‘Regen,’ ‘1989’ and ‘Party Monster’ 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. 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 December 9, 2014:

1. Regen (Rain)

[85th Anniversary] — With this being a fairly light week as far as worthy new releases go, my top home pick is Mannus Franken and Joris Ivens’s 1929 short documentary of a rainy day in Amsterdam. Sunday (December 14th) is the 85th anniversary of its premiere fittingly in the very metropolis of its setting. I recently included this on my list of the best docs of all time for Sight & Sound magazine. Here’s what I wrote explaining why: “This city symphony film is more about the natural world. Or is it? The filmmakers contain nature by faking a portrayal of a single day, while at the same they were always at the mercy of the weather in order to capture the material to begin with. That’s documentary in a nutshell to me.” (★★★★★)

Your best bet for enjoying this, other than on the big screen, is via the Joris Ivens Collection (1912–1988) box set. Or you can watch it below.

2. 1989

[New to Vimeo On Demand] — Another phenomenal work by Anders Østergaard (Burma VJ), here co-directing with Erzsébet Rácz, and it’s something very different. The new film chronicles the final year of the Iron Curtain and specifically Hungary’s role in the fall of the Eastern block. Two narratives are intertwined, though one is much more prominent. That would be the story of Hungary’s move towards a more relaxed border with the West, as told in a new interview by then Prime Minister Miklos Nemeth. The other story is of an East German family who made their way to the Hungary/Austria border during this time. Ultimately, the film shows how the Berlin Wall only opened up thanks to Nemeth’s actions, and the history plays out like a political Cold War thriller. Its use of archival footage reworked as a kind of reenactment is clever and very effective, and although it takes a while to understand why the East German family’s story keeps popping in, it all pays off in the end. For those who need to see Burma VJ, by the way, it was just added to Fandor. (★★★★)

3. Party Monster: The Shockumentary

[New to Fandor] — From our list of the best documentary portraits of LGBT culture: “Brash, bizarre and sorta trashy, Party Monster is a unique little distillation of the makeshift Club Kid aesthetic. It’s a hard-boiled crime movie for the Honey Boo Boo generation, an ambitiously low-rent documentary built from what would become the riotous and slapdash style of contemporary reality television. It’s no surprise that Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato‘s production company now makes RuPaul’s Drag Race, something of a theoretical mountaintop for the genre.” (★★★★)

Also available on DVD and as a remake.

4. A Band Called Death

[New to Fandor] — This was originally posted in a previous Home Picks. 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. (★★★)

Also available on DVD, Blu-ray, Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant Video, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu and YouTube.

5. Beauty is Embarrassing

[New to Fandor] — From my response to the film during SXSW 2012: “Directed by first-timer Neil Berkeley, Beauty took a while to hook me. [Wayne] White is indeed a funny man and makes some funny art, but at first I wasn’t sure why we should care about his life story any more than that of any other unknown funnyman artist. Part of his unfamiliarity is the point, though, as it’s shocking how much he’s done without garnering any name recognition whatsoever. Once the film starts showing behind the scenes footage of Pee-Wee’s Playhouse,for which White was a character designer and puppeteer, there’s more of a point of interest. And it keeps going very well from there, often playing like a straight documentary kin toAmerican Splendor (White’s wife, cartoonist and Simpsons pilot scripter Mimi Pond, reminds me of Hope Davis’ portrayal of Joyce Brabner). I heard the film received some standing ovations early on, and I can understand why. (★★★)

Also available on DVD, Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant Video, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu and YouTube.

6. Air Guitar Nation

[New to Fandor] — From Nonfics publisher Neil Miller’s list of the 10 best films of 2007 at Film School Rejects: “As KISS said, ‘God gave rock and roll to you’ — and some of you can play rock and roll back to him. For some of us though, it will just never happen. We will never play the guitar, never join a band and most certainly never be a rock star. But there is hope in Air Guitar, the topic that came front and center in Alexandra Lipsitz’s highly energetic documentary. Behold the rise of the next great thing, the most exciting new sport since Poker became televised. At first you will want to laugh at these wannabe rockers, but in the end they will have earned your respect, leaving us all laughing together.” (★★★)

Also available on DVD and Amazon Instant Video.

