‘The Crash Reel’ and ‘The Price of Gold’ 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 picks for January 14, 2014:

1. The Crash Reel

[New to iTunes] — What better timing to catch up with Lucy Walker’s documentary on snowboarder Kevin Pearce and his recovery from a traumatic head injury a few years ago? Walker was just announced as a DGA Award nominee yesterday, and there’s a fair chance that this film will be nominated for an Oscar come Thursday (I say it won’t, but I’m down for surprises). Also, we’re fast approaching the Winter Olympics and continue to see horrible accidents associated with the games’ most dangerous sports. 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.”

Also available on HBO Go and HBO On Demand (until 1/19/14).

2. 30 for 30: The Price of Gold

[Television Premiere, January 16th 9pm ET] — The latest from ESPN’s essential 30 for 30 series is on the much anticipated nostalgic story of the Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan scandal, which happened 20 years ago this month. Directed by Oscar nominee Nanette Burstein (On the Ropes; American Teen), the film chronicles the incident and aftermath as well as the biographies of the two ice skaters with plenty of archival videos, including home movies, and the obligatory talking heads. Harding also appears in an interview to reiterate her side of the story, while Kerrigan is represented through an interview with her husband/manager. The former is the reason to see this movie, even more than for the obvious reasons. She reminds me a bit of Joyce McKinney in Tabloid. We’ll have a review of the doc later this week, but keep it on your radar. If you miss the premiere, it’ll be airing a few more times throughout the month (see our must-see TV section).

3. 20 Feet From Stardom

[New to DVD and Blu-ray] — From a previous Nonfics Home Picks: It may not have made Landon’s list of the five must see music docs of the year, but Morgan Neville‘s film about backup singers remains my favorite of the year in that category. And I’m still surprised at how great it is, because something like this doesn’t have to be so entertaining while also so insightful about the last 50 years of pop music history. Starring legendary voices Merry Clayton and Darlene Love plus newcomer Judith Hill and Lisa Fischer — and some of the stars that have long overshadowed them and others (Mick Jagger, Bruce Springsteen, Sting and more) — it’s also one of the films recently shortlisted for the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature and is one of our predictions for an actual nomination. Listen to The Realness podcast episode 4 for an in depth discussion and review of the film.

4. Caucus

[New to Television] — AJ Schnack’s necessary film about the 2012 Iowa Caucus would have been on last week’s Nonfics Home Picks had I been aware it was premiering on Al Jazeera America this past Sunday. Well, better late than never, and the film will surely have more airings on the new network. It’s actually showing this afternoon if you see this on time. To note how much I liked it, Caucus came in at #8 on my top 20 of 2013 list. Here is part of my ★★★★ review here at Nonfics: “Schnack and what seems to be a hundred cameramen (incredibly, it was only four: Schnack, producer Nathan Truesdell and Tchoupitoulas directors Bill and Turner Ross) covered the ground throughout the state, conveying a sense of their being everywhere, on top of every major figure in the running and from multiple angles, too. The director’s own work as editor of the film is a triumph of not only cobbling and condensing six months’ worth of footage but also finding and presenting the central narrative amidst the simultaneous sideshows. This while serving up a necessary glimpse into what it all means above and beyond the isolated events they’ve recorded and the outcome of this one step of the campaign journey.”

On DVD this Spring

5. American Commune

[New to Television] — Technically it’s not that new to television. I discovered via the Caucus airing that this documentary debuted on Al Jazeera America last month. Directed by Nadine Mundo and Rena Mundo Croshere, this is a personal film about the commune they grew up on, The Farm, though a lot of what they chronicle is its history from before they were even born. Here is some of what I wrote on the doc at Film School Rejects from Hot Docs last year: “the Mundo sisters’ film is concerned more with what happened back when. We become absorbed in its world thanks to a surplus of home movies shot from the start of the community as a cross-country convoy of buses through to Nadine and Rena’s adolescence, as they attempt to assimilate into the MTV generation in addition to society in general. Their film also concludes with a turn of events that comes out of nowhere (seemingly unrelated too) and sort of affirms how commanding the story has been up until then, as it leaves the invested viewer with a sudden inflection of emotions.”

6. Last Train Home

[New to POV Streaming] — Not exactly new but returned to POV streaming is this favorite of mine. Here’s what I very briefly wrote on my list of best nonfiction films of 2010 for Cinematical (it placed #1): “particularly notable for how well it focuses, often filming from a great distance, on a single Chinese family torn apart by urban migration.”

Also available on DVD, iTunes, Netflix Watch Instantly and Amazon Instant Video

7. War Don Don

[New to iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, Google Play and XBox] — If you were blown away by The Act of Killing, or even if you think that film is irresponsible, you must check out Rebecca Richman Cohen’s film of a war crimes tribunal in Sierra Leone. This was another of my favorites from 2010, featured on that same list as Last Train Home but in the not-yet-distributed section. Here’s part of a review I wrote back in 2010, also at Cinematical: “another great Rashomon-esque legal documentary, albeit one with global importance, and one that brings up a lot of the uncertainties leftover from the Nuremberg Trials concerning the scope of accountability in crimes against humanity…I don’t think I’ve been more torn on whether or not an accused subject is truly guilty or not since The Staircase (if you haven’t seen that one, Capturing the Friedmans may come to mind instead).”

