All Posts by Thom Powers

PN 61: Jennifer Brea on “Unrest”

The Oscar Documentary Feature Short List of 15 films includes the underdog entry “Unrest” by first time director Jennifer Brea. Her film explores the disease commonly known as “chronic fatigue syndrome” – a name many patients resent as misleading. The official name is Myalgic Encephalomyelitis or M.E. Jennifer contracted the disease in her late 20s just as she was about to be married to her husband Omar Wasow. Her film chronicles her struggles and highlights the overlooked population of other people who suffer from it. Pure Nonfiction host Thom Powers interviewed Brea during the 2017 Sundance Film Festival where the film had its premiere. It’s now playing on iTunes, Amazon and other platforms.
Unrest website:
Pure Nonfiction is distributed by the TIFF podcast network.

PN 60: Alex Gibney & Blair Foster on “Rolling Stone”

John Lennon, Tina Turner, Hunter Thomspon and Annie Leibovitz are among the many figures covered in the new 2-part HBO documentary “Rolling Stone: Stories from the Edge.” Filmmakers Alex Gibney and Blair Foster talk to Pure Nonfiction host Thom Powers about telling the magazine’s 50-year history. The conversation also touches upon “Sticky Fingers,” the recent biography  written by Joe Hagan about Rolling Stone founder Jann Wenner. The documentary and book are separate projects that shed light on the magazine in different ways.

On Twitter: @alexgibneyfilms @JigsawProds @thompowers @PureNonfiction

Pure Nonfiction is distributed by the TIFF podcast network.

PN 59: Yance Ford on “Strong Island”

Winner of the Gotham Awards for Best Documentary, “Strong Island” investigates the 1992 killing of filmmaker Yance Ford’s brother William in Long Island. With a black victim and a white shooter, race was a key factor in the case. Pure Nonfiction host Thom Powers talks to Yance about how the Ford family felt betrayed by the justice system. “Strong Island” is now streaming on Netflix.

On Twitter: @yford @thompowers @PureNonfiction

This interview was recorded at SVA MFA Social Documentary program in New York City.

Pure Nonfiction is distributed by the TIFF podcast network.

PN 58: Brett Morgen on Jane Goodall

Jane Goodall is the subject of the new documentary “Jane” that draws upon rediscovered footage from the 1960s capturing her early work with chimpanzees. Pure Nonfiction host Thom Powers talks to “Jane” director Brett Morgen at TIFF Doc Conference about the challenges of making the film and working with composer Philip Glass.

Brett Morgen’s films discussed in this episode
“On the Ropes” (1999)
“The Kid Stays in the Picture” (2002)
“Chicago 10” (2007)
“Crossfire Hurricane” (2012)
“Cobain: Montage of Heck” (2015)
“Jane” (2017)

Also discussed: “For All Mankind,” directed by Al Reinert with a score by Brian Eno.

On Twitter: @BrettMorgen @thompowers @PureNonfiction

Pure Nonfiction is distributed by the TIFF podcast network.

PN 57: DOC NYC Preview

Eric Clapton, Susan Sarandon, Dan Rather are among over 300 special guests coming to the 8th annual DOC NYC festival, running from November 9-16. Pure Nonfiction host Thom Powers is the festival’s artistic director. On his episode, he interviews his colleagues Raphaela Neihausen and Basil Tsiokos to guide listeners through the bounty of films and guests. Even if you won’t be in New York City for the festival, this conversation is full of film tips and discoveries.

Streetlight Harmonies (with Doo Wop singers from The Crystals, The Drifters, The Chantels)

Soufra (with Susan Sarandon)
Fail State (with Dan Rather)
Metropolis Competition (on New York stories)
Itzhak (with Itzhak Perlman)
Hello Hello Hello : Lee Ranaldo : Electric Trim (with Sonic Youth’s Lee Ranaldo)
Eric Clapton: Life in 12 Bars (with Eric Clapton)
Short List section
Risk (with Laura Poitras)
Faces Places (with Agnès Varda)
Wormwood (with Errol Morris)


The Final Year (opening night)
Eurotrump (US premiere)
Sky & Ground (world premiere)
Sonic Cinema section
Father’s Kingdom (world premiere)
Repeat Attenders (world premiere)
Centerstage section
A Murder in Mansfield (world premiere)
True Crime section


Mole Man (world premiere)
The Stranger (US premiere)
Naila and the Uprising (world premiere)
The Judge (also discussed on PN 54)
Silas (also discussed on PN 54)
Love Means Zero (also discussed on PN 53)

Coming up on Pure Nonfiction ep 58: a discussion of DOC NYC PRO 8-day conference.

Pure Nonfiction is distributed by the TIFF podcast network.

This episode was recorded at SVA’s MFA SocDoc department.

PN 56: Agnès Varda & JR on “Faces Places”

Winner of the Cannes Golden Eye Documentary Award, “Faces Places” is a wondrous collaboration between the 89-year-old Agnès Varda and the 34-year-old street artist known as JR. In the film, they visit small towns in France, creating mural projects that celebrate workers on farms, docks and factory grounds. We also witness the deepening of their friendship across generations. The film, now in theaters, was selected for the DOC NYC Short List that highlights 15 of the year’s standout documentaries. Pure Nonfiction host Thom Powers (who served on the Cannes Golden Eye jury) interviews Varda and JR about their journey.

You can find Varda’s past work on Sundance Now and Filmstruck.

Pure Nonfiction is distributed by the TIFF podcast network.

PN 55: Frederick Wiseman – From “Titicut Follies” to “Ex Libris”

“Ex Libris – The New York Public Library” is that latest film from documentary master Frederick Wiseman. This year also marks the 50th anniversary of his first film “Titicut Follies” set at the Bridgewater State Hospital for the criminally insane. Pure Nonfiction host Thom Powers talks to Wiseman about both those films and others in his long career.

“Ex Libris” will have its North American premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival; and opens on September 13 at New York’s Film Forum.

Zipporah Films website:

Pure Nonfiction is distributed by the TIFF podcast network.

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