September 5, 2017

Oscars-nominated Murray Nossel believes in healing through stories

Murray Nossel, an Oscars-nominated documentary filmmaker, teacher, and performer, lives and breathes storytelling.

Although he comes from a family in South Africa in which stories were rarely told and keeping your mouth shut was considered a virtue, he grew up surrounded by cultures that value stories.

Murray trained as a psychologist, obtaining a PhD in social work at Columbia University in New York, where he now teaches a masters in narrative medicine. If you haven’t heard of it until now, narrative medicine is a spreading practice that requires doctors to recognize, absorb, interpret and act on the stories of their patients, in order to ensure an effective and humane medical treatment.

He is also an acclaimed filmmaker. In 2003, he received an Oscar nomination for his short documentary, Why Can’t We Be a Family Again?, the story of two teenage brothers raised by their grandmother, who still hope that their mother will manage to overcome the crack addiction that destroyed their family. Murray then directed the documentary Turn to Me featuring Nobel Prize–winning author Elie Wiesel. In 2005, he received a Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism.

But his skills don’t stop at medicine, teaching and film making. Together with his professional partner and friend (whom he first hated), Paul Browde, Murray created and stars in Two Men Talking, a live unscripted storytelling performance that began as a deeply personal research of identity, friendship, mortality and forgiveness. The two men usually “talk of growing up as white, middle class and privileged men under apartheid”. Their tale, which was staged all over the world, takes us through their career struggles, coming out as gay, confronting and talking openly about AIDS, and living in the US. Two Men Talking has been praised by the The New York Times, The Guardian & The London Times, among others.

Adding to his ever-expanding list of abilities, Murray is the co-founder and director of Narativ, a firm he started with Paul Browde, whose clients range from Disney, to UNICEF and HBO, that specializes in storytelling in a business context. Next year, Murray will release his first book, Powered by Storytelling: Excavate, Craft, and Present Stories to Transform Business Communication.