‘Sepideh’ and Recommended Docs From 2014 Sundance Directors 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, post-Sundance-themed picks for January 28, 2014:

1. Sepideh

[New to iTunes] — How often do you get to see a Sundance film as quickly as this? Berit Madsen’s film about an Iranian girl who dreams of becoming an astronaut hit iTunes before its last screening in Park City, something I hope doesn’t remain a rarity. It might be nice to see this on a big screen (I saw it on my computer like many of you will), but better this than not at all. It’s a very special film, as I state in my ★★★★★ review. Here’s another excerpt: “Madsen sprinkles her film with spectacular shots of the heavens, telescopic visuals comparable to those seen in Patricio Guzman’s Nostalgia for the Light. Even more impressively, she maintains an observational quality that keeps the film in the story, almost never reminding us that what we’re watching is a documentary. But her greatest achievement has to be finding the story itself in the first place and, of course, its remarkably determined subject…everything is just in perfect alignment here for a truly extraordinary film.”

2. Head Games

[Airs Saturday on Al Jazeera America] — This doc on sports concussions is by Steve James, director of Hoop Dreams, which just screened at Sundance for its 20th anniversary, and Life Itself, the Roger Ebert bio that just premiered at the fest (read my glowing review here). It has been tragically overlooked, and not just because of who made it. Here’s what I wrote on the film when it hit theaters in 2012: “This is a more conventional report (an admitted departure) for the filmmaker…As usual, James shows great sensitivity for young players, and even though the film is more to do with information than characters the people are still more memorable than any data, which isn’t so much conclusive as alarmingly conjectural. For parents, it may be an even more imperative doc than Bully, and though the [pro sports] side could appeal to more viewers, there’s actually an education system angle to the film that’s more important.”

Also streaming on Netlix, Hulu and SnagFilms

3. We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists

[Airs Friday on Pivot] — One of the best docs to ever come out of the Slamdance Film Festival, its director is Brian Knappenberger, who this year graduated to the Sundance leagues with The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Schwartz (still one of my most anticipated of the year). We Are Legion is about the hacking pranksters collectively known as Anonymous, and after catching it at SXSW two years ago, I labeled it a “necessary” history. Here’s more of what I wrote then at Movies.com: “it chronicles the steady stream that has carried a new breed of political activism out from memetic Internet laughs all the way to global revolution. Who knew that the Arab Spring and the Occupy movement could be traced back in part to ‘Chocolate Rain’ and LOLcats? That may sound ridiculous to consider, but Knappenberger profiles the evolution of…Anonymous with sincere study. Of course, it’s also another hilarious outlet for their gags, as well.”

Also available on iTunes

4. Children Underground

[Streaming on Netflix Watch Instantly] — The new film from Edet Belzberg, Watchers of the Sky, picked up two awards at Sundance last week — one for editing and one for animation. While we wait to see both qualities for ourselves whenever that film becomes available, let’s go all the way back and check out her Oscar-nominated feature debut that won a Special Jury Prize at Sundance in 2001. It’s a film about homeless Romanian children (orphans and runaways mostly), the result of Nicolei Ceaucescu’s ban on contraceptives and abortion. We unfortunately see docs about street kids often (Streetwise, Bus 174, The Children of Leningradsky, Tough Bond) and they’re always devastating, but this one is particularly depressing because we can place certain blame on their existence — while also considering that it might be better if these tunnel-dwelling teens never got to live at all.

Also available on Hulu and SnagFilms

5. Crude

[Streaming on Netflix Watch Instantly] — I’m not sure when Joe Berlinger’s new doc Whitey: United States of America vs. James J. Bulger will have its CNN debut following last week’s Sundance premiere, but I bet you have a lot of time to catch up on the director’s past works. He’s best known for the Paradise Lost trilogy, the Metallica doc Some Kind of Monster and Brother’s Keeper, but there are a few along the way that have been overlooked. Crude is one of them, and it’s a pretty significant film in that it resulted in some serious legal issues between Berlinger and Chevron. The film itself is about a class action lawsuit against the oil company representing 30,000 indigenous people in Ecuador, whose home has been polluted by drilling in the Lago Agrio oil field. It’s a very different kind of courtroom doc than Whitey (and Paradise Lost), and neither are to be missed.

