had to say something about god because nuns were asking the questions. I feel like they said the war because that’s what the big thing was happening in that time.

  • James Hrajnoha

    I would like to add the scene of the (possibly) statistics professor who attempted to define happiness to a very statistical form, as a very profound and thought provoking scene within this movie. Not saying not all of these scenes weren’t thought provoking but that scene stayed with me even till now. The idea of trying this in Chicago now is something of a inquire because would we see these sort of answers, or would they be much more…idiotic. But there maybe some hope for a very informed populace within the city of Chicago. I thank you for sharing this movie with us and sharing your thoughts on it.

  • Cody Bemis

    I thought that “Inquiring Nun’s” was a very interesting film especially because it took place in my hometown of Chicago. It was cool to see Chicago during that time period. The premise of this film is intriguing considering the people who are doing the interviews throughout the film are Nun’s. Which I feel makes this film’s multiple interviews more genuine and truthful. As well as the difference between the first and second part of the film. With the first part, we see that the nun’s are still very adamant about their life devotion to being nun’s, whereas in the second half of the film we see a glimpse of what they have possibly been longing. Which is to leave the convent and start a family. Which is most evident when we see both nuns playing and talking with the child of one of the people being interviewed. As a whole “Inquiring Nun’s” is an intriguing film that gives an insight into what the people of Chicago during the 60’s were happy or not so happy about.

  • jaclynndunleavy

    I really enjoyed Inquiring Nuns. This documentary very humorous and very interested. I feel like the two nuns seemed very excited to be interacting with people that aren’t in the covenant. I believe that people were generally honest with their answers when they were asked if they were happy or not. It’s amazed me that only two people said they weren’t. Most of the people’s responses for why they are happy is because of their love ones, family, hobbies and religion.
    In my option, if these nuns were to interview people now a days people replies would be about the president or about money. I feel people aren’t happy now a days because of money. Which is very sad because there is more to life then being unhappy because of money.
    This documentary definitely left the viewers thinking about what makes them happy, and maybe making them thinking about asking other people what makes them happy.

  • zack

    Perhaps the most captivating film of the semester thus far would be the documentary, “Inquiring Nuns”. With such a simple yet interesting premise, two young nuns walking the streets of Chicago and asking strangers what makes them happy in life and what else could be done to make them happier, the film manages to keep your unwavering attention as you feel effortlessly connected to the subjects being filmed.
    You can’t help but imagine how these very same people might have responded if you or I were the ones interviewing them, which makes the very premise of the film just so much more compelling. What’s more is that the nuns themselves are rather young, which in turn causes them to be seemingly shy when first interviewing their subjects. Although, as the film progresses, apparently shown in chronological order, the two nuns become more relaxed, delving into the interviewing process a little deeper, asking follow up questions, promoting stories, and beginning to relate to the interviewees. The whole process of that is just such a treat to watch.
    In addition, to see my very own city decades ago with cool old cars filling the streets, the drastically different styles of fashion, slang integrated in a offbeat format, the buildings we all know today seen in a contrasting light though some look unchanged, all of this only adds to the intrinsic value of the film.
    Without a doubt this film held my attention throughout its entire duration and is one that i would recommend to anyone who enjoys documentaries, the city of Chicago and its history, or just cute young nuns.

  • Michael J.

    This was actually a very interesting documentary. It asked a question that everyone tries to answer, are you happy. I thought it was very effective too that the film makers used two female and relatively attractive nuns to ask these questions to illicit a more reliable and serious answer. It would seem that everyone answered that they were happy, except for two women wearing sunglasses. Maybe the shades made them feel more anonymous and safer to share why there were not happy. However I would like to know how many people they actually asked the question to. Even if they did not get a serious response all the time, I think it important to notify how many responses they took and how many they showed. It was actually interesting to see people respond and see how similar their responses would be to people today. Also seeing the fashion styles and a glimpse of the way of life back then was pretty cool to see. There were a couple interviews that stuck out to me. Like the connection between one of the nuns and and a man at the grocery store. His response I like to that we use the word happiness too much and should use the word pleasure instead. Also when they interviewed a man at the museum he gave a very calculated and in my eyes correct answer. For such a simple idea the
    movie was very good at holding peoples interest. It also made me try to ask the question, if I’m happy.

  • dylanberliant

    As you mentioned in your article, this film is very similar to Chronicles of a Summer, which I saw last semester in the Intro To Film Class. Despite this film having a very simplistic setup, it manages to be entertaining due to the setting of Chicago, as well as the wide variety of personalities being interviewed. I thought it was interesting how you said they had a lot of extra footage that was edited out of the film. It made me realize that in modern times, we often get to see this footage. It’s often included in the extras of a DVD, or even uploaded onto YouTube, but with older movies, this footage is usually lost, never to be seen by the public. It made me wonder how this extra footage would have impacted the film if it was included, and what types of interviews were cut from the final edit of the movie.

  • Jonathan Ivan

    This film was very interesting because it was nuns that asked people whether they are happy or not. This very simple idea of asking people if they are happy or not actually in the long term made me think if i was actually happy with my life. I believe that because nuns were asking this question it made people give a more sincere answer than if it were a guy in a suit. I think what really makes this effective are the two nuns asking questions. They aren’t professional interviewers or people with large media experience, just two women asking questions. Had they been “professional” I have a feeling they would pick the strangest characters deliberately. So because they used nuns i believe that that is what made this documentary such a success.

  • Alex Pont

    Inquiring Nuns is perhaps the most fascinating film shown in class thus far. To witness such a raw documentary, devoid of operatic soundtracks to elicit certain emotions, B-roll and staged shots, voice over, etc, is quite refreshing. This documentary simply follows the two nuns all around downtown Chicago as they interview dozens of random individuals with no fancy camera tricks, transitions, or artistic edits, just interview after interview, presented in its true form with very little edits during each interview.
    The people of the time shared one particular focus, Vietnam, and they overwhelmingly were either bothered by or flat out against it. There was a certain bound between all people of Chicago, sharing and believing the same thing, something that today I believe would be difficult to find in the city.
    Overall, I find this style of documentary to be much more captivating than many modern ones, particularly because of it’s no nonsense approach. It’s a simple idea presented simply for all people to enjoy and discuss afterwards.

