Category Archives for Latest Episodes

PN 10: Why Revisit O.J. Simpson?

Ezra Edelman explores the life of O.J. Simpson against the backdrop of race relations in Los Angeles in the five-part ESPN series “O.J.: Made in America.” On Pure Nonfiction, Edelman talks about re-opening a story that many participants wanted to avoid and how he overcame their reluctance.

On Twitter: @ezraedelman @thompowers

O.J.: Made in America 

Pure Nonfiction is sponsored by Sundance Now Doc Club.

PN 09: Pennebaker & Hegedus on Clinton, Bowie & Animal Rights

DA Pennebaker & Chris Hegedus have been collaborating for 40 years. In this interview with Thom Powers, they talk about films throughout their career including “Town Bloody Hall” about a 1970s debate over women’s liberation; “The War Room” about Bill Clinton’s Presidential campaign; and their newest HBO documentary “Unlocking the Cage” about animal rights lawyer Steve Wise, now playing in theaters. Pennebaker also shares memories of working with David Bowie on the 1970s concert film “Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.” The interview was recorded in May at the Montclair Film Festival’s Audible Lounge before a live audience. During the conversation, Chris refers to Pennebaker’s son Frazer who has been a key producer on their projects since the 1980s.

On Twitter:@PHFilms, @DAPennebaker, @UTCFilm, @HBODocs, @thompowers

Unlocking the Cage
Pennebaker Hegedus Films

Thanks to SundanceNow Doc Club for sponsoring this episode.

PN 08: Who is Princess Shaw?

“Presenting Princess Shaw” is one of the year’s most crowd-pleasing documentaries at festivals from TIFF to True/False to SXSW. Now it’s releasing in theaters and on VOD. Director Ido Haar follows Samantha Montgomery, aka Princess Shaw, an aspiring singer in New Orleans who posts her songs and diaries on YouTube. Unbeknownst to her, the composer Kutiman is listening from 7,000 miles away and will have a dramatic impact on her life. On Pure Nonfiction, Princess Shaw talks to Thom Powers about opening her life up to a stranger from abroad; and she samples a song from her upcoming album.

On Twitter: @_PRINCESS_SHAW @thompowers @purenonfiction

Presenting Princess Shaw

PN 07: Weiner Beyond the Headlines

“Weiner” directors Josh Kriegman & Elyse Steinberg take us behind the scenes of filming their documentary about Anthony Weiner. The film follows the politician as he copes with a sexting scandal during the 2013 New York mayoral campaign. The film won the Documentary Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival and the David Carr Award at the Montclair Film Festival. This interview was conducted in May by Thom Powers in Montclair, NJ.

“A thought certainly ran through my head that I can’t believe I’m here right now. We see celebrity meltdowns and political scandals happen all the time, but it’s so rare to literally be in the room while it’s happening.” (Josh Kriegman)

On Twitter: @jkriegman @weinerdoc @anthonyweiner @thompowers

Thanks to our sponsor SundanceNow Doc Club. Watch Take 5 short films for free at

Show Notes


PN 06: Jonathan Demme’s Real Life Characters

Jonathan Demme has directed a steady stream of documentaries in between his prominent output of fiction films. In this conversation with Thom Powers, Demme talks about “Swimming to Cambodia,” the breakthrough monologue by Spalding Gray; “Cousin Bobby” about the Harlem-based Episcopalian priest Robert Castle; “The Agronomist” about the Haitian radio journalist Jean Dominique; “Jimmy Carter: Man From Plains” about the former President touring for a controversial book on Palestine; and “I’m Carolyn Parker” about an activist resident of New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward. Demme also reflects on why people of religious faith frequently come up in his work and how he faced a battle with cancer last year.

This episode was recorded at Jacob Burns Media Arts Lab.

Thanks to our sponsor SundanceNow Doc Club. Watch Take 5 short films for free at

On Twitter: @thompowers

Show notes:

Swimming to Cambodia
Cousin Bobby
The Agronomist
Jimmy Carter: Man From Plains
I’m Carolyn Parker

PN 05: Who is Anderson Cooper’s Mother?

