Filmmaker Profile: Gordon Quinn, THE NEW AMERICANS

Posted on June 30, 2009

This summer, Global Voices on PBS WORLD presents an encore of Kartemquin Films' THE NEW AMERICANS. The seven-hour, critically acclaimed documentary miniseries follows four years in the lives of a diverse group of immigrants and refugees as they journey from around the globe to start new lives in America. From heart-wrenching farewells to initial impressions of the United States, from debunked myths to realized dreams, the series captures the modern immigrant experience. 

Presented in one-hour weekly installments from July 5 to August 16, the broadcast will feature updates on what the individuals profiled have been doing since the series first aired. Optional Spanish audio narration will be available. THE NEW AMERICANS can also be found on iTunes

Gordon Quinn, executive producer of THE NEW AMERICANS and creative director and founding member of Kartemquin Films, has been making documentaries for more than 40 years. His first film, Home For Life (1966), was called “an extraordinarily moving documentary” by film critic Roger Ebert and set the direction for Quinn’s filmmaking career—creating cinéma vérité works that investigate and critique society by documenting the unfolding lives of real people.

Quinn became interested in the topic of immigration after finishing Hoop Dreams in 1994 and spending several years doing outreach in support of its public television broadcast. “Telling the stories of immigrant families in the United States is as important now as it was five years ago when we first released this film,” Quinn said. “As news of our rebroadcast goes to press, leaders of immigrant, labor and faith organizations from around the country will be gathering over Fourth of July weekend to build more momentum for the passage of just and humane immigration reform. As the immigration policy debate heats up again, it is important for Americans to learn more about why immigrant families leave their own countries, understand the hopes and dreams they hold for new lives and why they fight so hard to stay in America.” 

The film follows an Indian couple to the Silicon Valley and through the dot-com boom and bust; a Mexican meatpacker struggling to reunite his family in rural Kansas; two Nigerian families trying to escape government persecution (including the sister of slain Ogoni activist Ken Saro-Wiwa); two Los Angeles Dodgers prospects trying to escape the barrios of the Dominican Republic in pursuit of a major league career; and a Palestinian woman who marries into a new life in Chicago only to discover that in the wake of 9/11, she is unable to leave behind the pain of her homeland's conflict. “We wanted to give the audience a sense of what people are leaving behind and the connections people are able to continue nurturing through the Internet,” Quinn explained. “There is a lot of ethnic programming beginning to air on the digital channel and we’re thrilled that Global Voices is offering the broadcast in Spanish. We are glad the series will reach a larger audience of immigrants,” Quinn added. 

The series was executive-produced by Steve James (Hoop Dreams, Stevie) and Gordon Quinn, with Gita Saedi serving as series producer. The five stories were directed by award-winning filmmakers Renee Tajima-Pena, Indu Krishnan, Steve James, Jerry Blumenthal and Gordon Quinn, and Susana Aikin and Carlos Aparicio. THE NEW AMERICANS received funding support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and PBS as well as other organizations. 

Watch THE NEW AMERICANS on Global Voices >>

Download the series on iTunes >>

Buy THE NEW AMERICANS DVD from Kartemquin Films >>

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