  • Tyler Smith

    When I saw this in class, I thought it was recorded at least over the course of a week, if not a month. It almost seemed like a prototype in some ways to a specific angle of approach for future documentaries. I found many of the answers to be heart wrenching to see. For example, the short interviews with the African Americans where one man suggests what would make him happy would be to have a sense of identity, this struck a chord with me because in that time especially, their fight was far from over. I had a similar feeling every time someone mentioned Vietnam. It was so tremendously sad to know that the war had almost a decade left, and it seemed everyone already had the, “To hell with it” mentality.

    Without even knowing it, the nuns, and perhaps even the directors, created a quasi rumspringa for the sisters, in the sense that they were being exposed to the world outside of the seminary and all of its unique characteristics that would have otherwise been suppressed. I think that definitely played a role in the sisters leaving later on. This doc may have not worked in a different city, Chicago seemed to be a perfect place for it.

  • Alejandro Magdaleno

    Overall this film was different and new to me because it was two nuns asking people if they were happy which never in my life did that go through my head that I would ever witness. In all honestly throughout the film, I asked myself if I was happy and it made start to think what actually made me happy. Something that I noticed in the article and in the film was the way they were in the first part of the film and the way they were in the second part. We started to see how the nuns became more comfortable and actually probably took in what other people would respond to them. I like the documentary a lot because it was made in Chicago and as there walking around in the city were able to see the city and how train tracks haven’t changed and are still in the middle of the city. It was cool to hear the different response from all the different type of people. I felt like some people weren’t completely honest with the nuns, I know that I wouldn’t be able to be completely honest with them. I would probably say something they want to hear instead of people being straight honest and maybe them thinking how selfish I might be or how much of a shit I might be, this is why i feel like people said similar things and didn’t give full honesty. It was nice though to see two nuns interview random people at such an early age in the this great city of Chicago.

  • Caroline

    It’s interesting how “are you happy?” seems like such a simple question, yet some people have to really think about it and dig deep into it and actually question themselves if they really are happy. One thing I liked about this movie was that it gave off a very positive vibe. Everyone seemed so open and positive with their response. Even the people who said that they were not happy. At least they kept on smiling and they tried to think of ways to solve their problems and overcome their failures instead of just giving up. A lot of these people seem to be grateful for what they have and I thought that was nice too. They really tried to look on the bright side of things. In the beginning when the nun was talking to the guy with glasses, I liked how they talked about how we need to take time to understand people. I thought this was a really important conversation and it’s true. If the nuns were not nuns, or were not “hot” nuns either, I wonder how different would the responses would be. I also wonder if the responses would be different in different cities other than Chicago. You say that the answers people would give today might be a little more shallow or less-informed, or maybe not, but I agree that some of might be. I feel like today lots of people would talk about money and depressing stuff or might not be as open. But it would be interesting to see how people would actually respond to this question today.

  • Mike speck

    I’m a big fan of documentaries Inquiring Nuns as a whole was very interesting. The opening scene really sets the tone of the movie; the Nun’s show immediately that they don’t leave the church often. Throughout the movie interesting to see Sister Arne and Sister Campion grow more comfortable through each interview. One of the first interview is with a young couple with the unique band name “The bubblegum Orgy” and the reaction of the Nun’s had was pricelessly awkward moment. They do recover quickly when the conversation turns to serious note when young couple replies say something like we’re happy but not happy the Vietnam War (which was a recurring answer throughout the movie). The Vietnam War comes up so much that the viewers really get a feel of how the public viewed/felt about that social topic. I think the interview with one of the first black millionaires Stepin Fetchit was riveting through a bunch of perspectives. You have Mr.Fetchit who seems overjoyed to tell his story to these young cute looking Nun’s despite losing his fortune. The Nun’s have no idea how famous “this guy” standing in front of them, then at the end of the interview there keeping photos of Mr.Fetchit pose with other movie stars. Another thought that crossed my mind throughout this scene wes the director Gordon Quinn in his head is jumping from joy because he just hit a jackpot of an interview for his movie.
    The movie Inquiring Nuns would be impossible to get done in today’s world in my opinion. I think the answers wouldn’t be as genuine just because we live in a culture that is obsessed with becoming the next five minute star on youtube or a viral 30 sec meme. Another reason why I don’t think it’s possible to recreate this movie is the fact we are all seem to be all divided on a lot of social topics that the viewers wouldn’t of gotten the same feel they got for the overall dislike of the vietnam war. I do think it would be interesting to do something along the lines of Inquiring Nun’s but instead of Nun’s you use two police woman which could make for a very interesting documentary

  • Garrett Solomon

    I’ve been thinking lately about what we discussed in class and what we learned from watching the DVD interviews. Coincidentally, I have a digital copy of “The Inquiring Nuns” that I got from Kartemquin back when they were giving away digital copies of their back catalogue, so I was able to watch the film again and gain a different appreciation in the process. As we heard from former Sisters Campion and Arne on the DVD, everyone who made “The Inquiring Nuns” didn’t know right away as to what they were getting into when they set out to interview people in the Chicago area. By learning along the way, Gordon Quinn and the nuns gained a unique, ethnographical experience that was all caught on camera. Looking back, I may have been hasty in comparing “The Inquiring Nuns” to the documentary that inspired it, “Chronicle of a Summer.” Despite one film’s influence over the other, they are completely separate works in the long run. And taking “The Inquiring Nuns” on its own terms, the film is a fascinating time capsule of civilian life in 1960’s Chicago, back when Vietnam was a prominent thought in everyone’s minds. However, I couldn’t help but wonder as to why the film was divided into two “series.” Was it initially made for a lecture or something?

  • Tink De Lance

    I think I said most of what I felt in class (maybe I should talk less so I have more to write) but I do think a lot of the answers where crap lies. Still, I liked the movie. Mostly because I like watching movies that show how we changed as a society whether it’s for good or bad. I do agree with you that if people on the street were interviewed today their answers wouldn’t be as well thought out and I wonder if people would be as nice to the nuns or if there would be a little more animosity I also really would love to see the footage that ended up on the cutting room floor.

