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Pure Nonfiction: Inside Documentary Film

Updated about 1 month ago

Society & Culture
TV & Film
Personal Journals
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If you love documentary films, hear from the top storytellers on Pure Nonfiction. Host Thom Powers is well-connected in this world as a documentary curator for the Toronto International Film Festival, DOC NYC, and SundanceNow Doc Club. He leads conversations that are frank, funny and revealing. Listen to interviews with Oscar-winning filmmakers Barbara Kopple, Alex Gibney, and Roger Ross Williams; as well as the directors of “Making a Murderer,” “Weiner” and “OJ: Made in America.” Often the stories behind the scenes are as dramatic as what’s on the screen. On Twitter, Facebook, Instagram: @purenonfiction. Subscribe now.

Read more

If you love documentary films, hear from the top storytellers on Pure Nonfiction. Host Thom Powers is well-connected in this world as a documentary curator for the Toronto International Film Festival, DOC NYC, and SundanceNow Doc Club. He leads conversations that are frank, funny and revealing. Listen to interviews with Oscar-winning filmmakers Barbara Kopple, Alex Gibney, and Roger Ross Williams; as well as the directors of “Making a Murderer,” “Weiner” and “OJ: Made in America.” Often the stories behind the scenes are as dramatic as what’s on the screen. On Twitter, Facebook, Instagram: @purenonfiction. Subscribe now.

iTunes Ratings

206 Ratings
Average Ratings
155
23
9
7
12

Great

By HTS22 - Jun 19 2017
Read more
Great podcast, well done. Please do a podcast on the film "Vaxxed."

Very well put together

By Pete from Sanford - Nov 10 2016
Read more
I could get used to this!!

iTunes Ratings

206 Ratings
Average Ratings
155
23
9
7
12

Great

By HTS22 - Jun 19 2017
Read more
Great podcast, well done. Please do a podcast on the film "Vaxxed."

Very well put together

By Pete from Sanford - Nov 10 2016
Read more
I could get used to this!!
Cover image of Pure Nonfiction: Inside Documentary Film

Pure Nonfiction: Inside Documentary Film

Latest release on Feb 14, 2020

Read more

If you love documentary films, hear from the top storytellers on Pure Nonfiction. Host Thom Powers is well-connected in this world as a documentary curator for the Toronto International Film Festival, DOC NYC, and SundanceNow Doc Club. He leads conversations that are frank, funny and revealing. Listen to interviews with Oscar-winning filmmakers Barbara Kopple, Alex Gibney, and Roger Ross Williams; as well as the directors of “Making a Murderer,” “Weiner” and “OJ: Made in America.” Often the stories behind the scenes are as dramatic as what’s on the screen. On Twitter, Facebook, Instagram: @purenonfiction. Subscribe now.

115: Uncovering China’s “One Child Nation”

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“One Child Nation” investigates China’s policy of pressuring families to have only one child. Filmmakers Nanfu Wang and Jialing Zhang grew up in China during the years of the policy that lasted from 1979 to 2015. Pure Nonfiction host Thom Powers interviews them about the making of the film and their strategies to avoid government surveillance and intimidation. Nanfu previously came under suspicion from Chinese authorities for her first film “Hooligan Sparrow” about a female human rights activist.


On Twitter: @OneChildNation @WangNanfu @thompowers @PureNonfiction

The post 115: Uncovering China’s “One Child Nation” appeared first on Pure Nonfiction.

Feb 14 2020

28mins

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114: “For Sama” Inside Syria

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The Oscar-nominated documentary “For Sama” takes a personal journey through the war in Syria. Waad Al-Kateab became a citizen journalist, capturing the siege of Aleppo and events of her own life. We watch her fall in love and get married to a doctor, Hamza, who shares her commitment to stay in Aleppo. The film is framed as a message for their daughter Sama who’s born during the war. In 2016, Waad and her family were finally forced to evacuate. In exile, she teamed with British filmmaker Edward Watts to shape her footage through a long editing process. Pure Nonfiction host Thom Powers interviews Waad and Edward about their collaboration.
On Twitter: @forsamafilm @thompowers @PureNonfiction

The post 114: “For Sama” Inside Syria appeared first on Pure Nonfiction.