Liz Garbus, the two-time Oscar nominated director of “The Farm: Angola, USA” and “What Happened, Miss Simone?,” has a new HBO documentary “Nothing Left Unsaid: Gloria Vanderbilt and Anderson Cooper” about the maverick fashion designer and her journalist son. Pure Nonfiction host Thom Powers interviews Garbus about her career that moved from observational filmmaking to biographies of complicated lives.

“With any film that’s been successful or good, I’ve gotten there where I think ‘how is this ever going to work?’”

On Twitter: @lizgarbus @HBODocs @thompowers

Thanks to SundanceNow Doc Club for sponsoring this episode. This episode was recorded at SVA MFA Social Documentary Film Program.

Show notes:
Moxie Firecracker Films
Nothing Left Unsaid: Gloria Vanderbilt and Anderson Cooper
What Happened, Miss Simone?
Bobby Fischer Against the World
The Farm: Angola, USA

PN 04: Going Deep With Mapplethorpe

Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato, directors of HBO’s “Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures,” discuss their career from when they first met in the 1980s. Yes, this episode contains explicit language as we discuss the controversial photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, known for his provocative images of gay S&M sex.

Today, Bailey & Barbato run the Los Angeles-based production company World of Wonder, known for pop culture documentaries such as “Inside Deep Throat,” “Party Monster,” and “The Eyes of Tammy Faye.” This frank and funny interview gets personal with talk of fatherhood and explores their history of edgy topics.

“It’s really hard to be that honest. It’s hard to be an openly ambitious dick.”

On Twitter: @fbailey @randybarbato @WorldofWonder @HBODocs @thompowers

Thanks to SundanceNow Doc Club for sponsoring this episode.This episode was recorded at SVA MFA Social Documentary Film Program.

Show notes:
Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures
World of Wonder
The Fabulous Pop Tarts

PN 00 – Introducing Pure Nonfiction

Available To Listen!

Documentary film makers span all kinds of storytellers: provocateurs, visionaries, and investigators. Pure Nonfiction brings you candid interviews with leading documentary makers. Hear this preview as host Thom Powers talks to the filmmakers behind Making a Murderer; The New Yorker Presents; Mapplethorpe and more. Be among the first to subscribe!

PN 01: From Maysles To The New Yorker Presents…

Available To Listen!

Kahane Cooperman, the showrunner of “The New Yorker Presents,” discusses her eclectic jobs from working at Maysles Films to becoming co-executive producer of “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” to directing her new documentary “Joe’s Violin” that premiered at the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival.

“I essentially went on my first job interviews in almost 19 years. I had to go through four levels of interviewing – starting with Alex Gibney and finally ending with David Remnick at The New Yorker. Everyone was like, ‘Are you nervous about these interviews?’ I’m like, ’No, I’m really not nervous about the interviews. I’m nervous I’m going to get this job!”

On Twitter: @kcorncoop, @joesviolin, @thompowers

Thanks to SundanceNow Doc Club for sponsoring this episode.

Show Notes:
Maysles Documentary Center
“Making Dazed” appears on the Criterion Collection edition of “Dazed and Confused”
“Heidi Fleiss: Hollywood Madam” is on SundanceNow Doc Club
“Joe’s Violin” is now playing at festivals
“The New Yorker Presents” Season 1 is on Amazon

PN 02: Inside the Supreme Court Case on Abortion

Available To Listen!

Dawn Porter, director of “Trapped” and “Gideon’s Army,” discusses how she switched careers from being a lawyer to a documentary maker; and how she chose her topics. Her first film “Gideon’s Army” looked at public defense lawyers in the south and influenced action by Attorney General Eric Holder. Her latest film “Trapped” won the 2016 Sundance Film Festival special jury prize. It profiles abortion clinics in the south including Whole Woman’s Health that will have its fate determined by the Supreme Court this year.

“As a lawyer, this idea that a state could knowingly pass laws that are probably unconstitutional, I just couldn’t wrap my mind around that. I wanted to figure out how that could possibly be the case.”

On Twitter: @dawnporterm, @trappeddoc, @gideonsarmyfilm, @thompowers

Thanks to SundanceNow Doc Club for sponsoring this episode. This episode was recorded at SVA MFA Social Documentary Film Program.

Show notes:
Trilogy Films is Dawn Porter’s production company
“Gideon’s Army” is on SundanceNow Doc Club
“Trapped” is now playing in theaters

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