  • Matt Fortune

    I think inquiring nuns was a very unique film and puts itself in its own category. Being happy is an extremely important factor of life. You’re given the game of life as a gift and every individual needs to take advantage of it at its highest potential. Being happy isn’t given to you, its the way you perceive life and what you make out of it. In the film when people were questioned if they were happy or not, most off them answered yes and gave very generic answer. I believe more than half of the peoples responses were a bunch of crap and lies because almost no individual will be “HAPPY” off of such generic things. It very well could be the case that those simple things make them happy but every individual has such a different lifestyle and perception of what they enjoy and what puts a smile on there face so I really just don’t see what they were claiming that makes them happy the actual truth. I enjoyed the film and would really like to see what would happened if they remade this film today because I can guarantee you that the language of what makes indiviuals happy and the percentage of people that are so called, “happy” would be extremely different.

  • Derek Colon

    This film was fascinating on many levels. It would be interesting to see what a film like this would look like if it was done today in Chicago. I wonder how many people would just ignore the question as they pass you by, or how many would just have headsets in their ear. How many answers would be philosophical or not? So many questions. Someone really needs to get on this. I would love to see the actual change in society instead of merely theorizing it. Personally, I do believe most of the answers (maybe not all of them, but a good 80% of them) were truthful. This actually shocked me because, given the typical pessimism and negative opinions I constantly hear in todays world, one could argue, that we are all miserable on the inside on the search for what we call happiness, but turning up empty so often that our world views have become grim. Yet, somehow, everyone answering the questions say they are happy despite. This is intriguing and, again, I don’t think most of them were lying. People who lie tend to look left as to come up with a fake answer, however msst people who answered nearly locked eyes with the nuns and told them “yes” or in some rare cases “no”. They only started to peel away eye contact when they were asked follow up questions…maybe as if they didn’t know what could make them happier, so they would make up an answer unsure. Anyway, Maybe it was really just how societal views have changed. Guess I won’t know for sure until someone does it again. Anyway, a good film.

  • Nicole Majewski

    This film was definitely a thinker. As you watched the film you would ask yourself how would you respond especially after listening to all the different answers given. Gordon Quinns choice to use two younger nuns is an interesting one. When getting asked the question by a nun, a person would answer more thoughtfully because it would have a feeling of being asked by a higher being. A person is almost forced to think more deeply about your answer as if it was your final answer. The two nuns being younger though humanized them a more than if it was an older nun or even a priest. So it gave the interviewees a sense of comfort to answer. The fact that it was done in Chicago gave the director a wide variety of places to ask the question. As seen in the film, from museums to a South Side church to a grocery store with a diverse group of people readily accessible. This also aided in the possibility if the film being shot in just one day. The question itself was vague, “Are you happy?” but that was most certainly on purpose. It is such a wide-open question and forces a person to think about all the possible versions of the questions there is. The people that would answer yes so quickly I don’t believe truly thought the question through and compared it to their lives. I’m not saying it’s not possible to be happy and know it so quickly but it just seemed like that was the best, quickest answer to say without reflecting too much on their own lives. It was interesting to watch from a psychological perspective. So many different factors aided the responses of the interviewees and it was interesting to listen to all the responses.

  • Ethan Ng

    This film was definitely worth the watch and not just because it was in class lol. It felt almost like a time capsule, and not just because of the fascinating aesthetics of time, but because each interview was an insightful look into the Chicago of that time. I found it particularly interesting to see what people desired, or thought they desired in order to achieve happiness, with some even just saying what they believed the nuns or the audience would want to hear. I think this film shows an interesting sociological aspect of people, as we are only shown what they present or say, but whilst we can speculate, will never know what they actually thought. I agree with your statement that we’ll never know what interviews were left on the cutting room floor, but I kind of enjoy it more this way, as it paints a more rose tinted view of what Chicago was like in that time and allows for a narrative.

  • Ryan

    While watching the movie in class I felt that the movie as a whole was really repetitive. Over all I enjoyed the movie for the fact that you would hear someone say they are happy but you could read there facial expressions and see that most of them felt very uncomfortable answering the simple question of are you happy. I fell that the people being interviewed where put on the spot while being recorded. You could tell that they all felt like they where being forced to say yes they are happy even though some of them might have been dealing with depression.

  • Nick Opfer

    Personally I believe that if one were to conduct an experiment today, you would find many intellectual answers. People today have many real problems on their mind, just as they did in the 60’s. As you said, we have no way of knowing how many superficial answers were cut from the film. If you were to ask people today, I’d argue that you would get more answers regarding shootings or the government than you would about money or popularity.

  • Alex

    I think that the experiment was a good idea to get to know what people were thinking at the time. Most of them really took their time answering the question of “are you happy?” The reasoning I think is because they are nuns and they want to make sure were saying the right things. Now a days people don’t really care anymore. They will say what ever they want and they will be more selfish when it come to what would make them happier. It is just interesting to see what people were thinking about back in the 60’s compared to today.

  • Flavio Torres

    Inquiring Nuns was such a great wholesome film that I couldn’t help but smile at some of the answers. One of the memorable interviews was with the old African American woman who was happy that all her children could live on their own without any trouble as any parent would want, and with the man in the raincoat who clearly dazzled sister campion with his brilliance. As you asked in class about how people would answer the question today, I still think we would get more sarcastic answer’s and the occasional “Fuck Off”. In my opinion it would be because people nowadays are more aggressively defensive about themselves that I doubt would give straight answers. Hopefully I’m wrong and someone can prove otherwise, but that’s how I see things going.

