‘The Kill Team,’ ‘The Cruise’ and ‘Virunga’ Top This Week’s Nonfics Home Picks

The Kill Team Poster

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 November 5, 2014:

1. The Kill Team

[New to Amazon Instant Video] — In one of the two great whistleblower docs this year, we meet U.S. Army Specialist Adam Winfield, who came forward about war crimes committed by his platoon in Afghanistan yet wound up joining them in being charged. Here’s what Daniel Walber wrote of the film last year at Film School Rejects: “the daring of The Kill Team goes beyond the simple presentation of this tragedy. [Director Dan] Krauss hides nothing, nor does he get lost in horrifying images and testimonials. This is not a film about the sensational aspects of evil, the unapproachable sociopathy of a small number of soldiers. Rather, Krauss drives right into the ethical conundrum at the center of the murders, the inherent violence of not only the war in Afghanistan but of modern warfare in general. He doesn’t offer any answers. This is crucial. The Kill Team respects its audience, trusting us to rise to the occasion of witnessing these events, but it does not tell us which conclusions to draw.” (★★★★★)

Also available on iTunes.

2. The Cruise

[New to Sundance Now’s DocClub] — Among the titles in the DocClub’s latest curated program, this one hand picked by Ira Glass, are two of my favorite films of all time, Sherman’s March and The Thin Blue Line. I’ve spotlighted both plenty. I have rarely written about The Cruise, though, in part because it’s rarely available in such an accessible form as this. Directed by Bennett Miller, who now makes Oscar-worthy dramas such as Capote and the upcoming Foxcatcher, it’s focused on poet and philosopher Timothy “Speed” Levitch when he was a New York City tour guide. From my list of the best documentaries about the Big Apple: “When we follow along with him at work, we get a one-of-a-kind history of the city, sometimes with creative license and always with colorful verbiage (ironic since the doc itself is black and white). And when he’s off the bus he goes off on his deeper ideas, like that of the “anti-cruise.” There are a number of brilliant moments in the film, one of my favorites being when Levitch maddeningly describes New York as a ‘ludicrous’ ‘explosion’ and ‘experiment’ that ‘can not last, before pointing out a new Ann Taylor store.” The other great films in Glass’s curation are Stop Making Sense, Bill Cunningham New York, The Law In These Parts and an episode of Errol Morris’s First Person series, “Leaving Earth.” (★★★★★)

Also available on Amazon Instant Video.

3. Virunga

[New to Netflix Watch Instantly] — This film hits theaters and Netflix, which is its distributor, simultaneously this Friday, so just bookmark it for the next couple days. Here is part of Daniel Walber’s review: “Virunga National Park is a place like no other on earth. Its history, its biodiversity and its overwhelming beauty distinguish it from everywhere else in the entire continent of Africa. Yet these constant, long-standing resources are being threatened. Virunga, a new documentary by London-based filmmaker Orlando von Einsiedel, is a breakneck tour of recent developments in the park. This place is not only a physical treasure but the epicenter of an almost unbelievable 21st century geopolitical earthquake.[…] both an almost unbelievable assembly of shocking footage and a thrilling narrative success. Von Einsiedel has taken the whirlwind of environmental conservation, civil war, investigative journalism and the hegemony of the neocolonial oil industry and brought them together with admirable confidence.” (★★★★)

4. Rich Hill

[New to Amazon Instant Video] — I’m not certain that this film is actually new to Amazon, as it was released on VOD at the same time of its theatrical release. Maybe it’s just available at a cheaper rental price now. Either way, see it. But don’t have expectations for an issue film about poverty in Rich Hill, Missouri. It’s a character piece focused on three low-income teen boys and the family cycle they’re doomed to continue. Here’s what Daniel Walber wrote in his review for us: “There is a lot in this movie, and much of it arises quite obliquely and artfully. The crisis of the American school system and our excessive use of the criminal justice system to manage it, the impact of the recession, the problems of healthcare and prescription drug addiction and many more “issues” emerge. There are plenty of documentaries about these topics, many of which reach to find the humanity in their subjects beyond the journalistic facts. Rich Hill goes the opposite direction. In a certain light, the personalities and struggles of these three individual kids take on great metaphorical import, as if the film were a grand novel about the contemporary American condition.” (★★★★)

Also available on iTunes.

