‘Sick Birds Die Easy’ and ‘Free Angela and All Political Prisoners’ Top This Week’s Nonfics Home Picks

sick birds die easy 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 February 25, 2014:

1. Sick Birds Die Easy

[New to DVD, iTunes and Amazon Instant Video] — This insane film by Nik Fackler (acclaimed drama Lovely, Still) isn’t easily categorized as documentary, and I can’t even really explain why without giving stuff away. Basically all you need to know is that it’s a film that follows a group of Americans into the jungle of Western Africa in order to try the hallucinatory iboga plant. It’s deep and hilarious, a cross between Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Heart of Darkness, The Ambassador and Waking Life, and I implore everyone to see it to believe it.

Bonus Features: Soundtrack; filmmaker and apocalypse commentary; alternative and deleted scenes; The Tatayo Collectiion; behind the scenes featurette; official storyboard and outline; making of the apocalypse commentary; official teasers and trailers.

Also available on Google Play, Vudu, XBox and Sony Playstation

2. Free Angela and All Political Prisoners

[Broadcast Premiere on BET — Wednesday 10pm ET] — I recently included this documentary by Shola Lynch on my list of the 25 most memorable nonfiction moments of 2013. The rest of the movie is becoming foggier the long it’s been since I saw it, but here is my brief review for Movies.com during the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival: “I mostly love this film for Lynch’s own term for its style: ‘historical verite.’ Totally antithetical to The Black Power Mixtape 1967–1975, this film is not concerned as much with historical insight or various outside viewpoints on the story of iconic Black Panther leader Angela Davis’ alleged connection to the violent 1970 Marin County courthouse incident. Instead, while including Davis herself speaking on the case for the first time ever, Lynch focuses on firsthand accounts, mostly in an oral history fashion of what, when, where and how yet not so much a retrospective why. It plays very much in the then, which is where the verite consideration comes in. Some parts are a bit too conventionally structured given that there are very fresh and interesting stylistic choices with other parts, but overall it’s a nicely balanced film that surprisingly doesn’t aim to lionize Davis nor to vilify Ronald Reagan and the FBI.”

See my interview with Lynch here and here and listen to the Realness Podcast episode review of the film here.

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

3. People of a Feather

[New to DVD] — Daniel Walber, who wrote our ★★★ review, has now also seen the DVD and offers the following addendum: “The dominant characteristic of Joel Heath’s People of a Feather is its diversity, the variety of approaches the director takes to his central topic, which is the plight of the eider duck in the changing environment of Canada’s Hudson Bay and the impact the birds have on the local community. And just as the film itself divides its time between scientific detail, historical reenactment and contemporary social portraiture, so do the special features on the DVD.

There are some very helpful supplementary videos, additional material for anyone who wants to learn more about any one aspect of the film. This includes an overview of the history of the islands, a behind the scenes look at Heath’s reenactments of Robert Flaherty’s lost footage and some additional information on the scientific study of the eider duck. There’s also an “Arctic Rap” music video that Heath made with the local kids featured in the film. It’s pretty fantastic.

Bonus Features: Short films Community Based Monitoring, Eider Studies, History, Location, Sanikiluaq Today; music video for SKQ by Arctic Recordz; behind the scenes featurettes Building an Igloo, Making Eider Skin Parka, Making a Seal Skin Kayak

Also available on DVD, iTunes and Google Play

4. Crazy Love

[New to Netflix Watch Instantly] — It’s too late for Valentine’s Day viewing, but the following, written on the holiday last year, still applies: “What makes Crazy Love stand out, besides a perfectly picked and woven soundtrack, is that it first and foremost tells a love story from the beginning to… not the end, because a perfect love story has no ending. Maybe it’s not a story many can relate to. Maybe it is a story that some can identify with negatively, having been an abused partner who still can’t let go of the abuser. But no matter the ups and downs, the common obstacles of other suitors and deceit and unfaithfulness, and the uncommon hurdle of one partner permanently blinding the other and ending up in prison for many years as a result, the love story told in this film is undeniably romantic in a really messed up sort of way. And it’s so incredibly real, one of the greatest examples of the “truth is stranger than fiction” maxim. You could not make a dramatic/narrative version of the scandalous story of Burt and Linda Pugach and have it play out better than it does through this simple, conventional documentary of talking heads and basic archival compilation.”

