PURE NONFICTION Ep. 38: Clay Tweel on Gleason
The filmmaker on growing up with Muhammad Ali and documenting another exceptional athlete's life
New Orleans Saints football player Steve Gleason became a sports hero one year after Hurricane Katrina when he blocked a kick that became a symbol of the city’s comeback. In 2011, he announced he had ALS – known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease – that typically causes death in two to five years. The documentary Gleason follows the athlete as he copes with the disease, supported by his wife Michel Varisco. The film has a strong theme about the meaning of fatherhood as we watch Gleason leave a video record for his young son Rivers.
Pure Nonfiction host Thom Powers interviews Gleason director Clay Tweel about the making of the film. This is Tweel’s fourth documentary after Make Believe about teenage magicians; Print the Legend about pioneers of 3D printing; and Finders Keepers about a bizarre dispute over a mummified leg. Tweel broke into documentary working as an associate producer on The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters, directed by Seth Gordon who’s a producer on Gleason.
Other names that come up in this episode are Gleason cinematographers David Lee and Ty Minton-Small. And Tweel discusses his family connection to Muhammad Ali.
This episode was recorded at SVA’s MFA Social Documentary Film Program.
Pure Nonfiction is distributed by the TIFF podcast network.