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

[Premieres on Pivot on Thursday, November 6th] — 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. It’s also now similarly debuting on the relatively new cable channel Pivot. 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.” (★★★★)

Also available on DVD and Amazon Instant Video.

6. Style Wars

[New to Blu-ray via MVD] — This classic 1983 feature on hip-hop culture and especially graffiti in New York City has a new HD transfer from the original 16mm print and is on Blu-ray for the very first time. When Daniel Walber and I took to our podcast to discuss the film last year, I believe at the request of a reader who felt it belonged on my best docs of NYC list, I confessed that I found it to be a better document than documentary. I still think it’s at least an essential document. (★★★★)

New bonus features include: The Outtakes, “a brand new 40-minute film culled from 30 hours of leftover materials filled with hidden gems and fascinating moments never before seen”; B-Boy Showcase, “a montage of the fast-paced phenomenally acrobatic Rocksteady Crew at their tour launch party, in the studio, on the streets, and battling it out against Dynamic Rockers at the United Skates of America in Queens”; and Style Wars In The Cutting Room: “In the summer of ’83 a camera crew visited Valkhn Films, an editing house where Style Wars was being painstakingly spliced together. This 25-minute piece is a rare glimpse at the process of telling a real story as it’s happening.”

Also available on DVD and Hulu Plus.

7. Bakhmaro

[New to Doc Alliance Films] — I highlighted this doc in a wrap-up of the 2011 Silverdocs documentary festival as an example of how places have more fascinating biographies than people, comparing it and others to the Frederick Wiseman style while also calling it “Taiwanese.” With little expository context, director Salome Jashi takes us through a dilapidated three-story building in a ghost town in Georgia (the country). Formerly a hotel, the place now houses a restaurant without customers and other curiosities. It’s a slow, quiet, beautiful little film, and it’s part of this week’s Doc Alliance free streaming event, “Eastern Europe in the Centre of Documentary Events.” Other titles included are Father and Son, A Diary of a Journey, Linar, Homo Cris and I Don’t Love You. (★★★★)

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

Aftermath: Dr. Dre & Eminem

Ancient Secrets of the Bible: The Christmas Miracle

Breaking Los Angeles

Bruce Springsteen: Down the Tracks

The Dog [Nonfics rating: ★★; Nonfics review] [Also on Blu-ray]

Every Day Counts: The Chris Lass Story

Florida Georgia Line: Life On Stage

Gregory Isaacs: Live, Rockers TV

Historic Jazz Videos Vol. 2

Last Heroes of D-Day

One Direction: Tour & More

Rockin’ the Wall

Somebody to Love: The Music Story of Jefferson Airplane

Style Wars [Nonfics rating: ★★★★; The Realness review] [Also on Blu-ray]

This Is Gary McFarland

Titanic box set (Smithsonian Channel)

Usher vs. Miguel

Verdun: Looking at History

What Is Cinema? [Also on Blu-ray]

The World War One Collection

Wu-Tang Clan: Wu-Tang Saga

New to Netflix Watch Instantly:


Burt’s Buzz [Nonfics rating: ★★★]



Honor Flight


Mona Lisa Is Missing

Neurons to Nirvana: Psychedelic Medicines

Virunga [Nonfics rating: ★★★★; Nonfics review] — Begins 11/7

Wake Up

New to iTunes/Amazon Instant/VOD:

