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.
125: Garrett Bradley on “Time”
Garrett Bradley is having a moment. In January, she won the Sundance Documentary Directing Prize for her film “Time” that comes to Amazon this month; and she has a multi-channel video installation coming to MoMA in November. “Time” focuses on the quest of a New Orleans mother known as Fox Rich to get her husband out of prison over more than 20 years. Pure Nonfiction host Thom Powers talks to Garrett about growing up as the daughter of artists, the making of her two companion films “Alone” and “Time,” her relationship to New Orleans where both films take place, and how she’s responded to the tumultuous events of this year.Footnotes: Garrett references the 2010 article in The New York Times What Is It About 20-Somethings? For further reading, see interviews with her in The New York Times, Filmmaker Magazine, and Film Comment.
On Twitter: @thompowers @PureNonfiction
124: Jeff Orlowski on “The Social Dilemma”
“The Social Dilemma” interviews former insiders at Google, Facebook and Twitter who confess they’re now afraid of the technology they helped to create. Pure Nonfiction host Thom Powers interviews the film’s director Jeff Orlowski, who previously made “Chasing Ice” and “Chasing Coral.”Links to references that arise in the conversation:Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now book by Jaron LanierThe Mechanics and Psychology Behind the Social Dilemma Medium article by Jeff Seibert Moment led by Tim KendallOne Project led by Justin RosensteinThe Center for Humane Technology led by Tristan HarrisI Have Blood on My Hands Buzzfeed article on Facebook whistleblower Sophie ZhangCoded Bias documentary directed by Shalini KantayyaWeapons of Math Destruction book by Cathy O’NeilAlgorithms of Oppression book by Safiya Umoja Noble
123: Yoruba Richen on Breonna Taylor & Harry Belafonte
The New York Times Presents episode on “The Killing of Breonna Taylor” made its debut in September, the same week as The Sit-In: Harry Belafonte Hosts the Tonight Show. Yoruba Richen directed both documentaries and discusses them with Pure Nonfiction host Thom Powers. Starting in June, Yoruba investigated the Louisville police shooting of Taylor in collaboration with reporter Rukmini Callimachi. Her project on Belafonte looks back to 1968 when he took the place of Johnny Carson for one week as host of the Tonight Show. The film was inspired by an article in The Nation by Joan Walsh. In talking about documentaries that rely on archives, Yoruba quotes filmmaker Shola Lynch: “commercial archives need to understand they can’t hold our history hostage.” Yoruba’s upcoming project is How It Feels to Be Free for PBS American Masters. On Twitter: @redrubes14 @thompowers @PureNonfiction
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.
Update: On Oct 1, hajooj and four other artists were released from prison. Six other artists remained imprisoned, as reported in Vice.
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
Customer ReviewsSee All
A must-listen for any doc enthusiast
I like all kinds of films, and there are MANY film podcasts to choose from. But if you LOVE documentaries as I do, Thom Powers’ PURE NONFICTION is one of the few podcasts (the only one?) that focuses on documentary films. Powers interviews superb filmmakers, both new and familiar, and often highlights docs before they find distribution. This is an excellent show, and with documentaries appearing to be increasingly popular, here’s hoping PURE NONFICTION will increase in popularity, too.
The best documentary podcast. Love the stories. Would love to hear from less well known docs too including shorts. Thanks for your hard work!
I found this on new and noteworthy and listened because I like true crime and true crime documentaries. This was a really great look at the filmmaking side and I am going to keep listening even to the episodes that are about people who don't do true crime shows.