Also available on iTunes

6. The Black Power Mixtape 1967–1975

[Streaming on Netflix Watch Instantly] — Winner of an editing award at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival, this documentary introduced us to the compilation film talents of Goran Hugo Olsson, whose new film Concerning Violence is another of our favorites of this year’s fest (see my review here). In the earlier film, Olsson puts together footage found in the Swedish Television archives covering the U.S. Black Power movement and then adds voiceover commentary from famous African American reflecting on that material. Here’s what I wrote in an introduction to an interview with Olsson about the different layers of perspective represented: “the doc begins with the Black Power leaders and associates, including Stokely Carmichael and Angela Davis, and their primary perspective through their beliefs and how they discuss these ideas. Next there’s the filter of Swedish filmmakers and media of that time, an objective, outsider point of view, documenting press conferences and interviews with the subjects of the Black Power group. Next level is Olsson’s perspective, as a modern filmmaker who has dug up these 40-year-old archives and compiled them into a feature film for a new audience. Then there are modern interviews with black figures, including Davis as well as younger persons such as Talib Kweli and Erykah Badu, commenting on that old footage. And finally you have the audience, which hopefully brings its own perspectives. Actually, Olsson tells me that his perspective can also be found after the new interviews and from the position of the audience.”

Also available on iTunes and Hulu

7. Darwin’s Nightmare

[On DVD] — Typically I try to keep all the older home picks to stuff that’s available to stream or download somewhere. But this is a recommendation I really want to include even if you have to do a little more or wait a little longer to get ahold of the DVD. This is the previous film by Hubert Sauper, director of Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner We Come as Friends (see our review here), and both films are part of the same trilogy focused on slavery/colonization/globalism. Darwin’s Nightmare, which was nominated for an Oscar, is the globalism installment and looks at the Lake Victoria fishing industry in Tanzania. It’s another depressing doc, presenting a damaged ecosystem that affects all the animals of the region, including the humans.

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

1 The Movie (Formula One) [Also on Blu-ray]

1001 Masterworks Light and Color

The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross

Alien Creatures From Beyond: Monsters Ghosts

American Civil War: Images of the Civil War: The Paintings of Mort Kunstler -and- Gettysburg: The Last Full Measure

Ancient Astronauts: The Return of the Gods

Art 21: Consumption

Bad Grandpa (C+ Film School Rejects Review) [Also on Blu-ray]

The Coexist Comedy Tour

The Conquest of Everest

El Camino De Santiago

Design of Life: Flight and Metamorphosis (2 Film Set) [Also on Blu-ray]

Falu: Canto Al Paisaje Sonado

For the Love Of Liberty: The Story Of America’s Black Patriots

I Married Adventure

It’s Better to Jump

Italian Character: Story Of A Great Italian Orchestra [Also on Blu-ray]

John Wayne: Bigger Than Life

Joyce’s Dublin: A Literary Biography

Lincoln @Gettysburg

Los Directos

Metallica: Through the Never [Also on Blu-ray]

Monty Python: Almost the Truth

My Digital Life

Our World At War: World War II Triple-Feature Package

Somali Pirate Takedown: The Real Story

State of Arizona

We The People: From Crispus Attucks To Barack Obama

Yemen: Land of the Queen of Sheba

New to Netflix Watch Instantly:

Cash Crop [Stream Now]

Mitt (★★★ Nonfics Rating) [Stream Now]

Nantucket Film Festival’s 2nd Comedy Roundtable [Stream Now]

Nightmare Factory [Stream Now]

Pageant [Stream Now]

Question One [Stream Now]

Trash Dance (★★★ Nonfics Rating) [Stream Now]

New to iTunes/Amazon Instant/VOD:

Danchi No Yume Dreams of the Projects [Amazon Instant Video]

Dead Meat Walking: A Zombie Walk Documentary [iTunes and Amazon Instant Video]

