Peter Mettler’s ‘The End of Time’ and ‘Picture of Light’ Top This Week’s Nonfics Home Picks

End of Time 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 April 15, 2014:

1. The End of Time

[Now on DVD from First Run Features and on iTunes] — The latest film from Peter Mettler is a documentary exploring the concept of time, by way of visits to the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland, the flowing lava of Hawaii and the urban decay and renewal of Detroit. Daniel Walber had this to say in a feature on Mettler last year while comparing it to Herzog’s recent work: “The End of Time brings together time, space, nature and humankind in a way that other recent documentaries have perhaps only begun to consider…. [Mettler’s] predominant mode is that of questioning wonderment, ever more open-minded and impressionable no matter how much scientific information is added to the mix. This is the strength of his work, the notion that the human experience is full of discovery and transcendence no matter where or when we find ourselves. And with The End of Time, this idea is as exciting as it ever was.”

DVD features include director’s commentary.

2. Picture of Light

[Now on DVD from First Run Features] — Joining Mettler’s latest on DVD is his 20-year-old film about Aurora Borealis, aka the Northern Lights. Daniel Walber also wrote a bit about this one last year: “Picture of Light (1994) is a scientific adventure flick of sorts, chronicling an expedition to capture the Northern Lights on film. The goal is both scientific and spiritual, not that Mettler necessarily sees a difference between those two categories. This is about transcendence, which can be a similar experience regardless of whether it is rationalized through faith or the mathematics of refraction.”

DVD features include a photo gallery and the article “Paradox and Wonder: The Cinema of Peter Mettler.”

Also available on iTunes

3. Pablo

[New to Netflix Watch Instantly] — 10 years after co-directing a short doc on the same subject, Richard Goldgewicht made this partly animated feature about graphic designer and advertising legend Pablo Ferro. His life and work would be enough to recommend it, because everyone should know of him, especially movie fans (he did famous title credits sequences for Stanley Kubrick, Hal Ashby, Norman Jewison and others). It doesn’t matter that it’s a mostly straightforward profile, featuring Ferro discussing himself, plus celebrity interviews including Jewison, Jonathan Demme, Angelica Huston, Andy Garcia, George Segal, Jon Voight, Richard Benjamin and Leonard Maltin, among others. What makes Pablo special and more interesting than another conventional doc, though, is the playful, non-straightforward narration voiced by Jeff Bridges. You even get outtakes from him during the end credits — because of course you have to have some sort of interesting credit sequence with a film about Ferro.

Also available on DVD and iTunes

4. Let the Fire Burn

[New to Netflix Watch Instantly] — This listing previously appeared on another Nonfics Home Picks: One of the best directorial debuts I’ve seen in years, this Cinema Eye Honor-winning compilation film by Georgetown professor Jason Osder came in at #5 on my list of the best of last year and #8 on our critics poll. It is also #5 on Nonfics’s best of 2013 list, where Landon Palmer wrote: “The concept of an archival documentary can often suggest stale historical “objectivity,” a straightforward presentation of events unimpeded by the voice of the filmmaker. But Jason Osder’s Let the Fire Burn — an assemblage of occurrences before and after the Philadelphia Police Department set an activist group’s house aflame in 1985 — makes a case for the rich and affecting testimony that the archive alone can uniquely attest to. Meticulously constructing the film from news coverage, home videos, court testimonies and a passionate series of town council meetings, Osder presents a profound chronicle of the MOVE Organization that makes an intensely troubling historical moment feel like it’s unfolding right in front of you.”

Also available on DVD, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu and YouTube

5. Sherman’s March

[Back on Netflix Watch Instantly] — This listing previously appeared in another form on another Nonfics Home Picks: I’ll always take an opportunity to recommend one of my favorite documentaries of all time. Sherman’s March is a brilliant memoir by Ross McElwee as he rebounds from a broken heart while exploring Civil War history in the South. It’s profound, funny, features a cameo from Stroker Ace-era Burt Reynolds and, best of all, co-stars the greatest documentary character of all time, Charleen Swansea, in her best moments.

Sherman’s March is also available on DVD and iTunes

6. Milius

[New to Netflix Watch Instantly] — This listing previously appeared on another Nonfics Home Picks: We get docs about filmmakers and Hollywood all the time, because there is a specific large audience of movie lovers that they appeal to. This one on writer and director John Milius (Apocalypse Now; the original Red Dawn) might not be of interest outside that circle more than any others, but it is a slight step above most of its kind. That’s mainly because Milius is very appropriate to the anecdote-filled sort of doc that normally comes off as being too positive towards its subjects. Milius deserves this kind of panegyric mythmaking, and much of the time the film (by regular Kevin Smith collaborators Joey Figueroa and Zak Knutson, directing, and Scott Mosier, executive producing) acknowledges, through interviews with everyone from Scorsese to Spielberg to Eastwood to Coppola to Lucas that these stories may be true or false or thought to be legend but actually fact, etc. Milius offers a look at the life of one larger-than-life figure in the industry while telling much about the industry from the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s in the process.

Also available on Epix On Demand

7. Grizzly Man

[Airing on Starz Cinema on Monday night] — It’s actually quite common to find Werner Herzog’s film about grizzly bear lover Timothy Treadwell on Starz, but I’m going to pretend that this particular airing is in honor of Disneynature releasing their own grizzly bear movie, Bears, this weekend.

