How to Keep Your Subjects Safe: Nanette Burstein on Dangerous Documentary [PODCAST]

Gringo: The Dangerous Life of John McAfee
Oscar-nominated director Nanette Burstein’s latest film, Gringo: The Dangerous Life of John McAfee, puts her life—and the lives of her subjects—at risk.  


Nanette Burstein is well known for films like On the Ropes, American Teen, and The Kid Stays in the Picture. Part of her success likely comes from her insatiable curiosity and persistence in getting to the bottom of a story. But these same qualities can put her own life—and the lives of her subjects—at risk. In fact, the premiere screening of her latest film, Gringo: The Dangerous Life of John McAfee, required the presence of police and bodyguards at the theater because of threats against her by the film’s antagonist. 

"When I got into this film, I didn't fully understand what I was getting into. Somewhere along the way I realized it and thought, "Oh my god, if I had had a crystal ball, I'd go back in time.' But you're already in it!"

The film is a thoroughly bizarre and heart-pounding true crime tale of John McAfee—yes the McAfee of McAfee anti-virus software, and Libertarian presidential hopeful. Originally believing that she was simply investigating an unsolved murder charge against McAfee from his time living in Belize, Burstein began to uncover a very dark tale that involved everything from gang activity to sexual assault. Part of this discovery, of course, came from finding subjects brave enough to speak about their ordeals on camera. 

The podcast above is from our interview in Toronto, the day after that tense premiere screening at the Toronto International Film Festival. We discuss being responsible for your subjects' safety, how to approach the challenges that each new film presents, and sustaining your career with commercial directing. 

Gringo: The Dangerous Life of John McAfee premiered on Showtime on September 25 and is now available on Showtime on Demand.

Please subscribe and rate us on iTunesSoundcloud, or the podcasting app of your choice. You can play all of our No Film School interview episodes right here:

This episode was produced and edited by Jon Fusco.

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Your Comment


Tell this to the crew behind Cartel Land!

September 26, 2016 at 2:18PM


This documentary was basically a narration by Ms. Burstein and her pre-determined impressions and accusations towards John McAfee.
If she did, indeed, uncover proof that he had murdered not one but two people and raped someone, don't you think Belize would have extradited him by now? They did bring in some of the people she interviewed so they could question them. The Belize authorities were satisfied that everything they said in the documentary was a lie.
Rape is one of the hardest crimes to prove without forensic evidence. The so-called victim has a PhD in Biology. You would think that she would have collected evidence for proof. She claims to have called the FBI yet they have no record of her call. Besides, when you are in a foreign country you call the Embassy not the FBI. The FBI is more for domestic crimes.
Jeff Wise, if you do just a little googling on him, has had a vendetta against John McAfee for about 10 years now. I find the stunt of extra police and a bodyguard amusing. I will never believe that John McAfee could ever be the aggressor in any physical altercation. Intelligent, civilized people don't settle disputes that way.
Someone should fact check this documentary. i would, however it has wound up in the "Bargain Bin" almost as soon as it was released. No one is interested and her technique was atrocious.

December 10, 2016 at 6:45AM