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

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