Rank #1: 110: Joshua Wong on Hong Kong
“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
Rank #2: 109: Running with Beto
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
Rank #3: 108: Asif Kapadia on Ayrton Senna, Amy Winehouse & Diego Maradona
“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.
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Rank #4: 107: Rachel Lears on filming Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
“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.
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Rank #5: 106: Werner Herzog on “Meeting Gorbachev”
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
Rank #6: 105: Sam Green & David Harrington on Kronos Quartet
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.
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Rank #7: 104: Penny Lane on “Hail Satan?”
“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
Rank #8: 103: Alison Klayman on Steve Bannon in “The Brink”
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.
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Rank #9: 102: Baseball on Drugs in “Screwball”
“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.”
Rank #10: 101: Alex Gibney on how Theranos fooled Silicon Valley
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
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