We are saddened by the news of Jonathan Demme’s passing Wednesday morning. The illustrious Oscar®-winning director was 73 years old.

His filmmaking ranged from narrative to documentary storytelling, all infused with a sense of intimacy and an understanding of the human experience. In The New Yorker, Pauline Kael called his first documentary, 1984’s Stop Making Sense, “…close to perfection.” In 1991, he won the Academy Award for Best Director for The Silence of the Lambs. Jonathan was also on the board at the Jacob Burns Film Center, where they remember him as a “teacher, a friend, a champion, a critic, and a supporter all with the infectious love that was pure Jonathan.”

At POV, we had the honor of presenting two of his documentaries: Cousin Bobby (POV 1993) and I’m Carolyn Parker: The Good, the Mad, and the Beautiful (POV 2012).

In Cousin Bobby, Jonathan catches up with his long-lost cousin, Robert W. Castle, a fiery Harlem-based Episcopalian priest. Robert passed away in 2012, and Jonathan wrote a tribute to his life and work in social activism on our Documentary Blog.

“He also fought, ferociously, as we all know, a lifelong battle on behalf of other notions he held dear. These included such things as, “all men are created equal”, “government of the people, for the people, by the people,” “speak truth to power!” and most of the ideas contained in your basic Ten Commandments. What a great preacher! What a great priest! What a great person.”

Shot over the course of five years, I’m Carolyn Parker: The Good, the Mad, and the Beautiful is an intimate account of one extraordinary woman’s crusade to rebuild in the Lower Ninth Ward after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. In our filmmaker interview, Jonathan shared why Parker, Castle and other subjects of his documentaries inspire him.

“These are all people who take it as a given that if we live in a democracy, in Jean Dominique’s case if we live in a country that’s moving towards democracy, then we have to embody that spirit. These are people who connect with the profundity of that notion, of living free, living in a democratic society, freedom of speech, all these things and they put that into practice where lots of us don’t.”

POV Executive Producer Chris White says, “I met Jonathan in 2011 when he was working on the Carolyn Parker film at the Jacobs Burns Center, with which he was so deeply involved. He was an artist, a director and a mentor, and he represented and supported the filmmaking community in so many valuable ways. He was one-of-a-kind and will be deeply missed.”

Our thoughts are with Jonathan’s loved ones. He will always remain a special part of POV.

The film community remembers:

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POV Staff
POV (a cinema term for "point of view") is television's longest-running showcase for independent non-fiction films. POV premieres 14-16 of the best, boldest and most innovative programs every year on PBS. Since 1988, POV has presented over 400 films to public television audiences across the country. POV films are known for their intimacy, their unforgettable storytelling and their timeliness, putting a human face on contemporary social issues.