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 8, 2013:
1. Herman’s House [New to VOD] — With last week’s prison release and then death of Herman Wallace, this film has sadly taken on additional reason to recommend it. It’s primarily about activist-artist Jackie Sumell as she works on a project with and about Wallace. One part of this project is an installation that shows how small a space — 6'x9' — he has had to live in for the past 41 years while serving a record time in solitary confinement. The other part involves the design of Wallace’s dream house. The doc covers a lot of territory, ultimately addressing prison conditions, post-Karina development in New Orleans and less heavy things like architecture and community. Pay respects by watching this great tribute.
2. Mea Maxima Culpa [New to DVD] — Recently the winner of three Creative Arts Emmy Awards, for outstanding writing, outstanding editing and exceptional merit in filmmaking, this doc from Alex Gibney looks at a case in which four deaf men exposed the Catholic priest who sexually abused them half a century ago. But that’s only the starting off point to an investigation of a scandal and the system of coverups that takes the filmmaker and us all the way to the Vatican. It’s one of Gibney’s best, particularly for how he once again experiments with the interview component. Rather than subtitle the sign language of the main subjects, he has actors Ethan Hawke, John Slattery, Chris Cooper and Jamey Sheridan speak the translation. The DVD comes with 7 deleted scenes that offer another anecdote from Pat plus dispensable visits to Rome, Assisi, Paris, London, Madrid, Belfast and Ireland, where a man claims pedophiles are the country’s true largest import, not Guinness.
3. Brooklyn Castle [New to POV streaming] — If you haven’t already seen this audience favorite in the theater or on DVD or on Netflix Instant, here’s another great opportunity to fall in love with the kids of the I.S. 318 chess team. It’s part competition doc and part education issue doc as we follow a number of students at school and at home, on the road to matches and towards achievement of master status. Meanwhile, we also meet the adults trying to make a difference with the kids through the way chess helps them to learn and socialize, but budget cuts continue to affect extra-curricular activities like theirs. Some of the most memorable documentary characters of the past year can be found here. Watch it via POV.
4. Mondays at Racine, Open Heart and Redemption [New to HBO — Premiering Monday, October 14, starting at 9pm] — I’m lumping these three shorts together because they’re debuting on HBO next Monday night together. And of course they were all fellow Oscar nominees this year (all losing to Inocente). None are perfect, but each has something that I liked a lot or found affecting. Racine is a real tear jerker and really appreciated for centering on the cancer-stricken women who go to a Long Island salon for a special day of care rather than the owners doing the good deed. Open Heart is notable mainly for its cinematography above its cause, which is the treatment of young Africans with severe heart problems. And Redemption is a lighter more fun story of people who redeem cans for a living or extra income, a film that’s ultimately rather depressing and relevant to the economic situation for many American in recent years. Make sure to also check out the Oscar winner Inoncente, available on iTunes, and fifth nominee King’s Point, which has already debuted on HBO and is streaming on HBO GO.
More Must-See Nonfiction TV:
Neshoba: The Price of Freedom [10/9 on Free Speech TV, 10am ET]
Dragonslayer [10/9 on Showtime NEXT, 4:45pm ET]
Valentine Road [10/9 on HBO2, 8pm ET]
Dave Chappelle’s Block Party [10/9 on Showtime 2, 9:35pm ET]
Which Way Is the Front Line from Here? The Life and Time of Tim Hetherington [10/10 on HBO Signature, 2:50am ET]
We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists [10/10 on Pivot, 8pm ET]
Hearts and Minds [10/11 on FLIX, 1:30am ET]
99%: The Occupy Wall Street Collaborative Film [10/11 on Pivot, 1pm ET]
Last Days Here [10/11 on The Movie Channel, 3pm ET]
Into the Cold: A Journey of the Soul [10/12 on ESPN Classic, 2am ET]
The Endless Summer [10/12 on ESPN Classic, 3:45am ET]
Pearl Jam Twenty [10/12 on VH1, 10pm ET]
El Bulli: Cooking in Progress [10/13 on Link, 11am ET]
Space Station [10/13 on 3net, 4pm ET]
Sicko [10/14 on Sundance Channel, 6am ET]
Primary [10/14 on Pivot, 7am ET]
Chimpanzee [10/15 on Starz, 8:35am ET]
Space Tourists [10/15 on Pivot, 9am ET]
Man on a Mission: Richard Garriott’s Road to the Stars [10/15 on Pivot, 10:30am ET]
Also New to DVD and/or Blu-ray:
Ain’t In It For My Health: A Film About Levon Helm [DVD and Blu-ray]
A Day in the Life: Seasons 1 and 2
Vampira And Me
Victory at Sea — The Complete 26 Episode Series — Plus 6 Bonus War Documentary Programs — Collector’s Tin
Also New to Netflix Watch Instantly:
Évocateur: The Morton Downey Jr. Movie
Mindless Behavior: All Around the World
Mother India: Life Through the Eyes of…
Also New to VOD:
Breaking: Los Angeles
The Perfect Victim [via Journeyman Pictures]