Category Archives for Latest Episodes

PN 20: Women Directors at #TIFF16

“Girl Unbound” and “Karl Marx City” are among the documentaries directed by women making their world premieres at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). Pure Nonfiction host and TIFF documentary programmer Thom Powers talks to both directors.

In “Girl Unbound,” filmmaker Erin Heidenreich makes her feature-length debut profiling the Pakistani squash player Maria Toorpakai Wazir who has received death threats from the Taliban for being a prominent female athlete.

In “Karl Marx City,” veteran director Petra Epperlein explores her family’s history in East Germany. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, her father received letters accusing him of collaboration with the notorious Stasi secret police. Petra and collaborator Michael Tucker dig into the Stasi archives to solve the family mystery.

On Twitter: @purenonfiction @thompowers @girlunboundfilm @KarlMarxCity

Girl Unbound
Karl Marx City

Pure Nonfiction is distributed by the TIFF podcast network.

PN 19: New Docs on True Crime

“The Skyjacker’s Tale” and “Abacus: Small Enough to Jail” are two new docs on crime and justice making their world premieres at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). Pure Nonfiction host and TIFF documentary programmer Thom Powers talks to both directors.

In “The Skyjacker’s Tale,” filmmaker Jamie Kastner profiles Ishmael Muslim Ali (aka Ishmael Labeet) who was among a group of men convicted for the Fountain Valley Massacre killing of eight people on the island of St. Croix in 1972. Ali professed his innocence and twelve years later, during a prison transfer, he managed to hijack a plane to Cuba where he still lives.

In “Abacus: Small Enough to Jail,” filmmaker Steve James (known for “Hoop Dreams” and “Life Itself”) investigates the aggressive prosecution of a bank in New York’s Chinatown. The Abacus bank was founded by the Chinese immigrant Thomas Sung. After the 2008 financial scandals, Abacus was the only bank to be prosecuted by Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance, Jr.

On Twitter: @purenonfiction @thompowers @SkyjackersTale @AbacusMovie

The Skyjacker’s Tale
Abacus: Small Enough to Jail

Pure Nonfiction is distributed by the TIFF podcast network.

PN 18: Jazz Legends on Screen

Trumpet player Lee Morgan was murdered at age 33. Saxophonist John Coltrane died of cancer at age 40. Now both these jazz greats are the subjects of ambitious new documentaries. Thom Powers interviews the filmmakers Kasper Collin (“I Called Him Morgan”) and John Scheinfeld (“Chasing Trane”) as we begin Season Two of Pure Nonfiction.

“I Called Him Morgan” explores the life of the prolific Blue Note recording artist best known for the crossover hit “Sidewinder,” who was killed by his common law wife Helen in 1972. “Chasing Trane” brings fresh perspective to the innovative saxophonist known for albums such as “Giant Steps” and “A Love Supreme.” Both films are playing at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) that takes place September 8-18.

On Twitter: @purenonfiction @thompowers @tiff_net

I Called Him Morgan
Chasing Trane: The John Coltrane Documentary

Pure Nonfiction is distributed by the TIFF podcast network.

Season Two Preview

The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) is just two weeks away. Pure Nonfiction will have extensive coverage of documentaries premiering at the festival. In this preview of the podcast’s Season Two, host Thom Powers samples upcoming conversations with filmmakers John Scheinfeld (Chasing Trane), Steve James (Abacus: Small Enough to Jail), and Petra Epperlein (Karl Marx City), who are all debuting their work at TIFF. Pure Nonfiction will continue its weekly schedule every Thursday starting September 1st with episode 18 devoted to music documentaries at TIFF. Subscribe on iTunes and spread the word.

On Twitter: @purenonfiction @thompowers @tiff_net @karlmarxcity

Season Two is supported by the TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) podcast network.

PN 17: Barbara Kopple – From Harlan County to Sharon Jones

Two-time Oscar winner Barbara Kopple is back with a new film about soul singer Sharon Jones in a year when she battles cancer and prepares for her comeback with The Dap Kings. In this wide-ranging interview with Thom Powers, she talks about her apprenticeship with the Maysles brothers; “Harlan County USA” on striking coal miners; “Wild Man Blues” about Woody Allen; “Shut Up and Sing” about the Dixie Chicks; and her latest “Miss Sharon Jones!” playing in theaters this summer.

On Twitter: @barbarakopple @TheSharonMovie @sharonjones @thompowers @purenonfiction

Miss Sharon Jones!
Kopple’s production company Cabin Creek
Pure Nonfiction

This interview was recorded at the SVA MFA Social Documentary program.

Episode 17 marks the end of Pure Nonfiction’s Season One. We’ll be back in September with Season Two starting at the Toronto International Film Festival. Until then, enjoy our back catalogue of shows.

PN 16: Alex Gibney on Revealing Secrets

Cyber warfare and the Stuxnet virus are the focus of Alex Gibney’s new film “Zero Days.” Once again, Gibney proves himself a master in getting people to talk. In the film, he speaks with high-ranking government officials on camera as well as anonymous sources whose testimony is delivered by a computer avatar. On Pure Nonfiction, he talks to Thom Powers about the process of making “Zero Days.” He also reflects on the influence of his father Frank Gibney and the struggle to establish himself as a director before making a breakthrough around the age of 50.