  • Neil Chisholm

    “Inquiring Nuns” is kind of a cozy film for me because it was made in Chicago in 1967, when I was 16 and attending Loyola Academy in Wilmette. It was also the time of the “Summer of Love” when the hippie vibes went out from the Haight-Asbury neighborhood in San Francisco and influenced young people all over the world with the refreshing music, fashions, and for better or worse, psychedelic drugs. It was a time of intensely liberal activism, even on the part of these young nuns. Today I am saying, boy do we need some of that now to counter the incipient fascism that has planted itself in the White House and around the nation and is growing like a strangling poisonous vine. Back to the movie. Sister Arne, the cute one, and Sister Campion, the stunning one, are good choices to do the interviews because most people are going to be respectful to nuns, even more so when the nuns are young and attractive. I had the feeling some people were covering up when they said they were happy because they did not want to be thought of as whiners. Most people do not want to expose their problems or sadness to the whole world. I do not doubt some of the people really felt happy. A few other did not claim to be happy, and allowed a little insight into why they weren’t, like the lady musician. The guy who said he was miserable, then denied it, I think really was miserable. Many unhappy people go to art galleries as an escape. In my view, only the village idiot is always happy, and maybe not even him. Life is a mixture of good and bad, happiness and sadness, but hopefully most people are glad to be alive even if they aren’t too happy. The movie is a good time capsule, and now the nuns are senior citizens and many of the interviewees no longer are alive. Stepin Fetchit, who played the “Yowza boss, I’ze a comin'” shuffling, mumbling servant role in
    old movies turns up, not bitter about blowing all his money. Most black people probably grit their teeth if they ever see him acting his stereotype role, so happy to serve the white people because “what else could he do?”
    Fetchit is with some handler who bores us with a ridiculous poem about his friend God. We also see a sort of “cowboy” type man who strikes up some sparks with virginal and radiantly smiling Sister Campion. Yes, it’s true, the more prim and proper an attractive lady is, the more mischievous the secret thoughts of some men will be about her. That’s just the way we were made, I guess.

  • Krusha Patel

    ” Inquiring Nuns” is a really interesting movie, in today’s generation, you see a lot of these kinds of videos on youtube where people ask each other questions but they are mostly based of race, culture, or general knowledge. It was really interesting to watch two nuns asking people the question that ‘Are you happy?’. The most ironic thing about the movie was that how people would avoid the question and make it practical by saying what do you mean happy, as in happy with work, marriage life etc. or use reverse psychology by asking the nuns are they happy. There was also this particular thing that caught my eye that because they were sisters people tend to bring up Jesus in their conversation stating that they love the lord and go to church every Sunday, such as the guy who was like ” I love going to the church every Sunday and I look forward to it”. The best thing about the film is how we learned that later both of the sisters left the monastery and had their own family and a happy ending.

  • Kevin Lee

    “Inquiring Nuns” is probably in my top 5 for films watched in this class. Something about the authenticity of the film/responses to the question kept my attention throughout the whole film. I think that as the movie progresses the questions/answers get better. I think the really interesting part was watching them years after the movie was made and their opinions about it now. How one of the sisters chose to stay religious while the other one did not. In addition, I do think that having nuns do the question was a great idea which led to more honest answers. But it had me wondering maybe even having kids doing the interview would have been an interesting option. You also did mention in class that there have been student versions of this. What were the responses like? Since the Vietnam War was going on, that seemed like a topic a lot of people touched up on. Was there a theme or anything like that from the student versions? Even though the movie was very repetitive, the answers to the questions made it interesting.

  • Charlie Weil

    When viewing “Inquiring Nuns”, I found it to be a poignant, informative, and existential look on the fundamental concept of happiness; from the point-of-view of nuns. It was a deeply introspective expose on the power of happiness can have on society; especially in the complicated times they were living in. I found “Inquiring Nuns” to be a fascinating, introspective take because film viewers were able to hear a variety of generations’ voices on this social construct. It spoke volumes that a majority of the people being interviewed had a plethora of differing attitudes surrounding this subject. The hippie musicians had a very calm, relaxed attitude regarding the idea of happiness; while the college professor had a more introspective and analytical attitudes surrounding the construct of happiness. It was eye opening to see many different people’s perspectives addressed in this eye opening documentary that shed much needed perspective on this unaddressed idea.

  • Mo Tabani

    Inquiring Nuns is a film that involves a two nuns asking the same question to 100 people asking, “Are you happy? What makes you happy or sad?”. I enjoyed watching this film because the people who were answering the question answered it completely honest. Nowadays, I believe if we were to do this social experiment, there would be a few people who wouldn’t take the question seriously or think we are trying to pull a prank on them. I think people answered the question seriously because it was rare to see a camera back then therefore it attracted a lot of attention. This was a interesting film and I was always curious of what the next persons response would be.

  • Alexander Wagner

    “Inquiring Nuns” left an impression on me.

    It was a great glimpse into not just Chicago, but America in the mid-’60s. This documentary resonated with me, perhaps because of the time period. I’ve been told many a time that I’m an “old soul”. Such is true, since I gravitate towards older things, be it cars, aircraft, music, or even films.

    Perhaps it’s because I yearn for that “simpler time” appeal every old or classical thing seems to have, but maybe it’s something else that causes me to enjoy these older things.

    “Inquiring Nuns” was fascinating to me. Usually, one can see the “script” or “structure” behind documentaries if they look and listen close enough. However, I didn’t notice that with this one. People seemed “raw” or “pure” to me.

    Over this past weekend, I tried hard to think about why that was the case.

    And then, it hit me:

    It truly was because of the time period.

    Back then, technology was barely a fraction of what it is today. Society as a whole tended to be quiet, reserved, and conservative(not the political affiliation).

    The concept of a camera aimed at someone, microphone at the ready near their mouths, was only deemed normal were it a news anchor, or an actor/actress. It’s hard for us today to think about the impact that a documentary like “Inquiring Nuns” had on the public eye of 1967. Nowadays, we don’t have the comfort of reticence, or even time itself. With devices such as smartphones or computers, we have access to anyone– anywhere, anytime, all the time.

    This concept, back then, would’ve been comparable to HAL 9000– merely science fiction.

    The way people interacted those 52 years ago was different. I personally found said people to be more articulate, more analytical, and more patient. I say this because my parents and grandparents are living proof of such.

    Throughout my childhood, I heard their stories, their experiences, and their lessons. Everything they did simply took longer. But, it’s all relative. In “The Shawshank Redemption”, Brooks, the eldest prisoner of Andy Dufresne’s group, wrote of how fast 1955 moved to him. He said, “I had seen an automobile once when I was a kid. Now, they’re everywhere. The world went and got itself in a big damn hurry.”

