‘Informant,’ ‘Passione’ and ‘Toxic Hot Seat’ Top This Week’s Nonfics Home Picks

informant 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 November 19, 2013:

1. Informant

[New to DVD] — While the 2013 DOC NYC fest is going on right now, today sees the home video release of last year’s Grand Jury Prize winner (which also was named Best Documentary at the 2012 Austin Film Festival). Jamie Meltzer’s documentary may sound familiar to anyone who saw the more well-known Better This World, as it concerns the exact same incident of “domestic terrorism” only from a different character’s point of view. The main subject here, as the title suggests, is activist-turned-informant Brandon Darby. As I wrote on Film School Rejects exactly one year ago yesterday, I found this to be the more fascinating take on the story if only because I love docs that put controversial figures front and center. But it should be seen instead of that film if you haven’t seen either. They make a great Rashomon-esque double feature.
Also available on iTunes and Amazon Instant Video [Stream Now]

1a. Better This World

[On Netflix Watch Instantly — Stream Now] — As long as I’m recommending that double feature, I might as well just include it as one of this week’s picks.

2. Toxic Hot Seat

[Premieres on HBO on November 25th] — As you may have seen in our 4-Star review of the film posted today from DOC NYC, Daniel is a big fan of this piece of cinematic journalism, which he claims is one of the best issue films of the year. He writes, “This exposé of the chemical industry and the toxicity and usefulness of flame retardant chemicals plays out more like a political thriller than a plea for your support or your money. Its final moments, driving home the need for reform, are necessitated not by the ethical emphasis of the film but by the importance of narrative closure…we need documentaries like this one.” Watch the debut on Monday at 9pm ET, after which it will probably be available on HBO On Demand and/or from HBO GO.

3. Into the Cold: A Journey to the Soul

[New to Netflix Watch Instantly — Stream Now] — I’ve brought this film up a number of times over the past three years. Following my review for Cinematical (now find it on Moviefone) from the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival, I’ve mentioned it in other reviews, blog posts and even here in prior Nonfics Home Picks columns when it’s been on ESPN Classic. It’s the kind of doc I’ve wanted people to see and never spot anyone else talking about it. Maybe because it concerns global warming. But as with more recent and more recognized films Chasing Ice and Expedition to the End of the World, Into the Cold is more about documenting the arctic as it is now, before it’s all changed as a result of the climate change. Photographer/director Sebastian Copeland, who went to the North Pole on the 100th anniversary of the first expedition to reach that point, does want to inspire us to change. For me, though, it’s what he’s captured that matters here, for posterity more than as a motivating tool.

4. Passione

[New to DVD] — John Turturro directed this avant-garde doc about the musical heritage of Naples. Daniel reviewed it more than two years ago for Indiewire’s Spout blog, where he likened it to a city symphony film. He went on to write, “The beautifully gripping performances in his film, some 25 songs, depict the city of Naples with the kind of artistic sensibility that has been missing from many recent urban-inspired cinematic odes. Somehow Turturro manages to touch on so much of Neapolitan art and history that you feel transported, if not to the real Spaccanapoli, than to a cultural essence of the city that seems to exist elsewhere.”
Also available on iTunes, Netflix Watch Instantly [Stream Now], SnagFilms [Stream Now], YouTube [Stream Now], Hulu [Stream Now] and Amazon Instant Video [Stream Now].

5. Four Days in November

[Airing on TCM on the night of November 21st/22nd] — You can’t find it on Netflix or Amazon (except as an expensive, rare VHS copy), and the bootleg on YouTube is not the right way to go. Strange that an Oscar nominee such as this doc by Mel Stuart (WattStax; Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory) about the coverage of the JFK and Lee Harvey Oswald assassinations should be so hard to watch, but fortunately Turner Classic Movies has scheduled it to air this week, if only because of the 50th anniversary of the president’s death. If you choose one commemorating program this week to DVR, make it this one. Or watch it when it’s on, this Thursday night at midnight. See the opening below.


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

All the Labor: The Story of the Gourds

American Experience: JFK [Also available on Blu-ray]

Bada$$ Mothaf**kas

Beyonce: Life Is But a Dream

Blackfish [Now on Blu-ray]


Cambodia: Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge

Degenerate Art: The Art and Culture of Glass Pipes

Drew: The Man Behind The Poster

Francis: The Pope from the New World

Frontline: Egypt in Crisis

Gozaran: Time Passing [Also available on Blu-ray]


Harvesting the High Plains

Highest Level: Documentary on the Recording

I Ride: The Story of America’s Biker Culture

The Kennedy Half Century

Momo: The Sam Giancana Story

The Motivation

Rice Field of Dreams

Schooled: The Price of College Sports

Secrets of the Dead: Jfk: One Pm Central Standard

Stay More: The World of Donald Harington

channing doc

Also New to Netflix Watch Instantly:

An African Election [Stream Now]

The Atomic States of America [Stream Now]

Buffalo Girls [Stream Now]

Burn [Stream Now]

Carol Channing: Larger Than Life [Stream Now]

Gypsy Davy [Stream Now]

Let’s Make Money [Stream Now]

Sing Me the Songs That Say I Love You: A Concert for Kate McGarrigle [Stream Now]

Tomorrow Will Be Better [Stream Now]


Also New to iTunes/VOD:

Anton Corbijn Inside Out [Amazon Instant Video; iTunes]

At Night I Fly

The Auctioneer [Amazon Instant Video]

Best Kept Secret [Amazon Instant VideoiTunes]

Bridegroom [Amazon Instant VideoiTunes]

Cutie and the Boxer [Amazon Instant Video]

Drew: The Man Behind the Poster [iTunes]

JFK: The Smoking Gun [Amazon Instant Video]

Momo: The Sam Giancana Story [Vimeo On Demand]

Rice Field of Dreams [Amazon Instant Video]

Schooled: The Price of College Sports [Amazon Instant Video]

Where I Am [Amazon Instant Video]

More Must-See Nonfiction TV:

Startup.com [11/20 on Showtime Next, 9:30am ET]

Inside Job [11/20 on Starz, 3:40pm ET]

The Hip Hop Project [11/20 on Pivot, 4pm ET]

The Yes Men [11/21 on Starz, 5:20am ET]

The Gatekeepers [11/21 on Starz, 9am ET]

Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest [11/21 on Palladia, 1pm ET]


Beware of Mr. Baker [11/21 on The Movie Channel, 3:20pm ET]

Four Days in November [11/22 on TCM, 12am ET]

Valentine Road [11/22 on HBO 2, 12am ET]

The MGM Story [11/22 on TCM, 4:45am ET]

Surviving Progress [11/22 on Free Speech TV, 1pm ET]

Woodstock [11/22 on VH1 Classic, 9pm ET]

Crisis: Behind a Presidential Commitment [11/22 on Pivot, 9:15pm ET]

The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia [11/23 on The Movie Channel, 4am ET]

Pearl Jam Twenty [11/23 on VH1 Classic, 6pm ET]

Chimpanzee [11/24 on Starz Kids & Family, 12:05am ET]

Food, Inc. [11/24 on Pivot, 9pm ET]

Last Call at the Oasis[11/24 on Pivot, 11:30pm ET]

Paul Williams Still Alive[11/26 on Showtime, 4:40am ET]

(Editor in Chief)

Christopher Campbell is the founding editor of Nonfics.