Also available on DVD

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


20 Feet From Stardom (★★★★ Nonfics rating — Realness podcast review)

Ancient Secrets of the Bible: Angel Encounters

Blood Relatives Season 1

Contradictions of Fair Hope

The Early Days: Leon Russell and Willie Nelson

Epic War Stories of WWI and WWII

First World War Centenary Collection: The Somme

Gasland Part II (★★★ Nonfics rating)

How to Make Money Selling Drugs (C+ Film School Rejects review)

Joanna Lumley’s Greek Odyssey

Judy Garland: Lady on Stage

Marvin Hamlisch: What He Did For Love

Nova: Making Stuff 2 [Also on Blu-ray]


Our Nixon (★★★ Nonfics rating)

Raw to Ready

Red Metal: Copper County Strike of 1913

Rewind This! [Also on VHS]

Scotty’s Castle

Seccrets of Ancient Egypt

Twenty Five Hundred & One

The Universe in 3D [3D Blu-ray]

Where I Am

New to Netflix Watch Instantly:

It’s a Girl [Stream Now]

National Geographic: Extreme Alaska: Denali National Park [Stream Now]

Schooled: The Price of College Sports [Stream Now]

The Waiting Room (★★ Nonfics rating) [Stream Now]

New to iTunes/Amazon Instant/VOD:

Gasland Part II

AKA Doc Pomus (C+ Film School Rejects review) [iTunes and Amazon Instant Video]

Anton Corbijn Inside Out [iTunes and Amazon Instant Video]

The Art Star and the Sudanese Twins [Amazon Instant Video]

The Crash Reel (★★★★ Nonfics review) [iTunes]

Dear Mandela [Amazon Instant Video]

Gasland Part II (★★★ Nonfics rating) [Amazon Instant Video]

The Great Chicken Wing Hunt [iTunes]

Last Train Home (★★★★★ Nonfics rating) [POV]

The Light In Her Eyes [Amazon Instant Video]

Private Practices: The Story of a Sex Surrogate [Amazon Instant Video]

Pussy vs Putin [Amazon Instant Video]

Reporter [Amazon Instant Video]

War Don Don (★★★★ Nonfics rating) [iTunes/Amazon Instant Video]

When Billy Broke His Head … And Other Tales of Wonder [Amazon Instant Video]

Where I Am [Amazon Instant Video]

World Circus [iTunes]

Must-See Nonfiction TV:


Startup.com [1/14 on Showcase, 10am ET]

Caucus [1/14 on Al Jazeera America, 3pm ET]

El Bulli: Cooking in Progress [1/14 on Link TV, 3pm ET]


El Bulli: Cooking in Progress [1/15 on Link TV, 3am ET]

The Gatekeepers [1/15 on Starz Edge, 8:30am ET]

Under the Sea [1/15 on 3net, 11am and 5pm ET]

The Other F Word [1/15 on The Movie Channel, 4:20pm ET]

First Comes Love [1/15 on HBO 2, 8pm and 11pm ET]

Hubble [1/15 on 3net, 9pm ET]

Queen of the Sun: What Are the Bees Telling Us? [1/15 on Free Speech TV, 9pm ET]

Deep Sea [1/15 on 3net, 10pm ET]


Hubble [1/16 on 3net, 12am, 6am, 9am and 3pm ET]

Deep Sea [1/16 on 3net, 1am, 7am, 10am and 4pm ET]

Gasland Part II [1/16 on HBO 2, 7:45am and 10:45am ET]

Queen of the Sun: What Are the Bees Telling Us? [1/16 on Free Speech TV, 1pm ET]

30 for 30: The Price of Gold [1/16 on ESPN, 9pm ET]

Space Station [1/16 on 3net, 9pm ET]

Under the Sea [1/15 on 3net, 10pm ET]


Space Station [1/17 on 3net, 12am, 3am, 6am, 9am and 3pm ET]

Under the Sea [1/17 on 3net, 1am, 4am, 7am, 10am and 4pm ET]

The Queen of Versailles [1/17 on Bravo, 6am ET]

First Position [1/17 on Bravo, 8:27am ET]

Searching for Sugar Man [1/17 on Starz Cinema, 1:30pm and 10pm ET]

American Commune [1/17 on Al Jazeera America, 3pm ET]


El Bulli: Cooking in Progress [1/18 on Link TV, 5am ET]

Everest [1/18 on HDNET, 6am ET]

Chimpanzee [1/18 on Encore, 6:25am ET]

Deep Sea [1/18 on 3net, 11am and 5pm ET]

Dragonslayer [1/18 on Showtime Next, 1:40pm ET]

Into the Deep [1/18 on 3net, 10pm ET]


Queen of the Sun: What Are the Bees Telling Us? [1/19 on Free Speech TV, 12am ET]

Into the Deep [1/19 on 3net, 1am, 4am, 7am, 10am and 4pm ET]

Dragonslayer [1/19 on Showtime Next, 4:40am ET]

Startup.com [1/19 on Showtime Next, 6am, 4:15pm and 6:05pm ET]

American Commune [1/17 on Al Jazeera America, 9am ET]

Everest [1/19 on HDNET, 3:30pm ET]

30 for 30: The Price of Gold [1/19 on ESPN, 7:30pm ET]


The Gatekeepers [1/20 on Starz Edge, 4:15am ET]

First Comes Love [1/20 on HBO 2, 8:15am and 11:15am ET]

Galapagos [1/20 on 3net, 11am and 5pm ET]

Soul Power [1/20 on VH1 Classic, 6pm ET]


Hearts and Minds [1/21 on FLiX, 4:05am ET]

Hubble [1/21 on 3net, 11am and 5pm ET]

The Other F Word [1/15 on The Movie Channel, 1:45pm ET]

Chimpanzee [1/21 on Starz, 2:55pm and 10:50pm ET]

Dragonslayer [1/21 on Showtime Next, 3:25pm ET]

Galapagos [1/21 on 3net, 10pm ET]

(Editor in Chief)

Christopher Campbell is the founding editor of Nonfics.