All Posts by Thom Powers

82: Kevin MacDonald on Whitney Houston

Whitney Houston had an angelic voice, but fought demons in her personal life. The new documentary “Whitney” explores her talents and tribulations. Filmmaker Kevin MacDonald previously directed the documentaries “Marley,” “Touching the Void,” and the Oscar-winning “One Day in September,” as well as the fiction film “The Last King of Scotland.” Pure Nonfiction host Thom Powers talks to MacDonald about creating a nuanced portrait of a complicated singer.

On Twitter: @Whitneythefilm @thompowers @PureNonfiction

This interview was recorded at SVA’s MFA Social Documentary program.

Pure Nonfiction is distributed by the TIFF podcast network.

81: “Three Identical Strangers” director Tim Wardle

Separated at birth, the triplets Bobby, Eddy and David discovered each other by accident at age 19 in 1980. They became media sensations. Madonna cast them in a movie and they opened a Manhattan restaurant called triplets. Their lives took many twists and turns that are documented in the film “Three Identical Strangers.” Pure Nonfiction host Thom Powers interviewed British director Tim Wardle at the Miami Film Festival in March. The conversation avoids spoilers.

On Twitter: @ttwardle @thompowers @PureNonfiction

Pure Nonfiction is distributed by the TIFF podcast network.

80: Jonathan Safran Foer & Christopher Quinn on “Eating Animals”

Relax, “Eating Animals” isn’t proselytizing for vegetarianism. But author Jonathan Safran Foer and filmmaker Christopher Quinn are asking you to think more seriously about factory farming. Pure Nonfiction host Thom Powers interviews Foer and Quinn touching upon how factory farmed meat affects our health, the environment and the economy. Foer also remembers his discussion with Anthony Bourdain on this topic.

On Twitter: @EatingAnimalsUS @thompowers @PureNonfiction

This interview was recorded at SVA MFA Social Documentary Program.

Pure Nonfiction is distributed by the TIFF podcast network.

79: Judd Apatow on Garry Shandling

Comedian Garry Shandling is remembered for creating two ground-breaking TV shows: “It’s Garry Shandling’s Show” and “The Larry Sanders Show.” He was also a key mentor to Hollywood writer and director Judd Apatow (“The 40-Year-Old Virgin”; “Knocked Up”). After Shandling’s death in 2016, Apatow gained access to his mentor’s diaries. He draws upon them for his two-part HBO documentary “The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling.”

Pure Nonfiction host Thom Powers interviews Apatow about Shandling and his search for meaning. Apatow gives credit to his collaborators including producer Michael Bonfiglio, editor Joe Beshenkovsky and composer Mike Andrews. He also invokes Doug Block’s documentary “51 Birch Street”  as an influence on putting diaries into a documentary.

The conversation touches upon the #MeToo movement and references two articles by Janis Hirsch:

Pure Nonfiction is distributed by the TIFF podcast network.

78: Liz Garbus on The New York Times in “The Fourth Estate”

Oscar-nominated filmmaker Liz Garbus (“What Happened Miss Simone?”) follows The New York Times team of reporters and editors covering the first year of the Trump administration in the four-part Showtime series The Fourth Estate. Garbus talks to Pure Nonfiction  host Thom Powers about the making of the series. She was previously interviewed on episode 5.
Pure Nonfiction is distributed by the TIFF podcast network.

77: Wim Wenders on Pope Francis

Buena Vista Social Club, Pina Bausch and Sebastiao Selgado are among Wim Wenders past documentary subjects. Now he profiles the head of the Catholic Church in “Pope Francis: A Man of His Word,” released in theaters by Focus Features. Wenders talks to Pure Nonfiction host Thom Powers about the making of the film. He also reflects on the state of cinema (referencing his 1982 documentary “Room 666” set at the Cannes Film Festival) and discusses what worries him about America.
During this interview, Wenders refers to the Interrotron invented by Errol Morris. Hear Morris discuss his misbegotten attempt to patent the device on Pure Nonfiction episode 62.
Pure Nonfiction is distributed by the TIFF podcast network.

76: Filming Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is profiled in the new documentary “RBG.” Pure Nonfiction host Thom Powers interviews the directing duo of Betsy West and Julie Cohen on Ginsburg’s career fighting for women’s rights. They discuss their personal experiences of enduring sexism in the worlds of broadcast news and public radio.

This interview was recorded during the Miami Film Festival at the offices of Rakontur. Thanks to sound recordist Khaleel Bailey.
Pure Nonfiction is distributed by the TIFF podcast network.

75: Dawn Porter on “Bobby Kennedy for President”

“Bobby Kennedy for President” is a four-part Netflix series that traces the politician’s career with an emphasis on issues of racial justice. The final episode reexamines his 1968 assassination and the trial of Sirhan Sirhan that left unanswered questions.
Pure Nonfiction host Thom Powers interviews filmmaker Dawn Porter on the making of the series. She previously was on episode 2 talking about her films “Gideon’s Army” about public defenders in the south; and “Trapped” about state restrictions on abortions.
This interview was recorded during the Montclair Film Festival.
Pure Nonfiction is distributed by the TIFF podcast network.

74: Joe Berlinger from “Brother’s Keeper” to “Intent to Destroy”

Joe Berlinger has been making documentaries for over 25 years. He started out at Maysles Films where he met Bruce Sinofsky. In 1992, they made “Brother’s Keeper”, a story of a murder trial in upstate New York, that revitalized observational documentary. They went on to make the “Paradise Lost” trilogy and “Metallica: Some Kind of Monster.”

Pure Nonfiction host Thom Powers interviews Joe on his career including the rupture and reunion in his partnership with Bruce who died in 2015. They also discuss Joe’s latest film “Intent to Destroy: Death, Denial and Depiction” (Starz) that examines the legacy of the Armenian genocide. For decades, the history of the genocide has been fiercely contested by the Turkish government. “Intent to Destroy” brings a unique angle by following the making of a big budget Hollywood film “The Promise” that aspires to capture the genocide’s history as an epic in the tradition of “Doctor Zhivago.” With that framing device, Joe interviews contemporary figures active in the historical debate including scholar Peter Balakian, filmmaker Atom Egoyan and the former U.S. ambassador to Armenia John Marshall Evan.

On Twitter: @joeberlinger @thompowers @PureNonfiction

This interview was recorded at the School of Visual Arts MFA Social Documentary Program. Pure Nonfiction is distributed by the TIFF podcast network.

73: Sophie Fiennes on Grace Jones

Grace Jones has been commanding attention for decades as a singer, actress and icon. Now filmmaker Sophie Fiennes crafts a documentary as unconventional as its subject in “Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami.” The film immerses us into Grace’s life on the road – from her childhood home in Jamaica to the recording studio of “Hurricane” to stops in London, Paris and New York. Interwoven with these scenes is a concert staged for the film with set designed by Eiko Ishioka.

Pure Nonfiction host Thom Powers interviews Sophie about her path to making the film. She discusses growing up in an artistic family and being inspired by films such as Frederick Wiseman’s “Titicut Follies,” Charles Atlas’ “Hail the New Puritan” and Victor Kossakovsky’s “Belovy.”

She discusses why Grace wanted to do the film, why it took several years to complete and what happened the night of its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival.

On Instagram: @bloodlightandbami @thompowers1 @purenonfiction

This interview was recorded at SVA’s MFA Social Documentary program.

Pure Nonfiction is distributed by the TIFF podcast network.

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