‘The Belovs’ and Oscar Nominee ‘White Earth’ 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 January 20, 2015:

1. The Belovs

[Now Streaming Free at Doc Alliance] — The latest event at Doc Alliance is a retrospective of the work of Victor Kossakovsky, and that means you can watch six of his titles for free through February 1st (unfortunately, their premiere selection of Viva Las Antipodas! is unavailable in America). I’m highlighting The Belovs out of all of them, because this portrait of a family in rural Russia was highlighted in Robert Greene’s Shots From the Canon series. Here’s an except from that post: “The striking black and white images in The Belovs move back and forth between straightforward intimacy and wild lyricism, with passages of joyously evocative music helping to create a sense of lived-in and breathing poetry. Sometimes wickedly funny and oftentimes tender, the film is pure cinema, injected directly. Scenes of family life conjure the deepest pathos and give a glimpse of lives unseen. At just under one hour long, the film feels perfect: epic yet digestible, expansive and searching yet wound tight. A six minute dinner scene that turns bitter is done in one distant yet profoundly personal shot. The steam bath scene is mesmerizing. Every moment bristles with emotional immediacy; kinesis and stillness dance brilliantly.” (★★★★★)

2. White Earth

[Now Available on Vimeo On Demand] — I love this short film by J. Christian Jensen so much that I helped to award it one of its many accolades last year as a member of a jury at the New Orleans Film Festival, “for its pure, harsh look at a devastating economic reality from the unlikely perspective of people on the sidelines who are most affected, as well as for its stunning, metaphoric cinematography and restrained, quiet editing.” Now it’s an Oscar nominee! And available to rent at Vimeo, as is the less impressive but decent fellow documentary short nominee The Reaper, which spotlights a slaughterhouse worker . White Earth transports us to North Dakota for one of the many views lately of the state’s current oil boom, but Jensen focuses on the children, and one wife, of the men finding work up there. It’s a stunning portrait and perfectly packed into a brief 19 minutes. (★★★★)

3. My Winnipeg

[New to Criterion Collection DVD and Blu-ray] — In recognition of Guy Maddin’s memoir about the city he loves, here’s excerpt from Dan Schindel’s review at his own website: “This is a great film. It’s funny and incredibly, sometimes awkwardly, personal. Maddin’s willingness to turn inward in his musings reveals strange Oedipal and psychosexual urges. Or maybe he’s just playing with those ideas, and winking at us. His narration, a poetic slurry of stream-of-consciousness, enraptures the audience in its lyricism. A soliloquy on how ice catalogues your footprints during the winter would work beautifully as a stand-alone piece. This could have been a tonal mess of a film, but these disparate musings, reminisces, and historical tidbits all click together wonderfully.” (★★★★★)

Bonus features:

• New high-definition digital film transfer, supervised by director Guy Maddin and director of photography Jody Shapiro, with 2.0 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray
• New conversation between Maddin and art critic Robert Enright
“My Winnipeg” Live in Toronto, a 2008 featurette
• Four 2014 cine-essays by filmmaker Evan Johnson and Maddin on various Winnipegiana
• Five Maddin shorts, the first three with new introductions by the director: Spanky: To the Pier and Back (2008), Sinclair (2010), Only Dream Things (2012), The Hall Runner (2014), and Louis Riel for Dinner (2014)
• Trailer
• PLUS: An essay by critic Wayne Koestenbaum

Also available on Amazon Instant Video and iTunes.

4. Paris Is Burning

[This Year’s Sundance Collection Classic] — Apparently this film has never been a Nonfics Home Pick, though it does feature on our Netflix 100 list, so here we are with the recommendation timed to a special occasion. Paris Is Burning is screening at the Sundance Film Festival on Monday, January 24th, and you can pretend you’re there by watching at home by way of a few different possible means, including Netflix Watch Instantly. Here’s Daniel Walber on the film in a list of the best documentary portraits of LGBT culture: “What left is there to say about Paris Is Burning? Jennie Livingston‘s portrait of Harlem ballroom culture in the late 1980s is the classic that, alongside Todd Haynes’s Poison, marked the arrival of New Queer Cinema back in 1991. Its merits are instantly recognizable, only surpassed by its overwhelming persistence in the memory of everyone who has seen it. Its influence, and through it the influence of its subjects, has reached far out into American culture. With each successive viewing it becomes more electric, more emotive, more legendary.” (★★★★★)

Available on DVD, iTunes, Netflix Watch Instantly, Amazon Instant Video, Google Play, Vudu and YouTube. It also regularly airs on Showtime.

5. Haxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages

[Now Available on Fandor for a Limited Time] — For Benjamin Christensen’s 1922 classic, here again is Dan Schindel, from a review on his own website: “The doc’s content is mostly tame by today’s standards, but back then it was shocking, with more nudity and devils and thumbscrews than many 1920s audiences could handle. Many countries censored or outright banned the movie. It wasn’t released in the United States until 1968, and even then only in a heavily edited version (which featured narration by William S. Burroughs!). This is a landmark not just in documentary but in horror filmmaking. Released the same year as Nosferatu, coming two years after The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari, you can see the tactics of filmic scares forming in the films of this period. If you’re a film student or a horror lover, you need to check it out.” (★★★★★)

Also available on DVD.