Feb 07 2020

28mins

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113: Inside “American Factory”

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Barack and Michelle Obama picked the film “American Factory” to be the first film backed by their company Higher Ground. Now the film is Oscar nominated for Best Documentary Feature and available on Netflix. 

Pure Nonfiction host Thom Powers interviews filmmakers Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert about their long history filming inside the factory in their hometown of Dayton, Ohio. They previously made “The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant” that chronicled the demise of its original incarnation. That film was Oscar nominated for Best Documentary Short in 2009. Several years later, the city gained new hope when the Chinese company Fuyao reopened the plant to manufacture industrial strength glass for vehicles. Bognar and Reichert gained access to all levels of the factory from the Chinese management to the American workers. They benefited from working with Chinese field producers Lulu Men, Siyan Liu, Danni Wang, and co-producers Mijie Li and Yiqian Zhang.

The interview lingers over the challenges of maintaining such intimate access, especially after the tensions rise over a battle to unionize at the factory. “It’s one thing to gain access and it’s another thing to gain trust,” says Reichert.

This conversation was recorded in New York at the School of Visual Arts MFA program for Social Documentary in August 2019. Two recent events loomed in the background and come up in the conversation. One is the passing of documentary pioneer D.A. Pennbaker. The other is a mass shooting in Dayton that took place just a few days prior.

On Twitter: @thompowers @PureNonfiction

The post 113: Inside “American Factory” appeared first on Pure Nonfiction.

Jan 30 2020

38mins

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112: Sundance 2020 Preview

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Hear insider tips and exclusive clips on documentaries at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. Pure Nonfiction host Thom Powers got an early look at over 25 films premiering at the festival. In this annual preview episode he discusses his favorites that will be looking to secure distribution deals. 
Last year, our Sundance Preview gave listeners early exposure to films like “Knock Down the House” and “American Factory” that went on to Sundance acclaim. This year, Powers’ picks include:
The Fight
Boys State
The Dissident
Whirlybird
Time
Giving Voice
The Truffle Hunters
The Mole Agent

On Twitter: @thompowers @PureNonfiction

The post 112: Sundance 2020 Preview appeared first on Pure Nonfiction.

Jan 19 2020

19mins

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111: Profiling Toni Morrison

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Toni Morrison, who passed away in August at age 88, is the subject of a new documentary currently in theaters “Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am.” Filmmaker Timothy Greenfield-Sanders had known Morrison since the early 1980s when he began photographing her. In 2006, she gave him the inspiration to create the documentary trilogy “The Black List” in collaboration with Elvis Mitchell.
Pure Nonfiction host Thom Powers interviewed Greenfield-Sanders in May at the IFC Center. They discuss his long history with Morrison, his interview with Oprah and his collaborators on the project including interviewer Sandra Guzman.

On Twitter: @ToniMorrison @tgsfilm @thompowers @PureNonfiction

The post 111: Profiling Toni Morrison appeared first on Pure Nonfiction.

Aug 26 2019

17mins

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110: Joshua Wong on Hong Kong

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“Joshua: Teenager vs Superpower” on Netflix follows the Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong who started leading protests at the age of 14. His actions helped give rise to a democracy movement that brought over a million people to the streets this summer. Pure Nonfiction host Thom Powers interviewed Joshua and the film’s director Joe Piscatella at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2017 when the documentary made its debut and Joshua was 19. Since then, Joshua served time in prison for charges related to organizing a demonstration. He was released from prison after two months in June 2019.

On Twitter: @joshuawongcf @PureNonfiction @thompowers

The post 110: Joshua Wong on Hong Kong appeared first on Pure Nonfiction.

