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.
On Twitter: @thompowers
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?’”
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.”
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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!
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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!”
Thanks to SundanceNow Doc Club for sponsoring this episode. http://www.docclub.com/
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
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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.”
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“Making a Murderer” directors Laura Riccardi and Moira Demos discuss the ten-year process of creating their acclaimed Netflix series. This conversation with Thom Powers took place with a live audience at New York’s IFC Center on February 25, 2016. The filmmakers were joined by their editor Mary Manhardt and Wisconsin attorney Stephen Glynn who appears in the series. The talk has been condensed and edited for Pure Nonfiction.
“Making a Murderer” had its world premiere at the DOC NYC festival in November 2015 and was released a month later on Netflix. The series looks at a controversial true crime case in Manitowoc County, Wisconsin. Steven Avery served 18 years in prison for a wrongful conviction in the sexual assault of Penny Beernsten. (The actual perpetrator was Gregory Allen). After being exonerated with the help of the Wisconsin Innocence Project, Avery filed a civil suit against Manitowoc County and its officials for $36 million. Stephen Glynn was on Avery’s legal team. In fall 2005, as depositions were taking place for the suit, Avery was accused of a new crime, the murder of photographer Teresa Halbach whose body parts were found on the salvage yard where he lived.
As graduate film students, Riccardi & Demos began covering the Avery case in 2005 and took 10 years to complete the project. Other key names in this conversation are Avery’s nephew Brendan Dassey, who was brought to trial as an accomplice; the special prosecutor Ken Kratz; and Avery’s criminal defense lawyers Jerome Buting and Dean Strang.
On Pure Nonfiction, the filmmakers take us through the steps of production and reflect on their long journey.
“It did at times get really difficult for Moira and me,” says Riccardi. “Our families were really concerned about us – with good reason – and wanted assurances from us that we really couldn’t provide.”
Thanks to SundanceNow Doc Club for sponsoring this episode.