6. Kids for Cash

[New to Netflix Watch Instantly] — Some of the following is reprinted from an earlier post. I’m a bit bummed that this didn’t make the Oscar shortlist, let alone get nominated, as it’s a pretty great doc that didn’t get nearly enough attention. Here’s part of my review: “this doc is about a scandal involving corrupt judges in Pennsylvania who sent thousands of youths to a detention center from which they received millions of dollars. The verdict on whether that was kickback money incentivizing the conviction of all those minors is both complicated and, I suppose, kind of a spoiler (never mind that it’s public record). And [director Robert May] was able to interview both of the men, Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan, meaning we get to hear their side of the story quite candidly. This is yet another doc that stands out by giving a voice to its villains, although in this case, particularly Ciavarella really tries to make the case that he isn’t a bad guy at all, maybe just someone who ironically lacked good judgement. […] May’s film is a good account of an isolated problem that has come to its conclusion, for the most part. It’s history, basically, and thereby it can now serve, in addition to being simply an outrageous story to be told, as a warning to youths, parents, communities and legal rights organizations that mishandling of juvenile cases is so easy and can go a long way without notice, and in the end the true culprits in these cases may pay for their crimes but the damage to thousands of lives is done and impossibly fully salvaged. Kids For Cash is a nonfiction horror movie complete with a massive teenage body count, and here’s hoping that unlike most scary movies this one doesn’t get a sequel.” (★★★★)

Also available on DVD, iTunes and Amazon Instant Video.

7. The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz

[New to DVD via Kino Lorber and Alive Mind Cinema] — Some of the following is reprinted from an earlier post. It’s been a few months since I got to include this doc among the picks. Since then it made the Oscar shortlist (but wasn’t nominated) and also this site’s list of the best docs of 2014, as well as the Soska sisters’ favorites. Director Brian Knappenberger follows his excellent We Are Legion with this biographical work on the late computer prodigy and joins the earlier film on my list of the best docs about the Internet. From my review: “Knappenberger primarily offers up a loving, elegiac biography aimed at those who already or will see the subject as a hero, there’s a lot more to this doc than who Swartz was, why he was great and how much of a tragedy it is that he’s no longer around. […] The Internet’s Own Boy is a strong celebration of its subject because it promotes his potential for an even greater legacy moving forward rather than closing the door where Swartz closed his own. For such an immediate biographical history, it’s impressively deep and packed as far as its understanding of what he has meant over the past decade and what his life and leadership could and likely will mean for decades ahead.” (★★★★)

Bonus features:

• Deleted Scenes

• Trailer

Available on iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, Google Play, Vudu and YouTube.

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

5 Seconds of Summer: So Perfect

Brothers In Exile (30 for 30)

Chasing Beauty

The Day the Series Stopped (30 for 30)

Dirt Track Danny Hanson: For the Loe of the Game

Drill Baby Drill

Edison (American Experience)

Europe’s Secret Armies: Resistance

Grand Canyon 3D [Nonfics rating: ★★★] [Blu-ray 3D]

The Great Chicken Wing Hunt

'The Green Prince' (A-List Films, Passion Pictures, Red Box Films)

The Green Prince [Nonfics rating: ★★★] [Also on Blu-ray]

The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz [Nonfics rating: ★★★★; Nonfics review]

Invasion of the Killer Whales (Nature)

Klondike Gold Rush

Led Zeppelin: The Complete Story

My Winnipeg — Criterion Collection Edition [Nonfics rating: ★★★★★] [Also on Blu-ray]

Playing for the Mob (30 for 30)

Of Oozies and Elephants

The Story of Ariana Grande

Surviving Ebola (Nova)

Survivors of Stalingrad: The Russian-German War

Tom Rush: No Regrets

When the Garden Was Eden (30 for 30)

Wrestling With Satan

New to Netflix Watch Instantly:

America: The Story of Us


History’s Mysteries: Secret Societies

'Kids for Cash' (Kino Lorber)

Kids For Cash [Nonfics rating: ★★★★; Nonfics review]

Mankind: The Story of All of Us

A Small Section of the World

The Story of Us



New to iTunes/Amazon Instant/VOD:

The Belovs [Nonfics rating: ★★★★★; Nonfics review] — Doc Alliance

Charge — Vimeo On Demand

Desktop — Doc Alliance

Faster — Vimeo On Demand

Generation Red Nation — Amazon

The Green Prince [Nonfics rating: ★★★] [Also on Blu-ray] — Amazon

'Haxan' (Criterion Collection)