Jul 21 2019

22mins

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109: Running with Beto

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Beto O’Rourke rose from obscurity to political stardom in 2018 when he ran for the Texas Senate seat against incumbent Ted Cruz.
Filmmaker David Modigliani follows that journey in “Running with Beto,” now playing on HBO. On this podcast, Modigliani is joined by three Beto volunteers who are prominently featured in the film: Shannon Gay, Marcel McClinton and Amanda Salas. Their discussion was moderated by DOC NYC senior programmer Karen McMullen in front of a live audience at New York’s Metrograph theater. 

On Twitter: @PureNonfiction @thompowers

The post 109: Running with Beto appeared first on Pure Nonfiction.

May 30 2019

29mins

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108: Asif Kapadia on Ayrton Senna, Amy Winehouse & Diego Maradona

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“Diego Maradona”, making its world premiere at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival, is the latest from director Asif Kapadia. Pure Nonfiction host Thom Powers interviewed Asif about that film along with his previous documentaries “Senna” (about Formula One race car driver Ayrton Senna) and the Oscar-winning “Amy” (about singer Amy Winehouse). Their conversation took place in March at the CPH:DOX festival in Copenhagen.

On Twitter: @asifkapadia @PureNonfiction @thompowers

The post 108: Asif Kapadia on Ayrton Senna, Amy Winehouse & Diego Maradona appeared first on Pure Nonfiction.

May 16 2019

39mins

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107: Rachel Lears on filming Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

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“Knock Down the House” captures four working class candidates running for Congress in West Virginia, Nevada, Missouri and New York City. That last one is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who overcame enormous odds to become the youngest woman elected to Congress at age 29.

Director/producer/cinematographer Rachel Lears and her husband producer/editor Robin Blotnick follow AOC early on from her days as a bartender. Their previous film “The Hand that Feeds,” about immigrants forming a union in a Manhattan deli, won the 2014 DOC NYC Audience Award.

“Knock Down the House” is now playing on Netflix. This interview, moderated by DOC NYC senior programmer Karen McMullen, was recorded with a live audience for the screening series Pure Nonfiction at IFC Center.

On Twitter: @jubileefilms @PureNonfiction @thompowers

The post 107: Rachel Lears on filming Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez appeared first on Pure Nonfiction.

May 02 2019

27mins

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106: Werner Herzog on “Meeting Gorbachev”

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Werner Herzog talks about the history of Germany, the Soviet Union and dispenses marital advice on this episode. His latest film “Meeting Gorbachev” is based on interviews he conducted with the former Soviet leader over 2017-18. The film was co-directed by his longtime producer André Singer.
Pure Nonfiction host Thom Powers interviewed Herzog at TIFF Doc Conference in September 2018. Hear their previous interview about “Into the Inferno” on episode 29.

On Twitter: @PureNonfiction @thompowers

The post 106: Werner Herzog on “Meeting Gorbachev” appeared first on Pure Nonfiction.

Apr 25 2019

47mins

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105: Sam Green & David Harrington on Kronos Quartet

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Kronos Quartet performs live for the documentary “A Thousand Thoughts” about the group’s history. The film is directed by Sam Green, who narrates the live performances, and Joe Bini.

Pure Nonfiction host Thom Powers interviews Green and Kronos founder David Harrington about this unique act of live cinema.

On Twitter: @kronosquartet @PureNonfiction @thompowers

The post 105: Sam Green & David Harrington on Kronos Quartet appeared first on Pure Nonfiction.

Apr 18 2019

49mins

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104: Penny Lane on “Hail Satan?”

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“Hail Satan?” looks at the Satanic Temple that started six years ago as political provocation and grew into an international movement. Director Penny Lane (“Our Nixon,” ‘Nuts!”) and producer Gabriel Sedgwick got drawn into the topic by a Village Voice article by Anna Merlan.
Pure Nonfiction host Thom Powers interviews Lane about key members of the Satanic Temple including co-founder Lucien Greaves and Detroit artist Jex Blackmore. Lane chronicles how tensions arise from both outside and inside the organization.

On Twitter: @lennypane @hailsatanfilm @PureNonfiction @thompowers

The post 104: Penny Lane on “Hail Satan?” appeared first on Pure Nonfiction.