    To us, 1955 would seem to move at a snail’s pace compared to today. Part of that is because there simply was no reason to move as quickly as we do now. We’re used to only a five-second wait for a reply, be it a text, email, or social media notification. Back in 1967, the reply came in the mail. While people waited for their replies, they went to the store, to a game, or just relaxed. They didn’t fret about or grow impatient at what their respondent would say.

    “Inquiring Nuns” visualised for me what I’ve been told all my life: “Time only moves faster.” People seemed more willing to share their thoughts in the film because, where else could they do it? Nowadays, not a day goes by where we don’t announce to the world what we ate, where we went, or how we feel. In 1967, one of the rare opportunities to make said announcement came in the form of, well, two inquiring nuns.

    “Inquiring Nuns” left me with a question regarding how society back then compares to today’s world:

    “Do we have control?”

    Technology seems to condition us to expect, to demand. I often play a game, and count the drivers looking down at the smaller screen whilst behind the wheel. It would seem that those people are letting technology control them.

    Though there are countless examples of technology’s far greater beneficial impacts, the element of control will forever remain up to the individual.

    Overall, I found “Inquiring Nuns” to be informative, engaging, and extremely existential. I loved the numerous people they interviewed, and what answers they gave. I thought they put an admirable amount of effort into their answers.

    I also enjoyed comparing their answers and replies to what someone would say in 2019 to the same question. Would it be the same, or different?

    To me, it seems that it would depend on whether or not the text message could wait.

  • Tyler Flaningam

    I don’t think it’s fair to say that a similar experiment less informed opinions. Most of this film seems to be dominated by context, which shows a litany of variables.

    The role of the interviewer, the presence of cameras, the location, all manipulate the context of the interview and the perspective of the subject. While over the course of the film both Sisters get better at taking down barriers, it is certainly still an odd occurrence for everyone they meet.

    The major changes between now and the 1960s maybe the average person’s relationship with religion and representatives of religious institutions, and the nature in which people express their opinions. It seems that most of those interviewed had a very reserved, but satisfying answer. People aren’t as camera shy anymore and further than that live in a world where they can voice opinions online even when no one’s listening.

    • Tyler Flaningam


      Along with the a more liberal expression of ideas, is perhaps a more disassociated relationship with religion. While it is a major institution of society, it has taken a relinquished some of it’s roles to others like public schools over time.

      Forgetting the differences in society 50 years apart. The majority of answers people gave in the documentary weren’t very good. While their were outliers like the very philosophical man outside the grocery store or the overly calm guy amongst the black congregation, the majority of people were just unexciting. They either seemed to perplexed by it all to give any deeper meaning or they flat out don’t have a deep understanding of their happiness, which is no knock on them.

      In fact it is this string of bad answers that show some interesting trends in the society beyond the occasional fascinating interview subject. Without really thinking about the question, “Are you happy” most people said their family. When people asked what made them unhappy it was often the Vietnam War. And their source for more happiness seemed to be in improvement in either of those areas, the home or the War.

      While people today might not use so few words and minimize their air time, I don’t think the basis for those answers would change, most people get happiness and fulfillment from their family. While it isn’t Vietnam or necessarily even a military issue, there is always going to be some, national/global event that is ever present in people’s every day lives.

      At their face these answers are honorable, fulfilling and attainable, just not very well thought out, regardless of the era. But they provide insight into the nature of happiness. What makes us happy is our family, loved ones, the parts of our lives we can try to control personally. What we tell people makes unhappy is something way bigger than you or your family, it is war, natural disasters, death things we can’t control that loom over everyone.

      What people’s daily pitfalls and grievances. Traffic makes me unhappy, being late, having to pick up after my dog. These things do not provide me joy but they are things I can control and hopefully solve.

      A longitudinal version of this study would be incredibly interesting because it tracks so many different parts of society. However, I don’t think emotional intelligence changes that much in 50 years on a large scale. Religion, media, the family, race relations, the increasingly liberal expression of ideas, all have a very different but strong effect on people’s answers. For better or worse the nature of these things has changed a lot in 50 years and what better way to represent it through the guise of happiness as the ultimate factor in life success or failure.

  • Sam White

    I thought “Inquiring Nuns” was a very interesting movie.

    First, I thought the question they asked (“Are you happy?”) was fascinating. Most people would answer yes, then the nuns would say “Why are you happy?” and that would get people to think about why they’re happy. I found it fascinating because not a lot of people actually stop and think about such a simple question of ” Are you Happy?” and “Why are you happy?”. Most people I think answered yes because they’re nuns and people didn’t want to upset them. But when the Nuns asked “Why are you happy?”, people gave honest answers. Sometimes the nuns would ask “Why aren’t you happy?”, and a lot of people would respond with something about the Vietnam War.

    Another thing I found fascinating about “Inquiring nuns” was that people actually stopped and talked/responded to the question’s they were asked. It was simpler time back then when nobody was walking around scrolling on their phones or walked around with headphones/earbuds in, so it was easier for the nuns to get people’s attention. People were so much more focused on the world and their surrounding’s and not having their eyes glued on their phone.

    Overall, I liked this movie a lot and found it to be very interesting.

  • Mike Mazur

    I enjoyed watching “Inquiring Nuns” because of the time capsule aspect of Chicago shown within the film. This film shows on a deeper level what the people of Chicago had on their minds at the time of the making of the film. The uniqueness of this film is that the nuns were instructed to ask one question and then base other questions off of the responses. At the beginning of the first half, the nuns seemed to be nervous and throughout the documentary, you could see how comfortable the nuns got as they were interviewing. The question that they were asking everyone was “Are you Happy?” and for some of the people they really seemed to open up about the world they’re living in and gave a great response about their time period. Some people would respond with general answers, but some answered it honestly which helped out with the strength of the documentary.

    Secondly, the way that people would have the politeness to stop and get interviewed even though it would take from their day or even, they were running late to something when they got asked. This is clearly shown in the first half when the orchestra instrument player stopped and answered their questions even though he was rushing to play in a concert he was late too. Many people also stayed around the front of the church and also answered their questions. This really shows how different today’s people are to those back in the late ’60s. People today seemed to be more focused with their lives and I predict that it would be more difficult to get as many voluntary people in the documentary as they did. This was a time where a lot of people had a personal opinion about the events happening around them and they would want to express it. Many of the response that they received were genuine and were pure responses to the question asked.