Festival Express [Amazon Instant Video]

The Godfather of Terror [Amazon instant Video]

Gold Fever [Amazon Instant Video]

Here I Learned to Love [Amazon Instant Video]

It’s Better to Jump [Amazon Instant Video]

Janapar: Love on a Bike [Amazon Instant Video]

Last Woman Standing [Amazon Instant Video]

Madhouse Mess [Amazon Instant Video]

Metallica: Through the Never [Amazon Instant Video]

The Noise of Cairo [Amazon Instant Video]

Price for Peace [Amazon Instant Video]

Searching for Steele [Amazon Instant Video]

Sepideh (★★★★★ Nonfics Review) [iTunes]

The State of Arizona [Amazon Instant Video]

Stop the Presses [Amazon Instant Video]

Must-See Nonfiction TV:


Beware of Mr. Baker [1/28 on Showtime Extreme, 1:25pm ET]

Into the Deep 3D [1/28 on 3net, 2pm ET]

Money For Nothing: Inside the Federal Reserve [1/28 on Al Jazeera America, 3pm ET]


Mandela [1/29 on Encore, 1:45am and 2:15pm ET]

Gideon’s Army [1/29 on HBO Signature, 11:25am ET]

Last Days Here [1/29 on Showcase, 3pm ET]

Herblock: The Black & the White [1/29 on HBO2, 8pm and 11pm ET]


West of Memphis [1/30 on Starz Cinema, 3:35am and 6:50am ET]

Startup.com [1/30 on Showcase, 8:35am ET]

Food, Inc. [1/30 on Pivot, 9am ET]

Chimpanzee [1/30 on Starz Cinema, 9:30am ET]

Herblock: The Black & the White [1/30 on HBO, 11am and 2pm ET]

The Other F Word [1/30 on The Movie Channel, 1:10pm ET]

Dragonslayer [1/30 on Showtime Next, 5pm ET]

Ultrasuede: In Search of Halson [1/30 on Showtime Women, 11pm ET]


Exit Through the Gift Shop [1/31 on Showtime, 5:30am ET and on Showtime West, 8:30am ET]

Herblock: The Black & the White [1/31 on HBO2, 7:50am and 10:50am ET]

We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists [1/31 on Pivot, 2pm ET]

El Bulli: Cooking in Progress [1/31 on Link TV, 7pm ET]


Microcosmos [2/1 on HDNET, 6am and 1:45pm ET]

Crisis: Behind a Presidential Commitment [2/1 on Pivot, 8:45am ET]

American Teacher [2/1 on Pivot, 10am ET]

Head Games [2/1 on Al Jazeera America, 3pm ET]

The Imposter [2/1 on CNN, 9pm and 11pm ET]

Richard Pryor: Omit the Logic [2/1 on Showtime 2, 11:05pm ET]


The Loving Story [2/2 on HBO Signature, 6am ET]

Food, Inc. [2/2 on Pivot, 7am ET]

Head Games [2/2 on Al Jazeera America, 9am ET]

Herblock: The Black & the White [2/2 on HBO, 9:15am and 12:15pm ET]

Mandela [2/2 on Starz In Black, 2:20pm and 10pm ET]

Deep Sea 3D [2/2 on 3net, 7pm ET]


The Loving Story [2/3 on HBO Signature, 4:45am ET]

Mandela [2/3 on Starz In Black, 9:30am ET]

Last Call at the Oasis [2/3 on Pivot, 1:30pm ET]

Richard Pryor: Omit the Logic [2/3 on Showtime, 8pm ET and on Showtime West, 11pm ET]


The Gatekeepers [2/4 on Starz Cinema, 4:15am ET]

The Other F Word [2/4 on Showcase, 12:05pm ET]

Galapagos [2/4 on 3net, 1pm and 7pm ET]

Hubble 3D [2/4 on 3net, 9pm ET]

Deep Sea 3D [2/4 on 3net, 10pm ET]

El Bulli: Cooking in Progress [2/4 on Link TV, 11pm ET]

(Editor in Chief)

Christopher Campbell is the founding editor of Nonfics.