Apr 11 2019

27mins

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103: Alison Klayman on Steve Bannon in “The Brink”

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Director Alison Klayman (“Ai Wei Wei: Never Sorry”) spent a year on the road with Steve Bannon as he met with European right wing leaders to spread his nationalist ideology. That journey is captured in “The Brink.”

The film’s producer Marie Therese Guirgis started the project with a Bannon connection from outside politics. Fifteen years ago, she worked at the arthouse film distributor Wellspring that was acquired by Bannon’s media company. Guirgis and Klayman discuss what they learned about Bannon and the making of “The Brink” with Pure Nonfiction’s Raphaela Neihausen. 


On Twitter: @aliklay @TheBrinkFilm @PureNonfiction

The post 103: Alison Klayman on Steve Bannon in “The Brink” appeared first on Pure Nonfiction.

Apr 04 2019

34mins

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102: Baseball on Drugs in “Screwball”

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“Cocaine Cowboys” director Billy Corben and producer Alfred Spellman talk to Pure Nonfiction  host Thom Powers about their new comic documentary “Screwball” covering  the baseball drug scandal that disgraced Yankee Alex Rodriguez and other players.

Hear their previous interview on episode 42 discussing “Cocaine Cowboys.”

On Twitter: @billycorben @alfredspellman @thompowers @PureNonfiction

The post 102: Baseball on Drugs in “Screwball” appeared first on Pure Nonfiction.

Mar 28 2019

39mins

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101: Alex Gibney on how Theranos fooled Silicon Valley

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HBO’s documentary “The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley” looks at the case of Elizabeth Holmes who created the company Theranos promising to revolutionize the field of blood-testing. The company swiftly rose to be valued at billions of dollars, but was eventually exposed as a fraud.

Host Thom Powers interviews director Alex Gibney and producer Erin Edeiken about the making of the film.

Pure Nonfiction’s theme music is composed by Andre Williams who passed away this week at age 82. We send our condolences to his family and friends. See Tricia Todd’s documentary “Agile, Mobile, Hostile: A Year with Andre Williams”

On Twitter: @alexgibneyfilm @HBODocs @thompowers @PureNonfiction

The post 101: Alex Gibney on how Theranos fooled Silicon Valley appeared first on Pure Nonfiction.

Mar 21 2019

37mins

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100: Inside “The Case Against Adnan Syed” on HBO

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Serial, the podcast, won millions of listeners to the story of the 1999 Baltimore murder of Hae Min Lee that sent her ex-boyfriend Adnan Syed to prison. Now the case is re-opened by private investigators in a new 4-part series “The Case Against Adnan Syed” on HBO. Episode one had its world premiere at Pure Nonfiction at IFC Center.

Host Thom Powers interviewed director Amy Berg, author and advocate Rabia Chaudry, and Adnan’s classmate Laura Estrada Sandoval who appears in the series.

On Twitter: @disarmingfilms @rabiasquared @HBODocs @thompowers @PureNonfiction

The post 100: Inside “The Case Against Adnan Syed” on HBO appeared first on Pure Nonfiction.

Mar 09 2019

29mins

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99: D.A. Pennebaker, Seth Meyers, John Mulaney & more on Stephen Sondheim’s “Company”

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D.A. Pennebaker’s1970  documentary “Original Cast Album: Company” captures the dramatic recording session of the Stephen Sondheim musical. The film is a cult classic among Broadway fans. Now it’s the target of a loving parody in the third season of Documentary Now!, the IFC TV series created by Seth Meyers, Fred Armisen, Bill Hader and Rhys Thomas. Their version is called “Original Cast Album: Co-op” set inside a New York co-op apartment building.

Both Company and Co-op were screened as a double feature for Pure Nonfiction at IFC Center on February 19. Host Thom Powers led a discussion with cast and crew of both productions. Featured on this podcast from “Company” are D.A. Pennebaker, cast members Teri Ralston, Dona Vaughn, Marilyn Saunders, orchestrator Jonathan Tunick and record producer Tom Shepard.