Haxan [Nonfics rating: ★★★★★] — Fandor

Hush! — Doc Alliance

In Remembrance of Martin — Amazon

Jiri Kylian: Forgotten Memories — Amazon

The Long Night — Vimeo On Demand

Look at the Sun — Fandor

Losev — Doc Alliance

Manny — Amazon

Mercury — Fandor

Palace of Silents — Fandor

Pavel & Lyalya — Doc Alliance

Plagues and Pleasures on the Salton Sea [Nonfics rating: ★★★]- Fandor

A Quick Note About Earth — Fandor

'The Reaper' (CCCMexico)

The Reaper [Nonfics rating: ★★★] — Vimeo On Demand

Recycled Life — Vimeo On Demand

Resistance — Amazon

Screaming Men — Fandor

Search for Paradise — Fandor

Seven Wonders of the World — Fandor

Sreda — Doc Alliance

Strange Powers — Fandor

Svyato — Doc Alliance

Undermining — Doc Alliance

Urban Fruit — Amazon

Valley Uprising — Vimeo On Demand

Venus — Fandor

Welcome to the Machine [Nonfics rating: ★★★] — Vimeo On Demand

When You Wore a Tulip and I Wore a Big Red Rose — Fandor

Where the Condors Fly — Doc Alliance

White Earth [Nonfics rating: ★★★★] — Vimeo On Demand

Must-See Nonfiction TV:

(All Times Eastern)

Wednesday — 1/21

'Justin Bieber: Never Say Never' (Paramount Pictures)

1:00am: The Last Waltz [AXS TV]

2:30am: Nas: Time Is Illmatic [Showtime 2 West]

6:30am: Stories We Tell [Epix East]

9:05am: Tyson [Starz in Black]

9:30am: Stories We Tell [Epix West]

12:30pm: Justin Bieber: Never Say Never [Epix 2]

3:00pm: Finding Vivian Maier [Showtime East]

6:00pm: Finding Vivian Maier [Showtime West]

11:50pm: Tyson [Starz in Black]

Thursday — 01/22

'Tyson' (Sony Pictures Classics)

5:05am: Tyson [Starz in Black]

9:45am: Finding Vivian Maier [Showtime 2 East]

10:45am: Mistaken for Strangers [Showtime East]

11:25am: Bears [Starz Kids]

12:45pm: Finding Vivian Maier [Showtime 2 West]

1:45pm: Mistaken for Strangers [Showtime West]

4:45pm: Last Days Here [Showtime Next]

6:30pm: Finding Vivian Maier [Showtime 2 East]

6:40pm: Bears [Starz Kids]

8:00pm: Crips and Bloods: Made in America [Fusion]

9:30pm: Finding Vivian Maier [Showtime 2 West]

11:00pm: Crips and Bloods: Made in America [Fusion]

Friday — 01/23

'Soul Power' (Sony Pictures Classics)

6:35am: Bears [Starz Kids]

7:30am: Soul Power [Encore Black]

9:45am: Finding Vivian Maier [Showtime Showcase East]

11:10am: Mad Hot Ballroom [Flix]

12:45pm: Finding Vivian Maier [Showtime Showcase West]

5:25pm: Soul Power [Encore Black]

11:35pm: Tim’s Vermeer [Starz Cinema]

Saturday — 01/24

tims-vermeer 06

10:35am: Tim’s Vermeer [Starz Cinema]

12:00pm: Finding Vivian Maier [Showtime East]

3:00pm: Finding Vivian Maier [Showtime West]

Sunday — 01/25

1:10am: Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest [Encore Black]

'Beats, Rhymes & Life' (Sony Pictures Classics)

4:00am: Cesar’s Last Fast [Pivot]

4:00am: Winged Migration [Outdoor Channel]

5:35am: Mistaken for Strangers [Showtime Next]

5:55am: The Gatekeepers [Starz Edge]

8:00am: A Place at the Table [Pivot]

2:45pm: Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest [Encore Black]

8:00pm: Life Itself [CNN]

Monday — 01/26

'Love Child' (HBO Documentary Films)

6:40am: Love Child [HBO 2 East]

8:05am: Mad Hot Ballroom [Flix]

8:10am: The Yes Men [Epix 2]

9:40am: Love Child [HBO 2 West]

11:20am: Justin Bieber: Never Say Never [Epix 2]

12:55pm: Bears [Starz Kids]

6:30pm: West of Memphis [Encore Suspense]

8:00pm: Bears [Starz Kids]

8:25pm: Tyson [Starz in Black]

Tuesday — 01/27

'Mondays at Racine' (HBO)

6:30am: Mondays at Racine [HBO Signature East]

7:35am: Soul Power [Encore Black]

9:30am: Mondays at Racine [HBO Signature West]

10:30am: Bears [Starz Kids]

11:30am: Tyson [Starz in Black]

4:30pm: Finding Vivian Maier [Showtime East]

7:30pm: Finding Vivian Maier [Showtime West]

(Editor in Chief)

Christopher Campbell is the founding editor of Nonfics.