Also available on Starz On Demand, Starz Play, DVD, Blu-ray, iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, Vudu, Google Play and YouTube

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

7 Days in September

Beats: The True Life Story of Dr. Dre

Being Ginger

A Brief History of Time [Nonfics rating: ★★★★★; Nonfics review]

The Curse of the Gothic Symphony

De Nadie [No One]

The End of Time [Nonfics rating: ★★★★; Nonfics review]

The Gabby Douglas Story

The Hidden Art of Islam

I Was There: Days the World Changed

Into the Cosmos Collection

JFK: A President Betrayed

Led Zeppelin: Good Times, Bad Times

Living Things: A Vegan & Meat Debate

One Direction: In Their Own Words

Picture of Light [Nonfics rating: ★★★★; Nonfics review]

Russia’s Open Book: Writing in the Age of Putin

The Story of B.B. King: Master of Blues

Sunset Strip

New to Netflix Watch Instantly:

Earth Made of Glass

Let the Fire Burn [Nonfics rating: ★★★★]

Milius [Nonfics rating: ★★★]

Nazi Medicine

Pablo [Nonfics rating: ★★★]

Sherman’s March [Nonfics rating: ★★★★★]

When Jews Were Funny [Nonfics rating: ★★★; Nonfics review]

New to iTunes/Amazon Instant/VOD:

16 Acres— iTunes

Art Recession— Amazon

Biker Fox— Amazon, iTunes

Bombay Movie— iTunes

Coexist— Amazon

The Curse of the Gothic Symphony— iTunes

Don’t Shout Too Loud— iTunes

The End of Time [Nonfics rating: ★★★★; Nonfics review] — iTunes

The Gabby Douglas Story— Amazon, iTunes

God Loves Uganda [Nonfics rating: ★★★]

Journey to Planet X— iTunes

Pot Country— Amazon

Rivers of Men— Amazon

Suitcase of Love and Shame— iTunes

Swedish House Mafia: Leave the World Behind— iTunes

Tarr Bela: I Used to Be a Filmmaker— iTunes

Who Cares?— iTunes

Must-See Nonfiction TV:


Kings Point [4/15 on HBO2 East, 11:45am ET, HBO2 West, 2:45pm ET]

El Bulli: Cooking in Progress [4/15 on Link TV, 1pm and 9pm ET]

The Gatekeepers [4/15 on Starz East, 5pm ET, and Starz West, 8pm ET]

Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall [4/15 on HBO East, 5pm ET, and HBO West, 8pm ET]


Searching for Sugar Man [4/16 on Starz Edge, 3:45am ET]

Elvis: That’s the Way It Is [4/16 on TCM, 5am ET]

The Other F Word [4/16 on Showtime, 1:15pm ET, and Showtime West, 4:15pm ET]

99 Percent: The Occupy Wall Street Collaborative Film [4/16 on Pivot, 1:30pm ET]


Inside Job [4/17 on Starz Edge, 2:15am ET]

The MGM Story [4/17 on TCM, 5am ET]


Hearts and Minds [4/18 on Flix, 2:35am ET]

Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall [4/18 on HBO East, 12pm ET, and HBO West, 3pm ET]


Mondays at Racine [4/19 on HBO Signature, 5:30am ET]

Bag It [4/19 on Pivot, 9am ET]

Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall [4/15 on HBO2 East, 11am ET, and HBO2 West, 2pm ET]

Kings Point [4/19 on HBO2 East, 1:30pm ET, HBO2 West, 3:30pm ET]

Senna [4/19 on ESPN Classic, 2pm ET]


A Place at the Table [4/20 on Pivot, 7:30am ET]

My Kid Could Paint That [4/20 on Starz Cinema, 9:15am ET]

Senna [4/20 on ESPN Classic, 12pm ET]

Hubble 3D [4/20 on 3net, 4pm ET]

Magnificent Desolation: Walking on the Moon 3D [4/20 on 3net, 8pm and 11pm ET]

Last Call at the Oasis [4/20 on Pivot, 9pm ET]


Last Call at the Oasis [4/21 on Pivot, 12:30am ET]

Paris is Burning [4/21 on Flix, 2:35am ET]

Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer [4/21 on HBO2 East, 3am ET, and HBO2 West, 6am ET]

A Place at the Table [4/21 on Pivot, 3am ET]

El Bulli: Cooking in Progress [4/21 on Link TV, 3am ET]

Magnificent Desolation: Walking on the Moon 3D [4/21 on 3net, 3am and 2pm ET]

Hearts and Minds [4/21 on Flix, 4am ET]

Valentine Road [4/21 on HBO East, 5am ET, and HBO West, 8am ET]

The Crash Reel [4/21 on HBO2 East, 7:45am ET, and HBO2 West, 10:45am ET]

The Other F Word [4/21 on Showtime, 11:50am ET, and Showtime West, 2:50pm ET]

Grizzly Man [4/21 on Starz Cinema, 8:10pm ET]

Paycheck to Paycheck: The Life & Times of Katrina Gilbert [4/21 on HBO2 East, 11pm ET]


Paycheck to Paycheck: The Life & Times of Katrina Gilbert [4/22 on HBO2 West, 2am ET]

Magnificent Desolation: Walking on the Moon 3D [4/22 on 3net, 3am ET]

West of Memphis [4/21 on Starz East, 3:50am ET, and Starz West, 6:50am ET]

The Flaw [4/22 on Link TV, 4am ET]

Gloria: In Her Own Words [4/22 on HBO East, 6:25am ET, and HBO West, 9:25am ET]

First Comes Love [4/22 on HBO East, 9:15am ET, and HBO West, 12:15pm ET]

Last Call at the Oasis [4/22 on Pivot, 2pm ET]

Oceans [4/22 on Animal Planet, 5pm ET]

Gasland Part II [4/22 on HBO Signature, 5:50pm ET]

(Editor in Chief)

Christopher Campbell is the founding editor of Nonfics.