From the cast and crew of Co-op, we hear from co-creator Seth Meyers, writer and guest star John Mulaney, director Alex Buono, plus actors Renée Elise Goldsberry (“Hamilton”), Alex Brightman (“School of Rock”) and Richard Kind (“Red Oaks”).

The discussion combines talks that took place at IFC Center on February 19, 2019 and a previous screening at DOC NYC on November 9, 2018.

On Twitter: @PHfilms @sethmeyers @mulaney @AlexBuono @ReneeGoldsberry @ABrightMonster @RealRichardKind @thompowers @purenonfiction

The post 99: D.A. Pennebaker, Seth Meyers, John Mulaney & more on Stephen Sondheim’s “Company” appeared first on Pure Nonfiction.

Feb 28 2019

38mins

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98: Tim Wardle, Sandi Tan & RaMell Ross on “Pushing Boundaries”

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“Three Identical Strangers,” “Shirkers” and the Oscar-nominated “Hale Country This Morning, This Evening” are the focus of this conversation about pushing stylistic boundaries in documentary. Pure Nonfiction host Thom Powers interviewed the filmmakers at DOC NYC in November 2018.
This is the fourth and final installment of conversations from the DOC NYC Short List. Previous episodes were:

90: Getting Political 
91: Portrait Documentaries
95: Getting Personal

On Twitter: @ttwardle @sanditan @ramellross @thompowers @purenonfiction





The post 98: Tim Wardle, Sandi Tan & RaMell Ross on “Pushing Boundaries” appeared first on Pure Nonfiction.

Feb 21 2019

57mins

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97: “United Skates” with Tina Brown & Reggie Brown

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Tribeca Audience Prize winner “United Skates” treats you to a dazzling display of roller skating styles in black communities across America. For several generations, roller rinks provided a place for skaters to come together in harmonious movement. Now that tradition is threatened by rinks closing throughout the country. Cities are more likely to give tax breaks to corporate stores than to havens of black culture. Filmmakers Tina Brown and Dyana Winkler spent several years documenting the trend of rink closures and the activist skaters fighting to keep them open.
Host Thom Powers interviews Tina Brown and skater Reggie Brown (no relation). The conversation took place in front of a live audience at Pure Nonfiction at IFC Center in New York City. “United Skates” will be available on HBO starting February 18.

On Twitter: @UnitedSkatesDoc @HBODocs @thompowers @purenonfiction

If you’re in New York, visit us at Pure Nonfiction at IFC Center.

The post 97: “United Skates” with Tina Brown & Reggie Brown appeared first on Pure Nonfiction.

Feb 14 2019

26mins

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96: Talal Derki on filming in Syria

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Syrian director Talal Derki has twice won the Sundance Film Festival’s World Cinema Best Documentary Award for “Return to Homs” and “Of Fathers and Sons.”

That first film traced the early years of Syria’s civil war. Derki working with a team of camera people followed two peaceful protestors – national soccer star Abdul Basset Sarout and his friend Ossama – as they grow more militant and take up arms.
By the time “Return to Homs”  debuted in 2013, Derki and his wife had become exiles in Berlin with their young son. But Derki quickly returned to Syria to embark on his next film “Of Fathers and Sons.” For two and half years, he filmed in northern Syria with a jihadist named Abu Osama and his family. Osama was one of the founders of Al-Nusra, the Syrian arm of Al-Qaeda. In the film, we watch his sons Osama (13) and Ayman (12) go through jihadi training camp. “Of Fathers and Sons” is now Oscar-nominated for Best Documentary Feature.

Pure Nonfiction host Thom Powers interviewed Derki on the morning he was headed to the Oscars nominees brunch. Derki discusses the life-threatening situations involved in making both films.

On Twitter: @thompowers @purenonfiction

The post 96: Talal Derki on filming in Syria appeared first on Pure Nonfiction.

Feb 07 2019

43mins

Play

iTunes Ratings

206 Ratings
Average Ratings
155
23
9
7
12

Great

By HTS22 - Jun 19 2017
Read more
Great podcast, well done. Please do a podcast on the film "Vaxxed."

Very well put together

By Pete from Sanford - Nov 10 2016
Read more
I could get used to this!!