7. One Rogue Reporter

[Now Available on Amazon Instant Video] — From one my dispatches from the 2014 Sheffield Doc/Fest: “funny, sure, but hard to ultimately take seriously because it’s so silly. Co-director Rich Peppiatt is a former tabloid journalist who quit the business and now aims to expose its evils from the inside. He’s an on screen host and prankster and clown, and while he has the whistleblowing perspective, he’s not really confirming any hypocrisy or ethical bankruptcy that isn’t already understood with Fleet Street. It is entertaining and short, at least, though there’s not a lot to appreciate here outside of the UK, except that it does feature interviews with internationally popular actors Hugh Grant and Steve Coogan as well as a ton of classic film clips. One Rogue Reporter, which was also directed by Tom Jenkinson, is little more than an extended nonfiction sketch, akin to correspondent pieces on The Daily Show, humorous more than important.” (★★★)

Bonus: Sergei Loznitsa Retrospective

Don’t forget to watch two of Loznitsa’s films here on Nonfics free through Sunday, and you can see more in a limited complimentary retrospective at Doc Alliance.

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

25 Years of Wacken: Snapshots, Scraps, Thoughts & Sounds [Also on Blu-ray]

Air Boss

The Aviators — Season 5

Beatz: Divergences & Contradictions of Electronic Music

Bigger Than T. Rex (Nova)

Crossing Over: Angels, Spirit Guides and Earthbound Ghosts

End It Now: Understanding & Preventing Child Abuse

English Royalty: A Guide for the Rest of Us

First Man on the Moon (Nova)

The Fix

Magnus Nilsson: The Mind of a Chef — Season 3

The Nativity

Scarred But Smarter: Life N Times of Drivin N Cryin [Also on Blu-ray]

The Tortured: Stories of Survival

New to Netflix Watch Instantly:

The Improv: 50 Years Behind the Brick Wall

A Band Called Death PBS International

New to iTunes/Amazon Instant/VOD:

The Achievers — Fandor

Air Guitar Nation [Nonfics rating: ★★★] — Fandor

AKA Doc Pomus [Nonfics rating: ★★; Film School Rejects review] — Fandoc

All the Way From Michigan Not Mars — Vimeo On Demand

A Band Called Death [Nonfics rating: ★★★] — Fandor

Beauty is Embarrassing [Nonfics rating: ★★★] — Fandor

A Bridge Life: Finding Our Way Home

Burma VJ [Nonfics rating: ★★★★]- Fandor

The Dark Matter of Life — Vimeo On Demand

Daughters of Dolma — Amazon

Edge of the Earth: Featuring 30 Seconds to Mars — Vimeo On Demand

Every Mother’s Son — PBS

Everyday Rebellion — Amazon

Faith Connections — Amazon

Garrison Keillor: The Man on the Radio with the Red Shoes — Fandor

I Know Where I’m Going — Fandor

Jingle Bell Rocks! — Amazon

The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness — Amazon, iTunes

Music from the Big House — Fandor

One Direction: reaching for the Stars — Vimeo On Demand

One Rogue Reporter [Nonfics rating: ★★★; Nonfics review] — Amazon


Party Monster [Nonfics rating: ★★★★] — Fandor

Prime — iTunes

Reefer Madness — Vimeo On Demand

Say No More: A Women’s Longboard Surf Film — Vimeo On Demand

Sex(Ed): The Movie — Vimeo On Demand

A Spell to Ward Off the Darkness

Stephen Fry: More Fool Me — Vimeo On Demand

This is My Land — Fandor

Under the Boardwalk [Nonfics rating: ★] — Fandor

U2: Films of Innocence — iTunes

Visual Effects — Fandor

Welcome to the Bleak House — Fandor

WWE Presents: True Giants -iTunes

You Weren’t THere: The History of Chicago Punk 1977–1984

Must-See Nonfiction TV:

