If you love documentary films, hear from the top storytellers on Pure Nonfiction. Past guests include Werner Herzog, Ava DuVernay, Errol Morris, Raoul Peck, Laura Poitras, Alex Gibney and more. Host Thom Powers leads conversations that are frank, funny and revealing. He has deep experience as a festival curator at TIFF and DOC NYC. He also hosts WNYC’s Documentary of the Week podcast.
122: Free hajooj kuka
The Sudanese filmmaker hajooj kuka (who spells his name in lowercase) came to prominence in 2014 with his film “Beats of the Antonov” that won the People’s Choice Documentary Award at the Toronto International Film Festival. On September 17, 2020 he was sentenced to prison in Khartoum along with four other artists on dubious charges of disturbing the peace. Pure Nonfiction host Thom Powers talks to hajooj’s longtime producer Steven Markovitz who’s helping to organize the campaign #ReleaseTheArtistsSudan with the support of the International Coalition of Filmmakers at Risk, the Academy of Motion Pictures (in which hajooj is a member) and others around the world.For other resources, see Variety’s review of “Beats of the Antonov” and hear hajooj interviewed in 2018 on The Guardian’s Small Changes podcast.
On Twitter: @hajooj @stevenmarkovitz @bigworldcinema @thompowers @PureNonfiction
121: Mark Cousins’ Cinematic Road Trips
Mark Cousins has changed the way film history is understood. He opened up a global perspective in his book and film series called The Story of Film and now he’s uncovered a hidden history in Women Make Film. The 14-part series is rolling out on TCM this fall along with 100 films by international women directors. Tilda Swinton, one of Mark’s longtime collaborators, is executive producer and a key voice in the series. In June 2019, Pure Nonfiction host Thom Powers interviewed Mark in his hometown of Belfast for the inaugural Docs Ireland festival. Mark reflects on his connection to the city that he also explored in the film I Am Belfast. The wide-spanning conversation covers an earlier book that Mark edited with Kevin MacDonald Imagining Reality: The Faber Book of Documentary and his efforts to look beyond the western canon. He describes his personal discoveries of nonfiction directors like Japan’s Noriaki Tsuchimoto and India’s Mani Kaul. In discussing “Women Make Film,” Mark highlights the work of Malvina Ursianu and Xhanfise Keko as examples of directors who were largely ignored by film history. Throughout the conversation, he returns to the theme of looking to re-enchant himself with cinema.
On Twitter: @markcousinsfilm #WomenMakeFilm @thompowers @PureNonfiction
120: Cameron Bailey on #TIFF20 and Planet Africa
Cameron Bailey is the artistic director of the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). The 2020 festival takes place September 10-19 adjusting to the extraordinary circumstances of the pandemic. In this interview with TIFF documentary programmer Thom Powers, Cameron discusses what shaped his career path and explains the significance of the image on his office wall (of M’Bissine Thérèse Diop in Black Girl). He also describes the history of TIFF’s Planet Africa section that he started in 1995. In honor of Planet Africa’s 25th anniversary, Cameron will host free online conversations on its Origin Stories (Sept 13) and on Black Film Now (Sept 16).Among the documentaries playing at #TIFF20 are works by past guests of Pure Nonfiction. Hear their prior interviews and learn more about their new films at these links:Frederick Wiseman’s City HallWerner Herzog and Clive Oppenheimer’s Fireball: Visitors from a Darker World Sam Pollard’s MLK/FBI Gianfranco Rosi’s Notturno Dawn Porter’s The Way I See It
Other films discussed in this episode are Downstream to Kinshasa and 40 Years a Prisoner.
On Twitter: @cameron_tiff @TIFF_NET @thompowers @PureNonfiction
119: Going Undercover with “The Mole Agent”
Comedy meets poignancy in Maite Alberdi’s “The Mole Agent.” The Chilean director follows a private investigator who goes undercover to infiltrate a retirement home. His client fears the staff is mistreating the residents. Inside the retirement community, the mole agent Sergio witnesses a generation struggling with loneliness and lost connections to their families. Alberdi’s earlier film “Tea Time” (2014) also looked at senior citizens and won countless festival awards. She followed with “The Grown Ups” about people with Down Syndrome striving to gain more independence in middle age. Her films have a distinct visual style that appear more like fiction than a documentary with careful framing shot with heavy cameras on a tri-pod rather than handheld. Some viewers wonder how much of her films are constructed. She answers that question and more in this interview with Pure Nonfiction host Thom Powers. “The Mole Agent” is currently available on VOD on Apple, Amazon and other platforms.On Twitter: @moleagentfilm @thompowers @PureNonfiction
118: Meet Ja’Tovia Gary
Ja’Tovia Gary was recently profiled in The New York Times. If you don’t know her work yet, let this podcast be your introduction. Her most recent project “The Giverny Document” exists both as a 42-minute film and an art installation. It’s a work that makes eclectic connections between Nina Simone, Claude Monet’s gardens and the police killing of Philando Castile. It also pays homage to the classic French documentary “Chronicle of a Summer” as Ja’Tovia stands on a Harlem street corner to ask Black women, “Do you feel safe?” You can read more about her work at jatovia.com and newnegressfilmsociety.com.On Twitter: @jatovia @thompowers @PureNonfiction
117: The Making of McMillion$
McMillion$ is a 6-part HBO series that details an elaborate scam over the McDonald’s Monopoly game. For over 10 years, the key game pieces worth up to a million dollars were being stolen and given to hand-picked “winners.” Pure Nonfiction host Thom Powers interviews the filmmakers James Lee Hernandez and Brian Lazarte who spent several years uncovering stories about the scam told for the first time. The conversation also includes two people featured in the series: A.J. Glomb who got involved in the distribution of stolen game pieces and George Chandler who unwittingly received a stolen piece worth a million dollars. This conversation was recorded before a live audience at the IFC Center in February, 2020.On Twitter: @IAmJLH @thompowers @PureNonfiction #McMillionsHBO