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. So, this may be the most important post of the week for fans of nonfics. 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 October 29, 2013:
1. Cutie and the Boxer [New to iTunes] — A surprise out of Sundance this year, Zachary Heinzerling’s film about married artists Noriko Shinohara and the much more famous Ushio Shinohara remains one of my favorites of the year. The slightly dysfunctional duo provides a romantic yet complicated love story filled with wonderful animations of Noriko’s autobiographical cartoons and an underlying feminism. After watching it in January, I wrote that it “has a kind of violent beauty” and is “engaging and wonderful and upsetting and empowering and funny and sad and amazing.” Also available to buy on YouTube.
2. Foreign Parts [Airing Thursday on Pivot] — Harvard’s Sensory Ethnography Lab is getting lots of attention this year thanks to Leviathan and to a lesser extent Manakamana, but before them came Foreign Parts, directed by Leviathan’s Verena Paravel with J.P. Sniadecki. The film brings us to Willets Point, Queens, a village of scrapyards and auto body shops across from Citi Field, to see the people and machines — many of which are sort of anthropomorphized — populating the place. What starts out rather observational becomes more surprisingly interactive on the part of the filmmakers, and my favorite moment might be when one guy tells the directors he hopes they get a good grade. As I noted in a review from NYFF in 2010, it is an anthropological work that offers a glimpse of what will soon be gone, as even then there was threat of redevelopment of the area (plans for a shopping center and entertainment complex were just approved finally this month). Also available on DVD and Amazon Instant.
3. Lou Reed’s Berlin [New to iTunes; Airing Tonight on Palladium] — I wanted to highlight this concert film by Julian Schnabel anyway because of Lou Reed’s death, and then iTunes apparently added it to its new release section. That’s a great place to rent it, but if you want to buy it’s also available on DVD from Amazon for only $6.49. And, while this is short notice, it’s also on the Palladium cable channel tonight. This is a film that I don’t absolutely love. In my review five years ago, I criticized Schabel’s decision to intercut clips of his daughter’s film material rather than simply letting them play in the background of the stage, where they’d been during the shows. But I also celebrated its ability to make me feel like I was at St. Ann’s Warehouse one of the very rare nights in 2006 when Reed performed songs from his Berlin album. I’ve tried listening to the album since, and it’s not as good as here, live, particularly because of the concert film’s appearances of Sharon Jones, Anthony Hegarty and The Brooklyn Youth Chorus. I especially like the contrast between Hegarty and Reed, and I’ve never been able to forget their rendition of “Candy Says.” Also check out the doc short Reed directed, Red Shirley, on SnagFilms. RIP.
4. The Battle of Chile: Part 1 & 2 [Airing Tuesday on TCM] — Patricio Guzman’s classic, vital, important chronicle of the Chilean coup in 1973 gets a rare television showing thanks to Turner Classic Movies and their program of films associated with the airing of Mark Cousins’ documentary series The Story of Film. I don’t know why they’re not including Part 3 after the back-to-back very early morning presentation of the first two films, but maybe they want you to buy the box set, which might otherwise be the only place to see these docs right now. If you’ve never seen at least the first part, it’s imperative. In a recent Shots from the Canon column, Robert Greene wrote, “almost exactly 40 years after Allende died, the film speaks unmistakably to this and every other era. It should be re-released once a year, the cinemas should be packed and we should never stop learning from its insights.” Set your DVR now.
5. Circo [New to SundanceNow’s Doc Club] — It’s a new month, so a new program curated by Thom Powers at SundanceNow’s Doc Club. November’s theme is Global Tales, and the only film selected that I’ve seen is this look at a Mexican traveling family circus. I love films about and of the circus (even though I hate the actual circus) and found this one especially fascinating for the generational relationships and the children who are born participants of this tradition. It comes across as a terrible and wonderful life to be burdened with. Circo joins Rehearsal for a Sicilian Tragedy, Give Up Tomorrow, A Jihad for Love, Bhutto, 21 Up in South Africa and Mugabe and the White African. All seven can be watched for a very low price, but as usual I recommend a full subscription. Circo is also available on Netflix Instant and iTunes.
6. Call Me Kuchu [New to Netflix Instant] — This film about LGBTI rights activists in Uganda was a highlight on a Nonfics Home Picks post last month when it arrived on DVD. This is a reminder now that it’s even more accessible. Don’t forget to listen to Daniel’s praise in episode 5 of The Realness podcast. And also check out his write up on the film in his Out Take column at Film.com. Also available on Vudu and XBox.
New to DVD and/or Blu-ray:
Cinerama Holiday [Blu-ray]
Cinerama South Seas Adventures [Blu-ray]
The Search for Robert Johnson
Springsteen & I [DVD and Blu-ray]
Also New to Netflix Watch Instantly:
We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks
Also New to iTunes/VOD:
Seduced and Abandoned (HBO On Demand)
More Must-See Nonfiction TV:
The Gatekeepers [10/29 on Starz, 1:35pm ET]
Dragonslayer [10/29 on Showtime Extreme, 3:30pm ET]
Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory [10/29 on HBO 2, 5:55pm ET]
Lou Reed’s Berlin [10/29 on Palladium, 8pm ET]
Chimpanzee [10/30 on Starz, 5:50am ET]
Crisis: Behind a Presidential Commitment [10/30 on Pivot, 2:15pm ET]
Open Heart [10/30 on HBO Signature, 5:50pm ET]
Bowling for Columbine [10/31 on More Max, 3:30am ET]
Foreign Parts [10/31 on Pivot, 7am ET]
Winged Migration [11/1 on BYU TV, 2pm ET]
Valentine Road [11/1 on HBO2, 5:40pm ET]
Pearl Jam Twenty [11/1 on Palladium, 10:30pm ET]
Make Believe [11/2 on Showtime Beyond, 7:40am ET]
Boys of Summer [11/2 on ESPN Classic, 12pm ET]
One Day in September [11/2 on Jewish Life TV, 5pm ET]
Hubble [11/3 on 3net, 4pm ET]
Redemption [11/4 on HBO2, 2:50am ET]
Primary [11/4 on Pivot, 4pm ET]
Magnificent Desolation: Walking on the Moon [11/4 on 3net, 8pm ET]
Carol Channing: Larger Than Life [11/5 on Showtime, 6am ET]
The Battle of Chile: Part 1 [11/5 on TCM, 5:45am ET]
The Battle of Chile: Part 2 [11/5 on TCM, 7:30am ET]
Startup.com [11/5 on Showtime Next, 7:30am ET]