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Nancy Buirski

...because if you’re interested in acclaimed but under-the-radar documentary filmmakers, you want to know Nancy Buirski. A long time advocate for documentary films, Buirski founded the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival – where people actually watch all those shorts that ruin Oscar pools – and produced feature anthologies on subjects such as Hurricane Katrina. In 2011, she turned to directing with her first feature “The Loving Story,” which won a Peabody Award for its powerful examination of an interracial relationship in the pre-civil rights era South. Buirski’s devotion to non-fiction storytelling traces back to her previous career with the New York Times, where her editorial work won the paper its first Pulitzer Prize for photography.


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With apologies to Dziga Vertov and cinema verite enthusiasts, documentary and non-fiction films have difficulty competing with narrative features. In fact, most film and awards festivals acknowledge this by giving documentaries their own separate category. Buirski has spent most of her career working on behalf of the types of documentaries even the most passionate cinephiles won’t see. Since she helped found it, the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival has become arguably the most important venue devoted exclusively to documentaries. The festival also promotes the films that it showcases in other locations throughout the year.

Nancy Buirski’s resume in the area of non-fiction in visual media covers more ground than perhaps any other individual. As the Foreign Photo Editor of the New York Times, she won the paper its first Pulitzer Prize. She later authored the photo-journal “Earth Angels” about the children of migrant workers in America. As a producer, she has been involved with both short and feature documentary films on a range of issues. Of course, all of this was before she started directing documentary films herself, having finished three features since 2011.

Buirski is a good example of someone who turned to directing relatively late in her career. Her work in documentary film introduced her to established filmmakers like Martin Scorsese, who mentored her in the art of filmmaking. She also drew on her background as a producer, photo-journalist and film festival director when she set out to direct her first feature, “The Loving Story.” The film balances a very human story of a forbidden relationship with an important legal case in the civil rights movement. Her next two films further reflect her eclectic background, telling the story of a famous ballet production and the influential director Sidney Lumet, respectively.


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Full Frame Documentary Festival

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Earth Angels: Migrant Children in America

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I am Nancy Buirski, Writer/Director of ‘The Loving Story’, AMA!

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