15 Reasons to Live — Amazon

Adjust Your Tracking — Fandor

Art War — Doc Alliance

Bakhmaro [Nonfics rating: ★★★★] — Doc Alliance

Banksy Does New York — HBO GO

A Diary of a Journey — Doc Alliance

Eric Clapton: Planes, Trains and Eric — iTunes

Fake It So Real [Nonfics rating: ★★★] — Hulu

Father and Son — Doc Alliance

Find Your Way: A Busker’s Documentary — Amazon Prime

Finding Fela [Nonfics rating: ★; Nonfics review] — Vimeo On Demand

Genesis: Three Sides Live — iTunes

The Guide — Amazon

Homo Cris — Doc Alliance

Harmontown — iTunes

I Don’t Love You — Doc Alliance

The Kill Team [Nonfics rating: ★★★★★; FSR review] — Amazon, iTunes

Lina — Doc Alliance

No No: A Dockumentary [Nonfics rating: ★★★; Nonfics review] — Amazon, iTunes

Operation Welcome Home — Amazon

Plastic Galaxy — Amazon

The Power of Thought — Amazon

Return to Homs [Nonfics rating: ★★★★; Nonfics review] — Amazon, iTunes

Rich Hill [Nonfics rating: ★★★★; Nonfics review] — Amazon, iTunes

The Rise and Fall of a Scientific Genius — Amazon

Wavemakers — Amazon

Must-See Nonfiction TV:

(All Times Eastern)

Wednesday — 11/5

2:00am: King Corn [Fusion]

3:05am: Tim’s Vermeer [Starz Edge]

4:50am: Mad Hot Ballroom [Showtime Family Zone]

5:05am: Soul Power [Starz East]

8:05am: Soul Power [Starz West]

3:20pm: Beware of Mr. Baker [Showtime Next]

10:00pm: Top Chef: Boston [Bravo]

Thursday — 11/6

4:50am: Redemption [HBO2 East]

7:50am: Redemption [HBO2 West]

9:30am: Last Call at the Oasis [Pivot]

7:00pm: The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz [Pivot]

9:00pm: Mr. Dynamite: The Rise of James Brown [HBO2 East]

Friday — 11/7

12:00am: Mr. Dynamite: The Rise of James Brown [HBO2 West]

4:00am: State 194 [Pivot]

8:15am: Mistaken for Strangers [Showtime 2 East]

11:15am: Mistaken for Strangers [Showtime 2 West]

3:10pm: West of Memphis [Encore Suspense]

8:00pm: The Amazing Race [CBS]

9:00pm: Midterms Part 3 [Al Jazeera America]

Saturday — 11/8

12:00am: Midterms Part 3 [Al Jazeera America]

12:15am: Soul Power [Encore Black]

7:45am: Mad Hot Ballroom [The Movie Channel]

2:30pm: We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists [Pivot]

3:00pm: Midterms Part 3 [Al Jazeera America]

6:55pm: Mr. Dynamite: The Rise of James Brown [HBO Signature East]

7:00pm: The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz [Pivot]

9:30pm: The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz [Pivot]

9:55pm: Mr. Dynamite: The Rise of James Brown [HBO Signature West]

Sunday — 11/9

1:30am: Louis C.K.: Hilarious [Epix East]

2:00am: King Corn [Fusion]

4:30am: Louis C.K. Hilarious [Epix West]

5:00am: Justin Bieber: Never Say Never [Epix 2]

6:00am: Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest [Starz Cinema]

7:00am: Paul Williams Still Alive [Showtime Showcase East]

10:00am: Paul Williams Still Alive [Showtime Showcase West]

6:40pm: Jodorowsky’s Dune [Starz Cinema]

Monday — 11/8

2:30am: My Kid Could Paint That [MoviePlex]

3:30am: The Celluloid Closet [Pivot]

8:50am: Every Little Step [IndiePlex]

10:25am: Grizzly Man [IndiePlex]

10:30am Mistaken for Strangers [Showtime 2 East]

11:40am: How to Eat Your Watermelon in White Company (And Enjoy It) [Starz in Black]

1:30pm: Mistaken for Strangers [Showtime 2 West]

5:10pm: Every Little Step [IndiePlex]

6:30pm: My Kid Could Paint That [MoviePlex]

7:00pm: How to Eat Your Watermelon in White Company (And Enjoy It) [Starz in Black]

11:10pm: Grizzly Man [IndiePlex]

Tuesday — 11/9

12:45am: Private Violence [HBO2 East]

1:30am: Last Call at the Oasis [Pivot]

3:40am: West of Memphis [Starz Edge]

3:45am: Private Violence [HBO2 West]

9:30am: Mad Hot Ballroom [The Movie Channel East]

12:30pm: Mad Hot Ballroom [The Movie Channel West]

10:00pm: Last Days Here [Showtime 2 East]

(Editor in Chief)

Christopher Campbell is the founding editor of Nonfics.