‘Citizenfour,’ ‘The Overnighters’ and ‘Life Itself’ Top This Week’s Nonfics Home Picks

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Most people don’t get to see documentaries until they arrive on a home video platform of some kind, whether it’s DVD, Blu-ray, VOD, iTunes, TV, Netflix streaming, etc. Join us every Tuesday for a look at what documentaries and reality programming is recommended by myself and other contributors to the site. As always, if you know of something we missed or should be aware of, drop us an email or a note down below.

Here are our ordered picks for February 17, 2015:

1. Citizenfour

[Premieres on HBO on Monday, February 23rd] — It’s very likely that this documentary will be making its broadcast debut a day after it wins the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature. We’ll find out on Sunday. Here is what Daniel Walber wrote of the film in our list of the best of 2014, on which it ranked #1: “Citizenfour is a landmark film for a number of reasons, not least of which being director Laura Poitras’s role in the Edward Snowden saga. As a document of our time and one of the most globally significant events of the last few years, it is hard to undervalue. Yet it is also an extraordinary work of nonfiction cinema, which is the real reason it tops this particular list. Poitras is interested in the information brought by Snowden to the now-infamous Hong Kong hotel room, of course, but she is also interested in the implications of this knowledge on character and psychology. This means not just Glenn Greenwald, but the entire community of activists pushing back on government spying. Her eye is as powerful on the forbidding landscapes of the American West, where massive data centers are being collected, as it is sensitive to the tender moments of Greenwald and his husband reunited in Brazil after an absurd detainment by the British government. It is a riveting, groundbreaking portrait of lives lived in truth.” (★★★★★)

2. Life Itself

[Now Available on DVD and Blu-ray via Magnolia Home Entertainment] — Part of this entry appeared in a previous Home Picks post. If I had my way, this would not only be nominated for an Oscar but it would be the winner this Sunday. Steve James‘s film of and about Roger Ebert is my #1 documentary of the year, as you can see on our posting of our annual poll results (on which it’s #3), and this site’s #7 best doc of the year. Here’s part of what I wrote on that latter list: “As a film it’s a masterpiece of biographical adaptation (it’s based on Ebert’s memoir of the same name) and documentary portraiture […] a work that aligns the making of a film about a life to reviewing a movie (or other artform) in a fair and balanced way, enough that a documentary subject or scrutinized artist (such as Martin Scorsese, who executive produced and appears in the film) respects the product even when it’s negative. Above the meta themes, though, is also the most emotional story on film this year. Never mind your subjective feelings about Ebert, you can’t not be choked up about his death by the end, for the sake of the heartbreak it causes his loved ones on screen, particularly his wife, Chaz Ebert.” (★★★★★)

Bonus features:

  • Interview with director Steve James
  • Deleted scenes (see RogerEbert.com for details)
  • Featurettes “AXS TV: A look at Life Itself” and “Sundance Tribute”
  • Theatrical trailer.

Purchase Life Itself directly from Kartemquin Films through their online store and receive 15% off your purchase through the end of February by using the code Ebertmovie2015 .

Also available on Amazon Instant Video, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu and Target Ticket.

3. The Overnighters

[Now Available on Netflix Watch Instantly] — Part of this entry appeared in a previous Home Picks post. Here’s another film that should be among the nominees this Sunday. There’s not much more we can say about this film, so let me just reiterate again that it topped our poll results for the best docs of 2014, it was #2 on our own list for the year and I just added it to our guide to the essential nonfiction films streaming on Netflix (it’ll be there later this month). Plus I called it “brilliant” in my review more than a year ago. Here is what Dan Schindel wrote in our best of 2014 list: “If The Overnighters was a play or a novel, it’d already be considered a classic. You wouldn’t be able to get away from it. But it’s a documentary, so it’s relegated to the background noise of most culture discussion. Every year brings us movies that try to make a capital-S Statement on ‘The Way Things Are,’ but The Overnighters gets at that better than Foxcatcher, Birdman and Nightcrawler combined. It’s a dire story of a conflict between basic human decency and the relentless gears of capitalism, and it captures the American spirit of the moment with harrowing intensity.” (★★★★)

Also available on DVD, Blu-ray, iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, Google Play, Target Ticket, Vudu and YouTube.

