‘Full Battle Rattle’ and ‘A Fierce Green Fire’ Top This Week’s Nonfics Home Picks

fierce green fire dvd

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 1, 2013:

1. Full Battle Rattle [New to Sundance NOW’s Doc Club] — Considering I used to be really into war movies, it surprises me that I’ve only seen one of the documentaries selected for this month’s Doc Club theme, which is “War: What It It Good For?” Other titles curated by Thom Powers for October include Bulletproof Salesman, Garbo: The Spy, The Man Nobody Knew: In Search of My Father CIA Spymaster William Colby, Howard Zinn: You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train, The Good War and Those Who Refused to Fight It and Oscar nominee Berkeley in the Sixties. I have seen Full Battle Rattle and found it rather enjoyable for its theatrics. Directed by Tony Gerber and Jesse Moss, the 2008 film presents an Iraq War simulation to prepare U.S. soldiers for what they’ll find once deployed. It’s an interesting film on a few levels, most of all for the staging of the pre-enactments themselves, but also for the stories of Iraqi-Americans who work there acting out stereotypes and generalized scenarios and also for what it says about the military’s intentions to be sensitive yet coming across as still generalizing. For only $5, you can and should watch this and the rest of the new Doc Club program.

2. A Fierce Green Fire: The Battle for a Living Planet [New to DVD] — One of the titles in the new Doc Club program is Mark Kitchell’s Berkeley in the Sixties, which is neat since my second recommendation of the week is Kitchell’s latest. I believe technically the version of this film I saw early last year was a work in progress. Regardless, I already accepted it as a necessarily positive reminder of the power of activism. Like the better-known How to Survive a Plague, A Fierce Green Fire focuses on achievement more than on a cause to get behind. It chronicles the environmentalism movement from the ’60s through to the present, breaking the history up into chapters on conservation, pollution and climate change. If you’ve seen too many doom and gloom docs that make it seem as if the earth is past the point of saving, you’ll find some hope in the stories included here — maybe even inspired to lead the next wave of success. Also available on iTunes and to stream on Amazon.

3. Valentine Road [Premiering on HBO] — I’m somewhat conflicted with my feelings about this doc. On the one hand it’s an important story that must be seen — it’s about the point-blank shooting of middle schooler Larry/Latisha King by classmate Brandon McIrney. One the other hand, it’s a film that incited a lot of anger in me for all the bigotry spewed on screen from teachers, students, psychologists and others who remain against King’s sexual and gender identity. I don’t normally let docs affect me as much as this did, and the fact that this one hit me so subjectively definitely isn’t a criticism. I’ll just say that its concentration took turns I wasn’t expecting, and that is sort of a plus. Tune in for the premiere Monday night at 9pm ET when it kicks off the HBO Docs fall season, and then let’s discuss it.

4. The Central Park Five [New to Netflix Instant] — While it didn’t make my list of top 10 docs about NYC, this film by Ken Burns with daughter Sarah Burns and son-in-law David McMahon [which itself just won another legal battle with the city] is nonetheless a must-see work of history and justice. The focus is on the title group of men wrongfully convicted in the famous 1989 case of a jogger raped in Central Park. It plays mostly as yet another of your basic docs of the sort, making us mad about coerced statements and flaws in the judicial system. But I found the race angle and particularly the media-spawned narratives and assumptions on crimes to be the most important things to come away with. I think the film damns society even more than the legal system. Also, I found it to be like an appendix to my #1 NYC doc, Rick Burns’s New York, especially due to Craig Steven Wilder’s appearance. Stream it on Netflix.

5. Love Free or Die [New to Netflix Instant] — Another inspiring and encouraging film to go along with A Fierce Green Fire this week, Macky Alston’s 2012 doc follows the life of Gene Robinson, the first openly gay bishop, and his discrimination within the Episcopal Church, especially overseas. Love Free or Die is the kind of issue film that presents a hero and his accomplishments as opposed to calling for heroes from its audience. And Robinson is quite the captivating character. As I’ve written before, you’ll have trouble not getting emotional alongside him during both painful and triumphant scenes. One of the most positive docs in years. The film is now streaming on Netflix yet the service does not carry the DVD. Also available to stream on Amazon and other VOD outlets.

More Must-See Nonfiction TV:

Kumare [10/2 on Pivot, 6am ET]

The Loving Story [10/2 on HBO East, 7am ET]

Chimpanzee [10/2 on Starz Kids & Family, 10am ET]

El Bulli: Cooking in Progress [10/2 on Link, 3pm ET]

99% — The Occupy Wall Street Collaborative Film [10/2 on Pivot, 8pm ET]

Unraveled [10/3 on Showtime Showcase, 7:35am ET]

Dragonslayer [10/3 on Showtime Next, 3:45pm ET]

Dave Chappelle’s Block Party [10/4 on Showtime, 1:10am ET]

The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia [10/4 on Showtime Next, 11:15pm ET]

The Song of Ceylon [10/5 on Shorts HD, 1pm ET]

Into the Cold: A Journey of the Soul [10/5 on ESPN Classic, 3pm ET]

The Endless Summer [10/5 on ESPN Classic, 5:15pm ET]

We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists [10/6 on Pivot, 9pm ET]

Queen of the Sun: What are the Bees Telling Us? [10/7 on Free Speech TV, 2am ET]

Which Way is the Front Line From Here? The Life and Time of Tim Hetherington [10/7 on HBO Signature, 4:40am ET]

Last Call at the Oasis [10/7 on Pivot, 9am ET]

Exit Through the Gift Shop [10/7 on Showtime Showcase, 10:30am ET]

Also New to DVD and/or Blu-ray:

Latino Americans

The Castle Project

My Father and the Man in Black: Growing Up with Johnny Cash

Bob and the Monster

An Oversimplification of Her Beauty

The U [New to Blu-ray]

Also New to Netflix Watch Instantly:

Room 237 *

Louder Than a Bomb

An Unlikely Weapon: The Eddie Adams Story

No Place on Earth

Family Affair

Horgasm: A Love Story

Fame High

Face 2 Face


Also New to VOD:

Muscle Shoals

Breath of the Gods: A Journey to the Center of Modern Yoga

Wakaliwood: The Documentary

* = Previously recommended on Nonfics Home Picks

(Editor in Chief)

Christopher Campbell is the founding editor of Nonfics.