‘Leviathan’ and ‘Far Out Isn’t Far Enough’ Top This Week’s Nonfics Home Picks


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 22, 2013:

1. Leviathan [New to DVD and Blu-ray] — Included in last week’s Nonfics Home Picks for its iTunes debut, Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Verena Paravel’s sensory ethnography film about life of all kinds on and around a fishing boat is now even more recommended in its Blu-ray release. This is one of those docs that you either need to see on the big screen or with as big a TV or monitor as you can get and in the highest quality format available. It’s not just a passive viewing experience of pretty images, either. Leviathan is a puzzle for the eyes and the mind and a stunning achievement of cinematographic reality. I’ll say it for the billionth time, it’s unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. Special features include an essay by French critic Cyril Neyrat and a new short film titled Still Life / Nature Morte, which is 30 more minutes of the galley footage of fisherman watching TV.

2. Far Out Isn’t Far Enough: The Tomi Ungerer Story [New to DVD] — This pick is kind of a 180 turn from Leviathan. While that film is all about the visuals and not any characters or subject, this doc by Brad Bernstein is about children’s book and erotica illustrator Tomi Ungerer, who would make it worth watching even if it wasn’t that well made. As I’m quoted in the marketing materials as saying, the film is “easily the most wildly fascinating artist profiled in a documentary since Crumb.” Note that’s not praise the work he appears in. But it is a decent doc in its own right, focusing on Ungerer’s relationship to the dark absurdities of life since his birth, and it features some nice animations of his drawings. Also see Maurice Sendak in one of his final appearances and learn about Ungerer’s philosophy of “coping not hoping.” DVD special features include a video of Sendak reviewing The King’s Speech, deleted and additional scenes and commentary with Bernstein. [My Review at Movies.com]

3. The Great Hip-Hop Hoax [New to iTunes] — I’m sort of surprised and sort of not surprised this fascinating documentary wasn’t distributed with more fanfare over here. It is a documentary dealing with the British music industry, but it’s relatable from an American perspective, especially since it’s about two Scottish rappers who pretend to be from California. I’d think it’d be more interesting to people over here who might be shocked to have never heard the story of Silibil n’ Brains. I’ve called it both the Imposter of music docs and the Exit Through the Gift Shop of music docs, and that certainly does sound appealing, right? Directed by Jeanie Finlay (Sound It Out), the doc must not have made big enough waves at SXSW back in March, but now you can all catch up with it. As I wrote in my now unavailable capsule review from Hot Docs for Documentary Channel, “The ironies involving the record industry are overflowing.”

4. Blackfish [Premiering on CNN] — Without a doubt the most compelling issue film of the year, Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s doc on orca captivity and one particular animal’s murderous nature is going to find tons of angry new fans on the cable network this week. It has already had an effect on a future Pixar movie and may be unofficially influencing SeaWorld’s practices. There is some really striking, scary footage in the film around the midway point that gives it its most power. But it’s certainly not the only recent film on “killer whales” you have to see, and I’m not talking about Rush and Bone. See below. [My Profile Interview at RogerEbert.com]

5. The Whale [New to Netflix Instant] — If you see Blackfish, you need to follow it with this 2011 doc narrated by Ryan Reynolds and produced by him and his then-wife Scarlett Johansson. Directed by Michael Parfit and Suzanne Chisholm, it’s a look at an issue involving orcas in the wild related to whale watching and some of the same animal-for-entertainment stuff at the center of the SeaWorld criticisms. Specifically it’s the story of Luna, a killer whale who tried to befriend the locals of Nootka Sound in British Columbia and wouldn’t rejoin her pack. Maybe because she was a reincarnated Indian shaman? It’s particularly interesting after watching the other film, which kind of offers the idea of going out in a boat and seeing orcas in the wild as the better alternative. Not necessarily. [My Review at Indiewire]

6. A Band Called Death [New to Netflix Instant] — This music doc about the long-unknown punk band Death has some of the biggest buzz of the year, and it does deserve much of it. Compared to the very similar Searching for Sugar Man, it feels a lot more heartfelt and genuine. It did take a really long time for it to pull me in, though, as it’s almost like two different films in one. The first part is a story about the band of three brothers in Detroit in the 70s, and the second part is about the recent re-discovery and re-issue of their music while also focusing on an original member’s three sons carrying on the tradition with their own punk band. It’s the young guys who really ultimately made the movie worthwhile for me, especially their telling of their reactions to finding out about their awesome family secret.

More Must-See Nonfiction TV:

Redemption [10/22 on HBO, 1:15pm ET]

El Bulli: Cooking in Progress [10/23 on LinkTV, 2am ET]

The Other F Word [10/23 on The Movie Channel, 4:10am ET]

Primary [10/23 on Pivot, 10am ET]

Crisis: Behind a Presidential Commitment [10/23 on Pivot, 11:15am ET]

Dave Chappelle’s Block Party [10/23 on Showtime, 6pm ET]

Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest [10/23 on Palladium, 9pm ET]

The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia [10/23 on Showcase, 11:20pm ET]

Afghan Muscles [10/24 on LinkTV, 3am ET]

Pussy Riot — A Punk Prayer [10/24 on HBO, 4:30am ET]

Valentine Road [10/24 on HBO Signature, 8:40am ET]

99 Percent: The Occupy Wall Street Collaborative Film [10/24 on Pivot, 9:30am ET]

Last Days Here [10/24 on The Movie Channel, 3pm ET]

The Gatekeepers [10/24 on Starz, 5:25pm ET]

Chimpanzee [10/24 on Starz Kids & Family, 6:40pm ET]

Last Call at the Oasis [10/25 on Pivot, 12:30pm ET]

Lou Reed’s Berlin [10/25 on Palladium, 7pm ET]

Hearts and Minds [10/26 on FLIX, 2:45am ET]

In the Shadow of the Moon [10/26 on Military, 9am ET]

Gunnin’ for That №1 Spot [10/26 on ESPN Classic, 5pm ET]

Exit Through the Gift Shop [10/27 on Showcase, 4am ET]

Pearl Jam Twenty [10/27 on VH1 Classic, 5pm ET]

Man on a Mission: Richard Garriott’s Road to the Stars [10/28 on Pivot, 9:30am ET]

Dragonslayer [10/29 on Showtime Extreme, 3:30pm ET]

Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory [10/29 on HBO 2, 5:55pm ET]

Also New to DVD and/or Blu-ray:

After the Tsunami

Amazon 3D — In The Heart Of Wild Nature [Blu-ray]

An Apology to Elephants

Galapagos 3D — Charles Darwin’s Big Adventure [Blu-ray]

Monumental: In Search of America’s National Treasure(4xDVD Deluxe Edition)

Necessary Evil: Super-Villains of DC Comics [DVD and Blu-ray]

Shepard & Dark

The Waiting Room

Yellowstone 3D — America’s Greatest Wonder [Blu-ray]

Also New to Netflix Watch Instantly:

Addicted to Fame

Addicted to Plastic

Death By China

Dirty Wars

Jedi Junkies

One Day On Earth

Rebirth: New Orleans

Reveal the Path

A Sea Change

TWA: Flight 800

Also New to VOD

Roman Polanski: A Film Memoir

Shepard & Dark


(Editor in Chief)

Christopher Campbell is the founding editor of Nonfics.