    Lastly, what struck me as interesting was that the interviewers were nuns. This definitely gave the documentary a different perspective and without the nuns, we would be able to see. Also, I feel the nun learned a lot about how people in that time period really thought about the world and for some of the interviews specifically, the nuns learned very unique insight that they could use within their lives. As we learned later, both of the nuns actually didn’t commit to being nuns and lived with loving families after the making of this documentary. This was powerful because being there and asking others about their happiness would make them think about their happiness.

  • Daniel Kowalyk

    In the documentary “Inquiring Nuns” we follow two nuns as they ask the people of Chicago one simple question, “are you happy”. At the beginning the nuns seem to only ask this one question and they want to quote on quote stick to the script. Yet towards the end of the film we see them open up more. Asking more questions to the people that they interview and having more of a friendly conversation with the people that the nuns talk too. Due to this the nuns seem to get a more honest and better response from the people that they interview. We see many people say that they are happy due to their strong family ties and the fact they are doing well at work or school. The next question that the nuns ask is “what makes you unhappy”. We can see that many people had a similar response to this question, the war in Vietnam. It comes to show us that many people did not agree with the fighting that was taking place. The fact that many people were so in touch with the world outside their own does surprise me. They are not just worried about themselves and their life. They are worried about what is happening around them and what is happening to the people that are fighting over seas.

  • Ross Bostick

    Inquiring Nuns is very interesting film even though its premise is very basic. What makes this film great is that people who are interviewed by the nuns don’t give basic or boring answers to the questions, “Are you happy?” or “What makes you happy?”. A lot of the answers to this question seem to involve the people’s disappointment and frustration in the Vietnam War and how it was going at this point when the film was made in 1967 and then released a year later in 1968. I saw that politics, war, race, and religion among other things were big talking points for some people who were interviewed. This makes the film very powerful without forcing on you as an audience. I think this film would be great but also hard to recreate because even though people would have a lot say about political climate, race, and gender issues among other things. It would be hard though because people may not care to answer such basic questions and keep to themselves because people may not want to reveal some much about their personal lives unlike in 1968 when Inquiring Nuns was made. That is why The Inquiring Nuns is a cult classic if you love Chicago-based films.

  • Branden Wagner

    The documentary “Inquiring Nuns” included two nuns that traveled around the city of Chicago asking people if they were happy and then eventually throughout the day, they started asking people why they were happy/what makes them happy. I found it very interesting as pretty much everyone if not everyone they interviewed stated that were indeed happy and some of the people they interviewed said that they were grateful to not be in the shoes of those less fortunate, I’m paraphrasing of course. This, of course, acknowledges the fact that many people are happy not just because of what is going on in their life but that they are happy that they do not have to live a life where they are living way less fortunate than others, of course they are talking about the poor/homeless. A part in the documentary that may seem to be of little importance actually has a great meaning. There was a scene where the nuns were interviewing a father who was with his son at a museum, the son of course said he was happy but in a very innocent, young, naive, and childlike way, again this may seem unimportant as many people would expect the child to respond the way he did but this decades ago and this is definitely different form the way a child nowadays would respond. A child nowadays would probably respond in a less innocent way and probably even talk about problems around the world like an adult would and this is because children these days are exposed to the problems of today’s society around the globe due to technology being right in front of their face all the time and being a great way to find out about literally anything.This may seem bad to other people because some people may say that children are losing their innocence a lot faster than they should and that that is a bad thing. In all honesty, we lose our innocence one way or another eventually, so there really is no problem and getting it over with a little sooner rather than later, if anything, I myself would prefer this because if anything, children should know about what’s going on in the world considering how they are the new generation and the new generation tends to be the one that will deal with real life issues when they are older. Teaching children these things at a young age while they have good brain plasticity is if anything good because now they will already have a good understanding of the world and will already have a good amount of knowledge on how to deal with the problems.
    In continuation of the documentary, I believe that it was pretty good and I enjoyed learning about what makes people happy or at least what made people happy many decades ago.

  • Jade Hansen

    I found the overall concept of the film very fascinating. I myself have spent my time wondering about my own happiness, what that means, and how to gain a happier life as a whole. I have learned that happiness is a completely subjective concept and it’s quite impossible to wholly acquire. Although it is quite possible to be content, and even easier for those who have privilege in any capacity. I find it odd that you say the interviewees were diverse, since I counted only about 18 people of color and a majority of them were picked out from a public spaces that don’t involve money (the church). I also found it quite appaling that not one of them said they were unhappy, or questioned their happiness, yet you mentioned in class how this was very close to the DNC riots and during the civil rights movement. Obviously it’s easy for white people to feel comfortable saying what they want in any space, especially on camera when being interviewed/filmed by other whites. This makes me greatly question who was cut out during editing, and why Quinn would want it out. I already said my issues with class reactions last week. So to answer your questions about the nuns specifically, we live in a hyper relgious world. Regardless of one’s own religion, nuns are considered a symbol of purity and relgious dedication. Most people are agnostic or spiritual without belonging to some organized religion, yet through social/media influence we are taught to respect Christianity and Catholicism most. I know that if I was being asked the same question I would feel this unsaid pressure to be polite and calm with my answer. I can easily imagine the interviewees not wanting to offend the two women. Their answers felt and many probably were fake. Finally, why would Arne and Campion decide not to finish their goal of becoming full on nuns? I would assume this brought up many questions for them of what they value and what brings them happiness. Belonging to the church is a frankly isolating life. Most people greatly value companionship and family. That was affirmed by almost every interviewee. I can’t say one way or the other the real reason why they left the convent, but I would say moral values and the desire for companionship were involved. I find documentaries as a whole to be a beautiful genre so this was a great film for me.