4. Point and Shoot

[Now Available on DVD, iTunes and Amazon Instant Video] — Another doc that probably should be among Sunday’s contenders, because eventually two-time Oscar nominee Marshall Curry needs to eventually win one. Here’s the beginning of Daniel Walber’s review: “The ghost of Ernest Hemingway hovers over Marshall Curry‘s new documentary, a profile of amateur filmmaker and revolutionary Matthew VanDyke. Or, rather, the novelist’s name is perhaps the best way to isolate and identify what is going on beneath this formally simple but thematically intricate film. Point and Shoot is a 21st century incarnation of some very old ideas, fervently held conceptions of what it is to be a man and an American on the world stage. The word “profile” isn’t particularly sufficient as a description, either. This is not simply a document, it is an entire life.” (★★★★)

Also available on DVD, Netflix Watch Instantly, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu and YouTube.

5. The Arbor

[Now Available to Stream on Fandor] — For a change, here’s one of the best documentaries of 2011. From my list, on which it ranked #4, at Movies.com: “The most clever and constructive use of cinema to tell a nonfiction story in years, this freshly conceived hybrid employs familiar yet uncommon documentary tools (and more common dramatic ones) in totally new ways. The result is a respectful and appropriate examination of the life and work of autobiographical playwright Andrea Dunbar, in which actors fill-in for and lip-sync to older audio interviews with the subject and her family. More than a specific portrayal, though, the film also presents an extremely depressing wider local drama of the life cycle of residents of the projects of Northern England.” (★★★★★)

Also available on DVD and Amazon Instant Video.

6. We Were Here

[Now Available to Stream on Vimeo On Demand] — Another from my list of the best docs of 2011 at Movies.com, this one coming in at #10: “If Cave of Forgotten Dreams and Nostalgia for the Light are the most cerebral documentaries ever to deal in history, We Were Here is probably the most emotional I’ve ever encountered. Primarily an oral account of the early years of AIDS in San Francisco, told by only five central characters, the film is remarkable for how well it uses interviews and the very basics of conventional documentary form to give us all we need to be informed, enlightened and bursting with tears.” (★★★★)

Also available on DVD, Netflix Watch Instantly, Google Play, Vudu, YouTube and Target Ticket.

7. Be Here to Love Me: A Film About Townes Van Zandt

[Now Available to Stream on Fandor] — From one of my first ever documentary reviews almost 10 years ago, at Cinematical: “Be Here to Love Me is not another Behind the Music. It is an In Front of the Music. Abandoning the notion that movies about artists need to establish well-known art and investigate its origins, Margaret Brown’s documentary of Townes Van Zandt establishes the little known artist and allows its audience to contemplate the consequences of his being rather than the significance of his craft. Though his creative endeavors were not an incidental part of his existence, they don’t define him, and I am sure that the film would be just as enthralling without a single note of his on the soundtrack.” (★★★★)

Also available on DVD and Vudu.

New to DVD [and/or Blu-ray]:

Breaking Amish: Los Angeles Season One

The Chair Season One

God’s Daughters

Icons in Black History: Tyler Perry & Barack Obama

Klansville U.S.A. (American Experience)

Let’s Go to the Rat

Life Itself [Nonfics rating: ★★★★★; Nonfics review] [Also on Blu-ray]

The Most Dangerous Job in the World

The Mother Grain

Point and Shoot [Nonfics rating: ★★★★; Nonfics review]

Purgatorio: A Journey Into the Heart of the Border

Quantum Scriptures

The Secret of Saint Therese

Serengeti: Nature’s Greatest Journey [Blu-ray]

The Sixties

Tales From the Royal Bedchamber

Terms and Conditions May Apply [Nonfics rating: ★★]

Tuff Luck

Wahlbergers Season Two

Watchers of the Sky

Yesterday and Today

New to Netflix Watch Instantly:

Dwight Howard: In the Moment

The Overnighters [Nonfics rating: ★★★★; Nonfics review]

Plastic Paradise: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

New to iTunes/Amazon Instant/VOD/etc.:

AK-47 — Amazon

American Artifact — Fandor

American Winter — Amazon

Angst — Fandor

The Arbor [Nonfics rating: ★★★★★] — Fandor

Be Here to Love Me: A Film About Townes Van Zandt [Nonfics rating: ★★★★; Cinematical review] — Fandor