Also available on DVD, Vudu and YouTube

5. The Crash Reel

[New to DVD and Blu-ray] — Part of this entry previously appeared in another edition of Nonfics Home Picks. Now that the Olympics are over, you can continue to enjoy (or be made to never enjoy again) competitive snowboarding with this doc by Lucy Walker about Kevin Pearce and his recovery from a traumatic head injury a few years ago. In my admittedly too-long ★★★★ review here at Nonfics, I called it “a strong character-driven work unlike we’ve seen from Walker in recent years. It’s less concerned with looking great or getting to the bottom of the larger ideas — which are still there yet more within the depth of the story, more in service to the telling of Pearce’s struggle than him being in service to the issue. You can tell how much Walker cares about Pearce and his family, which isn’t something I always feel with the subjects of her films.”

Bonus Features: Deleted and extended scenes; trailer

Also available on iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, Google Play and HBO GO

6. Narco Cultura

[New to DVD and Blu-ray and Amazon Instant Video] — From Dan Schindel’s ★★★ review: “Narco Cultura consists of two movies. One of them is a harrowing look at the battleground of a pointless conflict. The other is a half-formed exploration of a musical genre. Separate, one is great and one is middling. Together, they are a mess, full of troubling implications. There is barely any connection between the stories of Richi and Edgar. One fights this war, and one profits from it, but narcocorrido and its sphere of pop culture in L.A. feels drastically removed from the happenings in Juárez. While the film makes no overt statements, creating a pretense of allowing viewers to draw their own conclusions, the juxtaposition of real and imagined violence casts Edgar in a deeply unfavorable light.”

Bonus Features: Deleted scenes

7. Bigger, Stronger, Faster

[New to Netflix Watch Instantly] — Chris Bell’s personal documentary continues to be relevant more than five years since its original release. It looks into the debate about anabolic steroids with emphasis on their use by athletes for performance enhancement, and it’s centered around Bell’s own brothers’ experiences with and abuses of such drugs to benefit their wrestling careers. With a balanced mix of subjective and informative narratives, this entertaining and thought-provoking issue film plus tragic family story is one of the most engaging docs of its kind.

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

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

20th Century Timeline

Animal World Volume 5

Asteroid: Doomsday Or Payday (Nova)

At the Edge of Space (Nova)

Baby Boom Years: 1951

Baby Boom Years: 1958

Baby Boom Years: 1965

Better Things


Carlos Kleiber: I Am Lost to the World

Come Back, Africa — The Films of Lionel Rogosin, Volume 2 [Also on Blu-ray]

The Crash Reel (★★★★ Nonfics Review)[Also on Blu-ray]

Disco & Atomic War

Fighting for a Generation: 20 Years of the UFC [Also on Blu-ray]

Hank: Five Years from the Brink

The Last Elvis

Last Stand of the 300 & Other Famous Greek Battles

Lawmen of the Old West [Also on Blu-ray]

Muscle Shoals [Also on Blu-ray]

Narco Cultura (★★★ Nonfics Review)[Also on Blu-ray]

The Oyler House: Richard Neutra’s Desert Retreat

People of a Feather (★★★ Nonfics Review)

Ripper in Canada: Paranormal Encounters From the Great White North

The Royal Family Collection

The Russian Avant-Garde

The Slow Food Story

UFO Chronicles: Pilot Encounters & Underground

Wayne McGregor: Going Somewhere & A Moment in Time [Also on Blu-ray]

New to Netflix Watch Instantly:

Bigger, Stronger, Faster (★★★★ Nonfics rating) [Stream Now]

Casino Jack and the United States of Money [Stream Now]

The City Dark (★★★ Nonfics rating) [Stream Now]

Crazy Love (★★★★ Nonfics rating) [Stream Now]

Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room (★★★★ Nonfics rating) [Stream Now]