  • Adam M

    Inquiring Nuns is an interesting documentary at this time. It’s interesting to see everyday people talk about happiness and what it means to them. It was a universal fact that everyone was bothered by the Vietnam War. Throughout the documentary you see two nuns, Sister Arne and Sister Campion, go through the city of Chicago asking people “Are you happy?” As the documentary progresses, you begin to see people having more complex answers, as the two nuns get more comfortable asking questions and getting people to elaborate about what they mean. We get many different people’s perspective, and while I do think that some of the answers were not really how they felt, there were some people who were telling the truth. For example, the lady that was not happy at all with her situation. That would be a difficult thing to admit to strangers, especially strangers holding a microphone with a camera crew. I think the reason they used nuns to ask the questions, was so that the speaker feels more comfortable to answer honestly. Actually as time goes on, you can start seeing the way that some of the answers people gave kind of give the nuns a possible reality check. I saw this at the end when the one nun says that people are more interesting than she thought, which makes me ask the question, “Do these nuns get out very often?” To give this perspective, there is a documentary called “Seven Up!” In this documentary every seven years the same people are interviewed to see how their lives have changed in seven years. Currently they are at age 63, so they are talking about grandchildren. I wonder if we were to track these people down now if they would give the same response they did in the first documentary? Admittedly though, I think if we tracked down some of these people and asked them a few decades later if the same answer still applies, they probably would have a better perspective having grown older and having more life experiences under their belts. Especially the Bubblegum Orgy musicians, because when looking them up, this documentary is the only thing I could find on them.

  • Madeline Morse

    Inquiring Nuns is easily my favorite movie we have watched so far this semester. Watching Sister Arne and Sister Campion become more and more confident while interviewing, and seemingly become genuinely more interested in getting in-depth answers out of individuals was just so intriguing. Though there were many yes answers along with a few who answered no, the stars of the film are definitely the nuns.
    What stood out most to me besides the Bubblegum Orgy band mates announcing their interesting name to a couple of nun, were how the answers of the individuals could be the exact answers people would give today. For myself, I could hear my grandfather in the answer of the older woman’s reply to “Are you happy”. She was simply happy that everyone in her family was standing on their own two feet, and that she didn’t know many people who could say the same. Also again for myself, hearing the Sailor’s in the museum answer they were just happy to be away from boot camp brought back that exact same feeling I had my first time away, homesickness and relief of the yelling.
    On the other hand, hearing people answer a bit of a shy no, always provoked such a deep and emotional response. Who stood out most for their “no” reply was the woman in the museum, a traveling musician, who just felt very alone in the world. It was also like you could hear her heart breaking as she spoke about how people suggest to her, “you just need someone who needs you”. Then there was the other gentleman in the museum who suggested if he was unhappy he would just slit his throat, hopefully he sought therapy.

  • Pawel Krempasky

    Of all the movies we’ve watched thus far this semester, Inquiring Nuns easily takes my vote as the best one so far. I probably said this after watching The City That Never Sleeps, but I would have to revoke that title and give it to Sisters Campion and Arne in their work in Inquiring Nuns. I’d never would’ve guessed that asking many people one question could open my eyes on the way people live and view the world. “Are you happy?” goes a very long way as the sisters receive all types of responses. I’m also curious to see what responses the Kartemquin trio left out of the film, because surely, they interviewed more than just those people seen in the film. What made them pick the people they did in the movie leaves me wondering what other responses they got. Of all the interviewees, not a single one said they weren’t happy, even though many of them said they would be happier if the US wasn’t involved in Vietnam. Still though, I’m sure at least one person said they were not happy. I would’ve loved to see Kartemquin at least include one of these negative responses.

    One thing I kept thinking throughout watching was “how easy would it be to recreate it?” With the way the world is today, people can plug in and not say anything to anyone during their commute, except for telling Siri to skip the current song. In todays world, given its many distractions, it’d be more difficult to just get people to talk to you I think. Even if people were to talk, I don’t think they’d be very open to talk as people are more private now than ever. Though I don’t think interviewers would get the response they expected if they were to remake it today, I would still find it interesting to see the city’s responses. I think people today would give the same reasoning as to why they are happy, but a different one as to what would make them more happy. As Vietnam was the world problem at the time, if I were to remake this today, the one thing that would make people happier would be if the COVID-19 virus just disappeared or wasn’t here in the first place. We all know the impact it has made thus far. The response for if they were happy would be yes since people make themselves appear better than they truly are. It’s a psychological thing. Even if they weren’t happy, they would say they were because someone had a camera to them and no one wants to admit they are not happy. People would be happy for the same reasons they were back in 1968: their families health, their job, their lover, etc.

  • Gary Quinones

    Inquiring Nuns, what a brilliant documentary. What makes it so special is its simplicity. A question that sounds so easy to answer, “Are you happy?”, yet what Sister Arne and Sister Campion get as responses is far from it. That is the true beauty of this film. Seeing Chicago at that time adds to that as well. There were such a variety of answers which adds to the charm. Some happy, some sad, some frustrated by the events of the time (ie. the Vietnam War), but such what comes through and through is human emotion. Stepin Fetchit, whom I read more about after watching this film, was a great example of this. After spending his fortune away he still is able to find happiness. To see him interact with Arne and Campion just brings a smile to my face. I also love how people make church references all the time, of course, most likely due to them being nuns.

    I also find it remarkable the amount of ground the two nuns cover as well. They are all over the place. Having been to the Art Institute and Museum of Science and Industry, by seeing them go there and see those places at the time brings a sense of personal connection. Trying to repeat what they did and cover all that distance would be so much more difficult to do today. Times are different now. This film was made at the perfect time for it to produce such a lasting effect.

    As I watched, I wondered how I would have responded to them if they asked me. Best part is that I’m exactly sure. I imagine the people interviewed may have felt the same apprehension. The fact that this was made so long ago, but still rings true today is what elevates this film into the realm of masterpiece. To think that this film could be missed is just a shame. Kartemquin Films are true masters of their craft. Films like this show just how great and interesting a documentary can be. Great film. Thanks for showing it.

  • Max Jackson

    I thought Inquiring Nuns was an amazing documentary. It really showed how much the sisters cared about other people’s lives, in my opinion. They seemed generally very intrigued by the people’s answers and asked very good follow up questions as well.