For more, read “How Alex Gibney is Reinventing Documentary Filmmaking” by Boris Kachka in New York magazine

On Twitter: @AlexGibneyFilm @thompowers @purenonfiction

This interview was recorded at the School of Visual Arts MFA Social Documentary program.

Pure Nonfiction is sponsored by Sundance Now Doc Club.

Documentaries directed by Alex Gibney mentioned in this interview:

Zero Days (2016)

Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine (2015) – A critical look at the Apple CEO.

Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief (2015) – An expose of the Church of Scientology, based on the book by Lawrence Wright.

Finding Fela! (2014) – A complicated portrait on the life and music of Nigeria’s Fela Kuti.

The Armstrong Lie (2013) – Cyclist Lance Armstrong talks about the doping program that led to his downfall.

We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks (2013) – Documenting the leak of government documents by Bradley Manning, their public release by Wikileaks, and the group’s controversial leader Julian Assange.

Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God (2012) – Examining pedophilia in the Catholic Church, from the first known protest against clerical abuse in the US all the way to the Vatican.

Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer (2010) – The former New York State governor speaks on camera about the prostitution scandal that led to his resignation.

Taxi to the Dark Side (2007) – Oscar winner for Best Documentary, investigating the US government’s use of torture during the war in Afghanistan.

Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room (2005) – Chronicling the corruption that caused the company Enron to file for the largest corporate bankruptcy of its time.

Documentaries produced by Gibney, mentioned in the interview:

The Blues (2003) – Executive produced by Martin Scorsese, this multi-part series featured films directed by Scorsese, Wim Wenders, Clint Eastwood, Marc Levin, and others.

The Trials of Henry Kissinger (2002) – directed by Eugene Jarecki, the film takes its inspiration from Christopher Hitchens’ book making a case for bringing war crime charges against the former Secretary of State.

The Pacific Century (1992) – a 10-part PBS series about the rise of the Pacific Rim economies. Alex’s father Frank Gibney wrote the accompanying book.

PN 15: Muhammad Ali on Film

Bill Siegel, director of “The Trials of Muhammad Ali,” spent over two decades nurturing the idea to make his film about Ali’s religious beliefs and his opposition to the Vietnam War. On Pure Nonfiction episode #15, Siegel talks to Thom Powers about the making of the film, his experiences with Ali’s family and attending the Champ’s funeral last month. Siegel and Powers also discuss other classic docs: William Klein’s “Muhammad Ali: The Greatest,” Leon Gast’s “When We Were Kings,” Jim Jacob’s “AKA Cassius Clay,” and William Greaves’ “The Fight.”

On Twitter: @MuhammadAliDoc @Kartemquin @thompowers @PureNonfiction

The Trials of Muhammad Ali

Pure Nonfiction is sponsored by Sundance Now Doc Club.

PN 14: TV’s King of Comedy

“Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You” explores the life of the television maverick behind hit shows such as “All in the Family,” “Maude,” and “The Jeffersons.” On Pure Nonfiction, filmmakers Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady discuss how they sought to create a nuanced portrait. They also discuss their early films “The Boys of Baraka” and the Oscar-nominated “Jesus Camp.”

On Twitter: @HeidiLoki @RachelLoki @thompowers @purenonfiction
Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You

Pure Nonfiction is sponsored by Sundance Now Doc Club.

PN 13: “Life, Animated” director Roger Ross Williams

Oscar-winning director Roger Ross Williams talks about his career and his new film “Life, Animated” about an autistic boy who learns to communicate through Disney cartoons. Williams was the first African-American director to win an Oscar in 2010 for his documentary short “Music by Prudence.” His acceptance speech is memorable for being interrupted by his disgruntled producer. In this interview, he talks about that experience as well as his first feature film “God Loves Uganda” about American evangelicals fomenting homophobia in Africa.

On Twitter: @RogerRossWill @LifeAnimatedDoc @thompowers

Life, Animated
Music By Prudence
God Loves Uganda
Roger Ross Williams website
Pure Nonfiction is sponsored by Sundance Now Doc Club.

PN 12: Talking “Tickled” with David Farrier & Dylan Reeve

Fetish or sport? That’s what New Zealand TV journalist David Farrier wondered when he came across online videos of athletic young men in sports uniforms being tickled. The videos were billed as “Competitive Endurance Tickling.” Farrier reached out to the American video producer Jane O’Brien Media for an interview. They replied with a stream of threatening an homophobic emails. That only intrigued Farrier more. He teamed up with co-director Dylan Reeve to travel to America to investigate who is behind Jane O’Brien Media. Their quest resulted in one of the strangest documentaries of the year, “Tickled.” On this episode of Pure Nonfiction, Farrier and Reeve describe what they learned standing up to a litigious bully. The film is being released in the U.S. by Magnolia Pictures and HBO Documentaries.

On Twitter: @davidfarrier @DylanReeve @TickledMovie @thompowers

Pure Nonfiction is sponsored by Sundance Now Doc Club.

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