Jesus Camp (★★★★ Nonfics rating) [Stream Now]

The Last White Knight [Stream Now]

Surfwise [Stream Now]

Mr. Untouchable [Stream Now]

New to iTunes/Amazon Instant/VOD:

Fly Fishing Film Tour 2013 [Amazon Instant Video]

Hazaribagh: Toxic Leather [Amazon Instant Video]

Italy: Love It or Leave It

Lincoln@Gettysburg [Amazon Instant Video]

Narco Cultura (★★★ Nonfics Review)[Amazon Instant Video]

Showing Up

Must-See Nonfiction TV:


Hubble 3D [2/25 on 3net, 12am, 3am, 6am, 9am and 3pm ET]

Deep Sea 3D [2/25 on 3net, 1am, 4am, 7am, 10am, 4pm ET]

My Kid Could Paint That [2/25 on Starz Cinema, 9:45am ET]

Last Days Here [2/25 on Showtime Next, 1:45pm ET]

Magnificent Desolation: Walking on the Moon 3D [2/25 on 3net, 8pm and 11pm ET]

Space Station 3D [2/25 on 3net, 9pm ET]

Under the Sea 3D [2/25 on 3net, 10pm ET]


Space Station 3D [2/26 on 3net, 12am, 3am, 6am, 9am and 3pm ET]

Under the Sea 3D [2/26 on 3net, 1am, 4am, 7am, 10am and 4pm ET]

Magnificent Desolation: Walking on the Moon 3D [2/26 on 3net, 2am, 5am, 8am and 2pm ET]

Redemption [2/26 on HBO2 East, 10am and 8:30pm ET, and HBO2 West, 1pm and 11:30pm ET]

Crisis: Behind a Presidential Commitment [2/26 on Pivot, 12pm ET]

Dragonslayer [2/26 on Showtime Extreme, 12pm ET]

The Other F Word [2/26 on Showtime 2, 6:20pm ET]

Free Angela and All Political Prisoners [2/26 on BET, 10pm ET]


Hubble 3D [2/27 on 3net, 3am ET]

Food, Inc. [2/27 on Pivot, 3:30am ET]

Deep Sea 3D [2/27 on 3net, 4am ET]

Microcosmos [2/27 on HDNET, 6am and 1:40pm ET]

Free Angela and All Political Prisoners [2/27 on BET, 11am ET]

And the Oscar Goes To… [2/27 on CNN, 9pm and 11pm ET]

Into the Deep 3D [2/27 on 3net, 10pm ET]


Into the Deep 3D [2/28 on 3net, 1am, 4am, 7am, 10am and 4pm ET]

West of Memphis [2/28 on Starz East, 2:50am ET, and Starz West, 5:50am ET]

Gideon’s Army [2/28 on HBO2 East, 8:30am ET, and HBO2 West, 11:30am ET]

Carol Channing: Larger Than Life [2/28 on Showtime Women, 9:30am ET]

Under the Sea 3D [2/28 on 3net, 1pm ET]


Foreign Parts [3/1 on Pivot, 6am ET]

Make Believe [3/1 on Showtime Next, 7:30am ET]

Food, Inc. [3/1 on Pivot, 2pm ET]

Dragonslayer [3/1 on Showcase, 3pm ET]

Under the Sea 3D [3/1 on 3net, 7pm ET]


Everest [3/2 on HDNET, 5:15am ET]

Beware of Mr. Baker [3/2 on Showcase, 1:30pm ET]

Searching for Sugar Man [3/2 on Starz Cinema, 4:30pm ET

Galapagos 3D [3/2 on 3net, 10pm ET]


Galapagos 3D [3/3 on 3net, 1am, 4am and 11am ET]

We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists [3/3 on Pivot, 12pm ET]

The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia [3/3 on Showtime Next, 10pm ET]


West of Memphis [3/4 on Starz Edge, 2:50am ET]

Chimpanzee [3/4 on Encore Family, 6:45am ET]

State 194 [3/4 on Pivot, 2pm ET]

(Editor in Chief)

Christopher Campbell is the founding editor of Nonfics.