    I also thought that it was very funny. Mostly because sometimes people would answer with a sarcastic comment. I remember that one person started bragging about how he went to church every day which I thought was hilarious. The one that struck me the most surprising was the one guy who was like “oh let me see if I have this poem memorized…” and then recites this whole poem about God and Jesus and all sorts of religious stuff.

    My final thoughts on this film are that it was very thoughtful, even for the watcher. What I mean is that even when I was watching, I wondered how I would answer their questions and how I would react to that situation of being questioned walking on the street. It was an amazing film and I would recommend it to everyone I know.

  • FW Schenck

    I am a sucker for a good documentary. What I find so intriguing about documentaries is exactly what must make them so maddening to a filmmaker such as yourself: the lack of control–you are out there on a wire without a net . . . and you never really know how high off the ground you are, how far you might fall; and yet, for me as a viewer, that sense of danger, that sense of the unknown, is very appealing. When I was younger, I was lucky enough to be an interviewer (the proverbial “man on the street”) in a few documentaries made by some Columbia College (Chicago) grads. Watching -Inquiring Nuns- took me back!

    I thought it was a brilliant move on Quinn’s part to cast nuns as his interviewers and to set the film on a Sunday. I’m not sure what exactly he was thinking, but I do believe the choice of nuns and a Sunday went a LONG way toward influencing respondents’ answers. As you noted, we are not privy to just how much footage ended up on the cutting room floor (the killing floor?) and what choices went into keeping what was kept; again, for me, this is yet another aspect of documentaries that I find fascinating: putatively, a documentary is “objective,” and yet, is there really such a thing as an “objective” film? For me, what makes or breaks a documentary is the editing–the conscious manipulation and juxtaposition of sight and sound to create an experience. For what it is worth, Quinn did seem to play by some sort of rule by presenting the interviews in apparent chronological order (though we cannot know if, in each specific setting, the interviews are presented in the order in which they occurred).

    As noted in other responses, it is interesting to see the nuns becoming more adept at posing questions, eliciting responses, engaging with their subjects. Ultimately, the question arises: just who or what is the subject of this documentary? Yes, the interviewees present a fascinating cross-section of Chicago on one Sunday in the fall of 1967 (another strength of the film), but the nuns comfort and engagement throughout form a through line that is fascinating in its own right. Your instruction to us to think about what, if anything, may have influenced the nuns’ ultimate decisions to leave their order made for an intriguing angle into the documentary.

    I’m still struck by Sister Arne’s observation that people really are interesting, that they really have something to say (I can’t remember exactly what she said) makes me wonder just how stifling and unimaginative convent life must have been for her (and Sister Campion, though I hesitate to mention her in this review as she is clearly a distraction for you), for those would be the people whom she found so uninteresting. And given your suggestion to us as to how we might view the film, I can’t help but wonder if just getting out of the convent for a day, being exposed to the spectrum of human emotions in the spectrum of humanity they encountered wasn’t all the nuns needed to show them that the possibility for happiness lies in connection to community, a community of fallibility striving to do the best they can and looking for moments of joy and happiness in a milieu of uncertainty and pain. Life is a beautiful struggle.

  • Ethan Lavaccare

    I also thought Inquiring Nuns was a very captivating documentary. The idea seems so simple: ask some people on the street if they are happy. Yet, the range of answers received is fascinating. Documentaries have the capability of showing people for who they really are. There are no characters, no settings, no fiction. Only real people. Sometimes real people are the most interesting. It can be hard to put yourself in the shoes of handsome movie star, but we can always relate to real people.

    I thought the inclusion of nuns as the interviewer was an interesting decision. It adds a different dynamic to the interviews. Being approached by some guy with a microphone is very different from being approached by two nuns. There are many effects it may have had on the interviewee. Some may have felt more comfortable. Some may have felt they had to answer more seriously. Certainly, some thought they had to talk about church and God more in their answers. Clearly, not everyone reacted the same way to the nuns. However, that’s what’s so great about this documentary. Many had very different answers and took the question to very different places, causing a wide variety of thoughts and ideas to be presented by just asking one simple question.

    People’s responses could be very different, but there were some similarities. One of the biggest similarities was Vietnam. As this documentary was filmed in 1967, Vietnam was a major issue. Many people brought up this as a reason for what makes them unhappy. Today, this makes this film an important historic look at how the Vietnam War was viewed by the American public and how it effected them. This also goes to show how world events can effect our personal happiness despite us having virtually no control over them. Many people also said that their family doing well made them happy. This shows how despite valuing individualism in our society, we still care deeply for others. These similarities in answers show us what we value as a society.

    Overall, this film is a fascinating study on what we value as people. There are many singular interviews in this documentary that I could probably write about for hours. There are so many interesting ideas posed and a wide range of interesting answers. From the weird to the normal, all the interviews say something about us as people. The truest reality can only be told by real people. That is the power that documentaries have. Inquiring Nuns does an astounding job of showing us that reality.

  • Leizbeth Martinez

    Inquiring Nuns was easily my favorite film we have watched in class so far. Documentaries can always grab my attention but the Inquiring Nuns was a unique type of documentary. I guess it was its simplicity in how the filmmakers seem to randomly ask two nuns to participate in their film and to solely ask people about their happiness. I’m not sure what thought process was behind the decision in seeking nuns to be the interviewers, but it made the film that more interesting and unique.
    At the beginning of the film, the nuns are learning about what their task will be that day. They seem nervous to start but when they begin to interview people, they seem like naturals. It’s interesting to see the progression of their interview skills that I’m sure they didn’t even know they had and the answers they got are even more fascinating.
    Since they are nuns, its easy to catch on to people that answer to the question “Are you happy?” in a way they think they should be answering to nuns. But at the same time, there are people who disregard this variable in the interview, and it seems some answer quite honestly.
    The question seems so simple, yet some have trouble answering. While watching the film I couldn’t help but ask myself what I would say if I had been the one stopped for the interview. Upon thinking about this, I realize the question regarding my happiness is much more complex than I originally thought. This realization fit just right since many interviewees got stuck in their sentences and you can tell how the gears are turning their head to answer.
    I love this film. I loved the nuns, the questions, the answers, and how simple complex it all ended up being.

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