(All Times Eastern)


Wednesday — 12/10

5:55am: Mistaken for Strangers [The Movie Channel Extra East]

8:25am: Paycheck to Paycheck: The Life & Times of Katrina Gilbert [HBO2 East]

8:55am: Mistaken for Strangers [The Movie Channel Extra West]

10:10am: Kings Point [HBO Signature East]

11:25am: Paycheck to Paycheck: The Life & Times of Katrina Gilbert [HBO2 West]

1:00pm: Beware of Mr. Baker [Showtime Extreme East]

1:10pm: Kings Point [HBO Signature West]

2:05pm: Standing in the Shadows of Mowtown [Encore Black]

4:00pm: Beware of Mr. Baker [Showtime Extreme West]

7:00pm: A Place at the Table [Pivot]

10:00pm: Top Chef: Boston [Bravo]

Film Society of Lincoln Center

Thursday — 12/11

5:00am: Soul Power [Starz Cinema]

11:00am: Cesar’s Last Fast [Pivot]

4:55pm: Beware of Mr. Baker [Showtime 2 East]

7:55pm: Beware of Mr. Baker [Showtime 2 West]


Friday — 12/12

4:00am: We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists [Pivot]

5:00am: A Good Job: Stories of the FDNY [HBO Signature East]

6:50am: Mad Hot Ballroom — Showtime Family Zone]

8:00am: A Good Job: Stories of the FDNY [HBO Signature West]

6:00pm: Mad Hot Ballroom — Showtime Family Zone]

11:00pm: Woodstock: Three Days of Peace & Music [VH1]

Beats, Rhymes & Life

Saturday — 12/13

8:20am: No No: A Dockumentary [Showtime Extreme East]

9:15am: Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest [Starz in Black]

11:20am: No No: A Dockumentary [Showtime Extreme West]

2:40pm: Beware of Mr. Baker [Showtime Extreme East]

3:10pm: Jodorowsky’s Dune [Starz Cinema]

4:15pm: No No: A Dockumentary [Showtime Extreme East]

5:00pm: The Best of Walt Disney’s True-Life Adventures [BYU-TV]

5:40pm: Beware of Mr. Baker [Showtime Extreme West]

6:00pm: Pearl Jam Twenty [VH1 Classic]

7:15pm: No No: A Dockumentary [Showtime Extreme West]

cesar's last fast

Sunday — 12/14

12:35am: Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest [Starz in Black]

5:45am: Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest [Starz in Black]

6:00am: A Good Job: Stories of the FDNY [HBO East and HBO Latino East]

6:30am: Cesar’s Last Fast [Pivot]

9:00am: A Good Job: Stories of the FDNY [HBO West and HBO Latino West]

10:00am: Mad Hot Ballroom [Showtime Fantasy Zone]

11:00am: Pearl Jam Twenty [VH1 Classic]

12:00pm: A Place at the Table [Pivot]


Monday — 12/15

2:00am: The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz [Pivot]

9:30am: The Newburgh Sting [HBO East]

12:30pm: The Newburgh Sting [HBO West]

5:00pm: Banksy Does New York [HBO2 East]

6:15pm: Milius — SD version [Epix 2]

7:00pm: Bully [Pivot]

8:00pm: Banksy Does New York [HBO2 West]

11:00pm: Bully [Pivot]


Tuesday — 12/16

1:00am: My Kid Could Paint That [Starz Kids]

12:20pm: The Gatekeepers [Starz Cinema]

2:00pm: The Best of Walt Disney’s True-Life Adventures [BYU-TV]

(Editor in Chief)

Christopher Campbell is the founding editor of Nonfics.