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Inquiring Nuns (1968)

Two young nuns explore Chicago--from a supermart to the Art Institute and in front of churches on Sunday--confronting people with the crucial question, "Are you happy?" They meet many ... See full summary »

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Credited cast:
Sister Marie Arne Sister Marie Arne ... Herself
Sister Mary Campion Sister Mary Campion ... Herself
Stepin Fetchit ... Ko


Two young nuns explore Chicago--from a supermart to the Art Institute and in front of churches on Sunday--confronting people with the crucial question, "Are you happy?" They meet many people--a lonely girl, a happy mother, a nun, some lovers, two hippie musicians, a lady sociologist, a college professor, even Stepin Fetchit; and receive many answers--"Happiness is the absence of fear," "Avoiding people," "Rasberries," "Joy in knowing Christ." The humor and sadness of these honest encounters lift the film beyond its interview format to a serious and moving inquiry into the concerns of contemporary man, and also into the circumstances in which men will actually express their concerns. Written by Kartemquin Films

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

nun | cinema verite | See All (2) »


1969 Chicago International Film Festival Official Selection




Not Rated






Release Date:

23 November 2018 (USA) See more »

Filming Locations:

Chicago, Illinois, USA

Company Credits

Production Co:

Kartemquin Films See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


The 1960 French documentary, Chronicle of a Summer, had a similar format in which the filmmakers asked people on the streets of Paris whether they were happy. See more »

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User Reviews

What is happiness?
5 March 2018 | by OwlwiseSee all my reviews

This film is a marvel of purity & simplicity: two young nuns in Chicago, 1968, are invited by two young documentary filmmakers to ask strangers on the street, "Are you happy?" The nuns are open, sincere & utterly without affectations of any kind ... and this undoubtedly helps those interviewed to respond with candor & considered thought. The unpretentious honesty of the situation leads to guileless honesty on the part of those interviewed.

Part of the film's appeal is its time capsule quality. This goes beyond the fashions & styles of 1968, I think, to the overall tone of the people themselves. This is prior to an era of glib irony & snark -- the people from all walks of life are genuinely concerned by the problems of their day, but equally hoping for some sort of unity & understanding among all of them. Some today might call this naiveté ... but to me, it's simply an expression of basic human decency, a deep longing for greater communion with one another.

Interestingly, we don't hear anyone say that they'd be happier if they were rich. The real discussion of money is the knowledge that some are immensely rich, while others live in poverty -- the issue is disparity, not personal gain. Even more interestingly, many of those interviewed explain why they're happy by speaking of a sense of self-knowledge, of being true to themselves. Such were the priorities of so many people at that time, something we could use more of today.

If you see this on DVD, there's more than just the original film, including a follow-up interview with the two (now former) nuns in 2009, talking about the film & their lives since then; and a similar short film made by high school students who had seen the film in 2009. This cellphone-made documentary is lovely, because the people interviewed are very different from the shallow media stereotypes of young people today -- they're just as thoughtful & considered as their predecessors from 1968. This is heartening!

I'll be watching this film again, probably many times in the years to come. It would be perfect for sharing with a group of friends, as it would certainly lead to fascinating discussions. An unexpected treasure in every way!

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