The Billy Meier Story — Amazon

Behind the Screens: Hollywood Goes Hypercommercial — Vimeo On Demand

A Bridge Apart — Amazon

Bringing Tibet Home — Vimeo On Demand

Cam Girlz — Vimeo On Demand

Catfish: The TV Show — Amazon

The Cockettes — Vimeo On Demand

Dog Days — Amazon

Douglas Fairbanks: The Great Swasbuckler — Amazon

Every Everything — Fandor

Fifty Shades Uncovered — Vimeo On Demand

First Comes Love [Nonfics rating: ★★★★]

The First 70 [Nonfics rating: ★★]

Game Play: The Story of the Video Game Revolution — Vimeo On Demand

Giuseppe Makes a Movie — Vimeo On Demand

The Graduates Season — Amazon

The Immortalists [Nonfics rating: ★★; Nonfics review] — Vimeo On Demand

Into the Clouds We Gaze — Doc Alliance

Isao Takahata and His Tale of the Princess Kaguya — iTunes

Killers From Outer Space — Amazon

Mad As Hell — Vimeo On Demand

Making It — Amazon

The Magic Voice of a Rebel — Doc Alliance

Olga — Doc Alliance

Point and Shoot [Nonfics rating: ★★★★; Nonfics review] — Amazon, iTunes

The Prodigy — Fandor

Roots & Hollers [Nonfics rating: ★★★]

Split — Fandor

Tell It On the Mountain: Tales From the Pacific Crest Trail — Amazon

We Were Here [Nonfics rating: ★★★★] — Vimeo On Demand

Must-See Nonfiction TV:

(All Times Eastern)

Wednesday — 02/18

12:50am: The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst — Part 2 [HBO and HBO Latino]

2:30am: We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists [Pivot]

3:30am: 12 O’Clock Boys [Showtime]

3:50am: The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst — Part 2 [HBO West]

3:40am: West of Memphis [Starz]

4:00am: Cool It [Epix]

4:00am: Winged Migration [Outdoor Channel]

6:30am: 12 O’Clock Boys [Showtime West]

6:40am: West of Memphis [Starz West]

7:00am: Cool It [Epix West]

7:00am: Finding Vivian Maier [Showtime Family Zone]

7:10am: Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest [Starz in Black]

7:15am: And the Oscar Goes To… [TCM]

8:00am: Catfish [MTV]

8:10am: Unraveled [The Movie Channel Extra]

8:50am: Stories We Tell [Epix]

9:35am: The Gatekeepers [Starz Cinema]

10:00am: King Corn [Fusion]

11:10am: Unraveled [The Movie Channel Extra West]

11:50am: Stories We Tell [Epix West]

4:30pm: Mad Hot Ballroom [Showtime Next]

5:25pm: Catfish [MTV]

7:00pm: Bully [Pivot]

9:00pm: Finding Vivian Maier [Showtime Family Zone]

10:00pm: The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst — Part 2 [HBO 2]

Thursday — 02/19

12:45am: Richard Pryor: Omit the Logic [Showtime]

1:00am: The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst — Part 2 [HBO 2 West]

3:45am: Richard Pryor: Omit the Logic [Showtime West]

8:30am: Mad Hot Ballroom [Showtime Showcase]

10:00am: Crips and Bloods: Made in America [Fusion]

11:00am: Bully [Pivot]

11:30am: Mad Hot Ballroom [Showtime Showcase West]

6:25pm: Jodorowsky’s Dune [Starz Cinema]

8:15pm: The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst — Part 1 [HBO]

9:00pm: The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst — Part 2 [HBO]

11:15pm: The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst — Part 1 [HBO West]

Friday — 02/20

12:00am: The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst — Part 2 [HBO West]

2:00am: The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst — Part 2 [HBO and HBO Latino]

3:15am: Richard Pryor: Omit the Logic [Showtime Showcase]

4:00am: 99% — The Occupy Wall Street Collaborative Film [Pivot]

5:00am: The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst — Part 2 [HBO West and HBO Latino West]

5:15am: Mistaken for Strangers [Showtime 2]

6:15am: Richard Pryor: Omit the Logic [Showtime Showcase West]

7:35am: Standing in the Shadows of Motown [Starz in Black]

8:15am: Mistaken for Strangers [Showtime 2 West]

10:30am: Cesar’s Last Fast [Pivot]

2:00pm: Bully [Pivot]

5:25pm: Finding Vivian Maier [Showtime Showcase]

8:25pm: Finding Vivian Maier [Showtime Showcase West]

Saturday — 02/21

12:00am: The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst — Part 2 [HBO and HBO Latino]

3:00am: The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst — Part 2 [HBO West and HBO Latino West]

3:30am: Bully [Pivot]

4:00am: Nas: Time Is Illmatic [Showtime]

7:00am: King Corn [Fusion]

7:00am: Nas: Time Is Illmatic [Showtime West]

1:05pm: Finding Vivian Maier [Showtime]

1:30pm: The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst — Part 2 [HBO 2]

4:05pm: Finding Vivian Maier [Showtime West]

4:30pm: Food, Inc. [Pivot]

4:30pm: The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst — Part 2 [HBO 2 West]

5:00pm: Mad Hot Ballroom [Showtime Family Zone]

Sunday — 02/22

12:00am: Nas: Time Is Illmatic [Showtime Showcase]

3:00am: Nas: Time Is Illmatic [Showtime Showcase West]

6:40am: Finding Vivian Maier [Showtime Family Zone]

9:00am: Food, Inc. [Pivot]

1:00pm: Crips and Bloods: Made in America [Fusion]

4:30pm: Pearl Jam Twenty [VH1 Classic]

5:00pm: The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst — Part 1 [HBO 2]

5:30pm: Finding Vivian Maier [Showtime Family Zone]

5:45pm: The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst — Part 2 [HBO 2]

8:00pm: The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst — Part 3 [HBO and HBO Latino]

8:00pm: The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst — Part 1 [HBO 2 West]

8:45pm: The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst — Part 2 [HBO 2 West]

11:00pm: The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst — Part 3 [HBO West and HBO Latino West]

11:30pm: The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst — Part 3 [HBO and HBO Latino]

Monday — 02/23

1:05am: Richard Pryor: Omit the Logic [Showtime 2]

1:10am: Louis C.K.: Hilarious [Epix]

2:30am: Nas: Time Is Illmatic [Showtime 2]

2:30pm: The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst — Part 3 [HBO West and HBO Latino West]

4:05am: Richard Pryor: Omit the Logic [Showtime 2 West]

4:10am: Louis C.K.: Hilarious [Epix West]

4:30am: Justin Bieber: Never Say Never [Epix]

4:45am: Tyson [IndiePlex]

5:30am: Nas: Time Is Illmatic [Showtime 2 West]

7:30am: Justin Bieber: Never Say Never [Epix West]

8:05am: Mad Hot Ballroom [Showtime Next]

4:45pm: Mistaken for Strangers [Showtime 2]

7:45pm: Mistaken for Strangers [Showtime 2 West]

9:00pm: Citizenfour [HBO]

9:00pm: Inside Job [Pivot]

11:00pm: Citizenfour [HBO Latino]

11:00pm: The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst — Part 3 [HBO]

11:30pm: Inside Job [Pivot]

Tuesday — 02/24

12:00am: Citizenfour [HBO West]

12:05am: Richard Pryor: Omit the Logic [Showtime]

12:55am: The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst — Part 3 [HBO Latino]

2:00am: Citizenfour [HBO Latino West]

2:00am: Last Call at the Oasis [Pivot]

2:00am: The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst — Part 3 [HBO West]

2:25am: West of Memphis [Starz]

3:05am: Richard Pryor: Omit the Logic [Showtime West]

3:55am: The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst — Part 3 [HBO Latino West]

5:00am: Citizenfour [HBO and HBO Latino]

5:25am: West of Memphis [Starz West]

6:50am: Private Violence [HBO Signature]

7:00pm: The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst — Part 3 [HBO Signature]

8:00pm: Citizenfour [HBO West and HBO Latino West]

8:15pm: Finding Vivian Maier [Showtime Showcase]

9:50pm: Private Violence [HBO Signature West]

10:00pm: The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst — Part 3 [HBO Signature West]

11:15pm: Finding Vivian Maier [Showtime Showcase West]

11:00pm: Nas: Time Is Illmatic [Showtime]

More to Read:

(Editor in Chief)

Christopher Campbell is the founding editor of Nonfics.